The stage of adolescence involves a myriad of changes, both physically and emotionally, and also in the aspect of interpersonal relationships.
It is a key stage in shaping our way of being and approaching adulthood. Hormonal changes and some social situations can make the adolescent more susceptible and irritable, and is a stage when mood disorders can emerge and become evident . One out of five young people suffers at some time during this stage from some form of depression.Adolescents with depression may become isolated and show symptoms of continued discouragement.
If this behavior continues for at least six months, it could be a sign that the young person is suffering from some kind of depression.
What are the symptoms of depression among young teens?
Several international institutions such as the WHO or the American Psychiatric Association have developed a series of guidelines that define and describe the various symptoms and signs that warn us that an adolescent could be suffering from depression .
Depression at this stage of life is the third cause of suicide. Therefore, we must be aware of this reality in order to act to minimize this problem.
The following are the most common symptoms that may indicate a teenager may be having a bad time :
1. Sleep disorders
When a teenager severely changes his or her sleeping habits, something may be happening. In some cases, may be one of the first physical signs of depression . When the young person sleeps too little or too much, the underlying disorder may be depression. In any case, the existence of a symptom does not mean that the person has depression, but it is a warning sign.
More on this topic: “Sleep disorders: all you need to know”
2. Abulia: loss of interest
When a teenager who once had fun and passionate hobbies and activities loses interest in those things, we should start to worry. We can observe how the young person will be elusive and bored, and will prefer to spend a lot of time without the company of friends or family .
3. Changes in eating behavior
It is often said that extremes are never good. Well, this case is a clear example of that. When someone completely loses the desire to eat, or on the contrary eats in excess, something goes wrong . Eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, can be closely linked to depression.
4. Anger and sobbing for no apparent reason
Spontaneous displays of anger and sadness are quite common among patients suffering from depression. When it comes to adolescents, anger attacks or crying may occur without any observable cause or motive . If this situation becomes frequent, we should think about seeking help.
5. Progressive abandonment of friendships
A notorious aspect among adolescents with depression is that they progressively move away from their friends, showing little interest in social life and preferring to isolate themselves from contact with other people .
6. Poor ability to concentrate and drop in academic performance
The young person who is going through a low mood stage usually has a low capacity to concentrate , as well as several problems when memorizing things and making decisions. These factors, together with a lower motivation for studying, often result in poorer school results.
7. Low self-esteem and negative self-concept
Low self-esteem is a very common trait among young people in general, but when it becomes persistent it can end up generating derogatory comments towards oneself and can be a sign of depression . An excessive feeling of guilt, exaggerated criticism and emotional dependence on other people should also make us notice that something is happening.
More on this question: “Why do I hate myself? Causes and Solutions”
8. Aggressive behavior and flirting with illegal substances
If your teenager starts getting into frequent fights or brawls, bullying, or bad company, he or she may have a serious underlying problem. In addition, risky sexual behaviour or flirting with alcohol or other drugs would be factors to take into account .
9. Runaways and other calls for attention
Running away from the family home is one of the possible signs of depression. Sometimes, can be a defence mechanism of the adolescent, which seeks to get the attention of the parents .
10. Suicidal thoughts and ideas
This is an unmistakable sign that the adolescent is suffering from a serious mental health problem. This type of recurrent thoughts about death are verbalized with phrases like “I don’t want to live anymore” . In more advanced cases, the adolescent may self-harm or attempt suicide.
Five tips for treating depression
Now that we know the different signs that we can observe in an adolescent with this disorder, let’s explain how we should act (as parents, friends or relatives) in case a young person in our close environment might suffer from depression .
1. Talk to him/her
The first step we can take to find out why the adolescent is behaving strangely is to talk to him/her to try to find out the causes . In fact, there are symptoms that may be present but may not involve an underlying disorder.
In any case, it is important to talk to the teenager to find out if he or she is aware that their behavior has changed and to reach out to them if they ask for help. If suicidal thoughts are evident, it is a good idea not to approach this subject as a taboo. The family, in this type of case, can play an essential role in coming together to help the adolescent feel better .
2. Going to the doctor
We should not be afraid to go to the family doctor. If the symptoms shown by the adolescent are increasingly worrying and complicated to manage, we should go to a specialist in this type of case, for example a psychotherapist. The mental health professional will be able to offer a reliable diagnosis on each case and develop a treatment if necessary , as well as orienting the parents in managing the situation.
3. Psychological therapy rather than drugs
We live in a society that tends to cure everything with drugs. Sometimes treatment with medication is necessary, and in the case of depressive disorders there are antidepressant drugs that can be of great help .
Anyway, l or ideal is that the young person learns to manage his emotions and to channel his motivation properly , and that cannot be achieved by a pill. In cases of mild depression (e.g. dysthymia), drug treatment is not necessary. The real cure is to find a way to express feelings and emotions, and this is easier to achieve with the therapeutic support of doctors and psychologists.
Educational psychologists can also be very helpful in detecting and treating these types of cases. They can be instrumental in making the adolescent aware that his or her situation can and should change. In addition, s on professionals with the ability to adapt the learning environment as much as possible to the needs of a student with this disorder .
4. Changing habits and routines
Adolescents suffering from depression often have very disturbed dream schedules and are apathetic about routine activities . For this reason, it is advisable to help them draw up a well-planned schedule, not very strict but ambitious, in which, for example, we establish a time for going to bed and various activities that the young person feels motivated to do every day.
Being able to share time and space with people who support you can be a dose of positivity.
5. Practicing sports, the oldest therapy
Physical exercise is very positive for anyone, but especially for a young person with depression . Looking for an activity that suits the characteristics and needs of the young person can be a fantastic way of channelling stress and anxiety, as well as a source of good feelings to minimise negative emotions .
If this activity is done in a group and outdoors, the positive effects can be even better.
You can prove it by reading this article: “The 10 Psychological Benefits of Physical Exercise”