According to the U.S. Surgeon General, at any given time, approximately 3.5 million children and teenagers suffer from depression. Alarmingly, an average of more than 1,000 teenagers attempt suicide each day. It has become the third-leading cause of death among teenagers. In most of these cases, depression is a factor.
Signs of teen depression
Because the teen may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression. Adolescent psychiatrists advise parents to be aware of the signs of teen depression. If one or more of these signs persists for more than two weeks, parents should seek professional help:
- Poor performance in school
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
- Anger and rage
- Overreaction to criticism
- Poor self-esteem or guilt
- Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
- Restlessness and agitation
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Substance abuse
- Problems with authority
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
*Source: National Mental Health Association
Additionally, teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression. Teens also may express their depression through hostile, aggressive, or risk-taking behavior.
Treating teen depression
If you suspect that your teen may be suffering from depression, understand that depression is not simply a passing blue mood. Your child cannot simply get better by being “more positive.” Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
It is extremely important that depressed teens receive prompt, professional treatment. Comprehensive treatment often includes both individual and family therapy. It may also include the use of antidepressant medications. Getting treatment as soon as possible is important because the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be.
NOTE: Professional help should definitely be sought if a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts.