8 Truths About Teen Depression That Often Go Unsaid

8 Truths About Teen Depression That Often Go UnsaidDepression is a very complex and individualized mental health issue that many people, including teens, experience during their lifetime. In fact, teen depression impacts 2.8 million American adolescents, which is over 11 percent of the total population of teens age 12 to 17, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If you are a parent of a teen who is struggling with major depression, then it can be difficult to know how to best reach, support, and help heal your teen. You may not know what to say, or how to act in a helpful, supportive manner that will resound with your teen and help them overcome their depression. Many parents or loved ones of depressed teens experience these same reservations, and it may be due to the fact that so many truths about teen depression often go unsaid and unrecognized.

Here are 8 truths about teen depression that you can absorb, learn, and speak about when it comes to your teen’s mental health:

  1. No one chooses teen depression.

Depression is not a choice, but rather is a serious medical illness that negatively impacts and alters how your teen views themselves, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Depression impacts teens physically, mentally, and emotionally and has the power to be completely debilitating. When you speak to your teen about depression, always remember that they aren’t making a conscious choice to be sad. They are suffering from an illness that will require care, support, and healing to recover.

  1. Well-meaning encouragements can be perceived as insulting and unhelpful by depressed teens.

Sharing vague encouragements with your depressed teen may have the opposite effect of your good intentions, and may be taken as insults. Rather than saying something like, “It’s okay, you will be fine,” give your support and love first, and solutions second. For example, a teen suffering from depression may react and connect better to your intents and helpful parental desires if you say, “I love you and believe in you. You are strong, and I am here for you to listen and help.”

  1. For depressed teens, distance often precedes closeness.

Teen depression can cause feelings of unworthiness and heavy burdens. Your teen might become withdrawn, or even refuse to speak with you about their condition and feelings. In this instance, it is valuable for another trusted family member or a teen counselor to step in and offer support, encouragement, and help. It may be very difficult to give your teen space, but they may need it to heal and draw close to you once again.

  1. Your feelings of frustration, as a parent or loved one of a depressed teen, are valid.

You are allowed to feel frustrated about what your teen is going through. You should take great care in properly venting your frustrations though, and find support and encouragement in family, friends, or support groups. Never vent to your teen, as it can deepen their depression if they feel like they are becoming a burden to you due to their mental health issue.

  1. But, it’s also not about you.

As a parent or loved one of a teen struggling with depression, it can be very difficult for you to witness your son or daughter in such pain. Remember that depression is a complex condition, and it is not about you. Try not to take anything your teen says too personally, and stay steadfast in your love and support.

  1. Teen depression is a tough situation, but those who are depressed should not be admonished with harsh words or demands.

Approaching a depressed teen with toughness or harsh words can plunge them deeper into their depressive state of being by making them feel attacked, guilty, or ashamed. When you interact with your teen, always extend love, support, and understanding. Encourage them to speak openly and listen without judgement.

  1. Each teen struggling with depression is going through something unique and specific to them.

Depression is an illness that is highly individualized to the person experiencing it. For this reason, it is important that you don’t generalize your teen’s experience with others you have heard about or witnessed. Instead, encourage your teen to share how depression makes them feel, how it impacts them, and help them combat it on a personalized level.

  1. Teen depression does not equate weakness.

One of the largest and most dangerous lies about depression in circulation is that depression is a sign of weakness. In fact, it is believed that the exact opposite is true. Dr. Tim Cantopher authored a book called Depressive Illness: Curse of the Strong, which explores the pervasive nature of depression and how it can impact even the strongest individuals. He seeks to help empower those battling depression by drawing from their own strength to heal and grow even stronger. This can be a very valuable truth and viewpoint for you to consider daily as your teen battles depression.

If your teen is suffering from depression, then speaking with a trained teen counselor can be very beneficial for your teen’s healing and bringing your family together in a positive, united endeavor to help them.

4 Things Every Parent Should Know About Teen Depression

Teenagers will inevitably experience mood swings, emotional outbursts, and poor behavior as their minds and bodies grow and develop. However, many teens struggle with serious depression that is long lasting, and can impact their health and happiness if it is not recognized, diagnosed, and treated early in their formative teenage years.

4 Things Every Parent Should Know About Teen Depression

As the parent of a teen, here are four things you should know about teen depression, so you can more confidently recognize the signs, and help your teen if they are suffering:

  1. What is teen depression?

Teen depression is not just occasional bad moods, sadness, or emotional struggles. Every teen is likely to experience such changes as their hormone levels change or as they experience more academic or peer pressures as a part of their natural maturing process.

According to the Mayo Clinic, teen depression is a very serious issue that affects mental health by causing consistent and constant feelings of sadness in teens. Depression can have a negative impact on mental health, physical well-being, and quickly overshadow all areas of a teen’s life.

  1. What are the symptoms or indicators of teen depression?

Teen depression can often go unnoticed due to the somewhat erratic, yet normal behaviors that teens exhibit. However, if you notice any of these symptoms in your teen, on a regular basis, then then it is likely they could be suffering from depression.

According to Mental Health America, any combination of the following symptoms lasting more than two weeks, can signal you that your teen is struggling with depression:

  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Performing poorly in school
  • Expressing extreme sadness or hopelessness
  • Lacking energy and motivation
  • Exhibiting anger and rage
  • Overreacting to criticism
  • Showing poor self-esteem or feelings of guilt
  • Acting restless or agitated
  • Changing their eating or sleeping habits
  • Engaging in alcohol or drug abuse
  • Expressing suicidal thoughts
  1. Is teen depression different than adult depression?

Yes, very much so. Depression in teens is not evident in the same ways you can recognize depression in adults, so it is important to understand how teens will show their struggles with depression differently.

Help Guide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health and well-being, outlines the following behaviors that are specific to teen depression:

Irritability or Anger

Teens are more likely than adults to express their depression through irritable moods and angry outbursts, rather than sadness. Sustained grumpiness or frequent rage are some of the most common behaviors of depressed teens.

Unexplainable aches and body pains

Depressed teens will often complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If these pains occur often, for no medical reason, they could be side effects of depression.

Extreme sensitivity to criticism

Teens who suffer from depression are usually struggling with feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy, so any criticism or failure will cause an extreme reaction.

Selectively withdrawing from some people, but not others

While depressed adults will typically withdraw from everyone in their life, teens tend to be more selective. Depressed teens may keep a few friendships kindled, withdraw from parents, or change friends often.

  1. How can I help my teenager if I suspect they are depressed?

If your teenager is demonstrating ongoing signs and symptoms of depression, then it is important for you to intervene. Teens experiencing depression won’t usually come forward with their problem, so you will most likely need to bring up the topic. Remember to listen attentively and validate all of their feelings while being open, gentle, and persistent in your discussions.

If you still see signs of depression in your teen after you’ve tried to talk to them and help them, then it is a good idea to seek out professional help from a counselor or therapist who specializes in teen depression. A specialist in this field can help you and your teen resolve issues and identify stressors causing your teen to be depressed, and help you both find your way back to a happy, healthy life.