We’ve all been there—the time of life where hormones, responsibilities, and schoolwork suffocate us. Teenage seems like the worst times of our lives when we lived it. The happy-go-lucky childhood abandons us fastly, and the heavy thoughts of adulthood and its responsibility creep into our minds. Though it is universal, a good portion of kids suffers more than others. For many hapless parents, it is not easy to distinguish teenage angst from Adolescent depression. Even popular culture shows at least one teenage character in a group as a brooding one, leading many to falsely believe that it is commonplace for some particular teens to be always sad and reserved. However, the bleak reality is that one in five teens suffers some form of depression.
Even though depression is curable and there are 24/7 helplines to support people with depression, many teens do not get the chance to utilize such help because they do not even know they suffer from it. So it is our responsibility as parents to seek treatment for them when they experience unbearable agony. But how do we know if your teen is really suffering from adolescent depression? How do you tell the difference between regular mood swings and depression, and when you notice a sprouting problem, how can you intervene and relieve the ailing teenager from his/her misery? We’ve compiled a list to help you out.
The main difference between teenage angst and adolescent depression is that the former is ephemeral and later is prolonging. While angst spoils the kid’s mood for a week, depression plagues the entire teenhood and might even stretch way into their adult life. Angst can be mostly written down as moodiness without grave impact, but depression can affect the kid’s day-to-day life, such as being unable to concentrate in class, doing homework, or mingle with other children. Without help, this will buildup into perpetual despair and anger, leading them to hurt themselves or others.
Depressed teens do not always be quiet and cry. Some of them oust their dissatisfaction with themselves in destructive ways, like being rebellious, bullying, or vandalizing. We can not just think of them as ‘acting out.’ The problem might pervade way deeper, and if timely guidance is not presented, the child’s future will be desolate. Some signs to look for:
- School problems: Many parents get surprised when the principal calls their home to inform them that their teen is absent in most classes. More shockingly, that is not an isolated incident but a recurring one. Instead of confronting the teenager with an angry outburst, the parents should try to level with the child and talk to him about it. You may be surprised to learn that the child is missing classes not because they are just hanging out with friends, but because he/she is unable to concentrate and their grades are dropping. Or they may suffer low self-esteem and couldn’t socialize with other teenagers seamlessly. Inability to concentrate for a more extended period and low self-esteem are signs of depression, and taking the teen to a counselor is a good option now.
- Addiction to devices: Anyone who suffered/suffers from depression can attest that reality makes them nervous and sad. In the pursuit of finding numbness, or better yet, happiness, they seek some type of escapism. And in this era of smartphones, tablets, and laptops, we all carry an escape with us. If your teen overindulges on his/her smartphone or gaming console and blatantly refuses to participate in any human interaction, you should be worried.
- Chemical dependency: One thing that can make a parent completely breakdown is when they find that their teen is smoking. Or worse. But again, wrathful confrontation is not going to solve the problem. In fact, it might worsen it. Try to understand why a teenager is smoking or depending on some other chemicals. Most would have just wanted to try but not unable to shed the habit, but a few would have grown to love it because it soothes their restless minds. The depressed teenager uses cigarettes and alcohol to make their pain bearable.
- Extremely Wild: Not all teenagers who suffer from adolescent depression suffer alone. Some laugh and play, but in the night, cry alone, not having an inkling of why they even feel the mental pain or wanting to cry. These extroverted teenagers can not tackle their problems with mere computers or video games. They would most likely bully other children, cause damage to properties, or do drugs, all of which would seem like the qualities of a budding criminal.
- Running Away: Escape, in a literal sense this time, is the final tool in their arsenal to battle depression. A depressed teenager can’t take it anymore and would want just to run away and disappear. In such cases, after recovering the lost teenager, immediately seek the help of mental health professionals.
Apart from the aforementioned signs, other health problems manifest from depression, like eating disorders. If your child is eating a lot or not eating properly, pay attention to their countenance. Another sign is the inability to sleep. If you spot your teenager listening to music or playing video games late into the night, you may want to start thinking that there could be a problem. Lack of enthusiasm and motivation, fatigue, hostility, agitation, and unreasonable sadness could be other signs of depression.
How to help:
- Communication: The depressed teenager already has a lot in his/her mind to deal with. So refrain from lecturing and be a good listener.
- Don’t invalidate: From an adult’s perspective, the teenage problems would seem insignificant, but not for them. Do not judge or condescend, but rather provide solutions.
- Professional: When all else fails, and if your teenager is not able to do it on his/her own, or even with your intervention, take them to a professional counselor.
Don’t fret if your teenager is suffering from adolescent depression. We all suffer depression at some point in life and learn to manage it later. Provide a comfortable home, empathic conversations, and a shoulder for your teen. If you have tried your best and still failed to alleviate the pain, there are always professionals who could help the teens.