Teen Depression: An Emerging
In light of the alarming increase in teen depression, parents need to know what causes it and how they can help their teenager overcome it.
We are all familiar with the term depression as one of the most well known and stigmatized mental disorders. It is usually on everyone’s mind because of its one possible horrid consequence - suicide. Teenagers and children are as prone to depression as adults. Teen depression is on the rise, and the biggest giveaway for this is the rise in suicide and suicide attempts among teens. The disturbing news is that since few years the suicide rate is high among early teenagers. So we consulted Psychologist Karuna Kunwar and Psychiatrist Dr. Kapil Dev Upadhyaya to better understand depression and shed some light on the issue.
Sadness unfortunately is prevalent among us humans and teens casually tend to label their sadness as depression. One thing people clearly need to understand is that all depressed people are sad but not all sad people are depressed. We have all read about it in the popular media but do we really understand what is depression? Did you know that depression can hit a person in any phase of life - childhood, teenage or adulthood? Or that a depressed person basically cannot enjoy life or its pleasures?
A lot of reasons can trigger depression in teenagers. Here are a few prevalent ones:
- Heredity: If there is a history of depression in the family or the child is frequently exposed to a depressed person, it could trigger depression in teenagers.
- Environment: Creating a high pressure environment for your teenager regarding his/her academics is one of the biggest factors today. And the general stress caused by confusion about studies, relationship and life as a whole also builds a stressful environment that can induce depression among teens.
- Abuse: Both physical and sexual abuse are stimuli that could push a teenager into depression. Mental abuse along with other abuses mentioned earlier form an even scarier combination. Being bullied or told that the teenager is worthless is another cause.
- Gadgets and social media: The excessive use of gadgets and social media could develop into an addiction to the level that teenager is discouraged from socializing with people. If the teenager is genetically prone to being depressed then addiction to gadgets simply amplifies the possibility of its occurrence.
- External expectations: Teenagers more often seek happiness and acceptance from external sources than internally. They set high expectations and when they aren’t met they become angry and/or sad. For example - uploading a picture on the social media and not getting a certain number of likes, or a certain preferred person not posting a comment on the post can foster unhappiness in the teen.
- Psychological Stress: Psychological stress can come from parents forcing their wishes on their teens, changes in friendships and unrequited attraction towards the opposite sex. Insecurities regarding family, or work are some other causes.
- Body issues: Teens these days have certain, sometimes unattainable, beauty and body standards. Anyone unable to maintain or reach those standards, are shamed which could also lead to depression.
Parents may mistake the symptoms of depression the teenagers display as a display of their rebelliousness. If you catch your teen displaying the following emotional and behavioral changes, you may need to get them to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
- Prolonged sadness: Everyone is sad once in a while for a day or two. But if you notice that your teenager is continuously sad for two weeks then it is most definitely a symptom of depression. A depressed teen is usually unable to enjoy even a moment of happiness.
- Isolation & Insomnia: Depressed teens tend to isolate themselves. The new gadgets and technology you get them, if not anything, else helps them become more isolated.
Sleep is one thing that doesn’t come easy to depressed teens. With a lot of things on their mind, getting a wink of sleep is difficult.
- Hurting themselves: The mindset of depressed teens makes them think that hurting themselves is ok. So, they end up biting their nails, making slashes on their body, and ultimately turning to suicide.
- Lack of interests: Depressed teens lose interest in normal activities even in things they once enjoyed. They do not want to go to school or participate in any of its activities, resulting in low academic performances.
Try and practice some of these steps to help bring your teen out of depression:
- Give your teens the freedom to choose what they want to study, and how they study with minimum influence from the parents.
- Parents should make their teens feel like they belong and are worthy. Such positive reinforcement will boost the teenagers’ self-esteem. Praising them for small things they do successfully everyday is another good approach.
- Don't give them false hope, which could lead them to have unrealistic expectations. Make your conversations realistic and help them feel you are trying and want to understand what they are going through.
- Stop comparing the teens to others or their past self. And stop giving them excessive pressure to do things you want them to do.
- Try to develop and maintain a healthy flow of communication with your teens. Try to become your child’s best friend, and coax the counter the poison of depression with love.
- Set a schedule – ideally starting when your children are young – when you and all your family members can come together for a healthy amount of family time. It could be something as simple as a dinner together every day, or a game time in the weekends.