Teenage Depression is a difficult condition to identify as it may exhibit similar signs to normal teenage melancholia and moodiness. However depression is a very serious condition that can have drastic effects on a teenagers developing personality and can lead to serious problems such as self harm, substance misuse, educational breakdown, severe anxiety and suicide. Luckily, teenage depression it is a condition that responds well to treatment and can be greatly alleviated once identified and appropriate intervention secured. Teen years in general are a turbulent time. Occasional moodiness, irritability and acting out is therefore to be expected. However depression is something different. Here the effect of sadness, anxiety and irritability can adversely affect the core of a teenager’s personality.
10 warning signs of teenage depression
- Sadness and despair
- Poor sense of self and self-belief
- Anger and irritability
- Tearfulness and crying
- Social withdrawal & loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Excessively harsh view of the self
- Agitation or lack of motivation / boredom
- Poor energy and concentration
- Self-harm or Suicidal ideation
How do I know if it is teen moodiness or teen depression?
All of the above features exist on a spectrum. One must consider the severity and longevity of the above features to decide if it is a depressive episode or not. Dramatic changes in behaviour and personality are red flags for an emerging problem. Many young people who are attempting to cope with emotional distress will act out (externalise) via irritability, anger, school problems and moodiness whereas others will act in (internalisers) eating problems, withdrawal, low self esteem and secretive self harm.
How does teen depression differ from depression in adults?
Depression in teenagers is different to that of adults. Many consider depression to require the classic ‘taking to the bed’ and often adult depression may exhibit this feature. Teenage depression can be somewhat different. Sadness and social withdrawal may not always be a feature in fact anger, irritability and rage can be far more prominent. Teen depression also tends to be less pervasive and many parents rule out adolescent depression because it appears that their child can appear not depressed when with their friends or on certain days. This lack of constancy is not necessarily a reason to exclude someone from the diagnosis. Other features that tend to be different in teenage depressionto adult depression include increased irritability, psychosomatic or unexplained aches and pains, extreme sensitivity to criticism and unexplained withdrawal from activities.
Suicide and depression
Suicide and depression although commonly linked are not always the case. Suicidal thoughts and behaviours can occur without a clear depressive episode and neither is a suicidal intent necessary for a depression diagnosis to be made. That said suicidal thoughts and urges are serious considerations for young people with depression. Self-harm behaviour is not always directly connected to suicidal intent. We must try to understand self-harm as an attempt to cope with emotional distress.
6 Warning signs
- Talk of suicide
- Hopeless phrases like ‘there is no point’ ‘I’d be better off dead’
- Romanticizing death
- Dark poetry, stories or drawings
- Finalising behaviour
- Internet searches about suicide methods
How to Help
Talking therapies and medication are main treatments for teen depression but prior to this, parents and friends should offer support and be available to talk to the young person, be gentle but persistent, listen without lecturing, and validate young person’s feelings.
Seeking mental health services
The first step is to visit your GP. Then try and access therapy or counselling from a renowned or recommended practitioner. Seek out specialist care in Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).