Depression is a severe illness that affects the mind and the body.
Depressive disorders can have great consequences on teenagers, if not treated.
Many teenagers suffer in silence because nobody (including themselves) knows they are depressed and that they need treatment.
The first step that leads toward treatment is recognizing that one needs help.
There are numerous symptoms of depression which is the reason why symptom categorization is needed.
Symptoms of teenage depression can be divided in four groups: physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive.
Physical Symptoms of Teenage Depression:
· Noticeable weight loss or gain
· Stomach pain
· Muscle pain
· Unexplained chronic pain
Emotional Symptoms of Teenage Depression:
.Hopelessness (this feeling is one of the most common symptoms of teenage depression and it is potentially very dangerous because it makes them very vulnerable)
· Worthlessness ("No body loves me" or "No body cares about me" are the types of sentences that indicate that a person feels worthless)
· Feeling ugly and not loved (depressed teenagers often feel bad about their physical appearance, especially when other kids are making fun of them). Teenagers are in general very sensitive about their physical looks. This is why parents should be very gentle when criticizing their children’s image.
· Feeling "lost" (This kind of feeling is very common in teenagers especially in those that are depressed. Feeling lost means not knowing where they belong which makes them an easy target for many kinds of bad influences.)
· Feeling unappreciated
· Guilt feelings (Excessive self-criticism) Sometimes teenagers blame themselves for their parent’s divorce or even death when in reality they had nothing to do with it.
Behavioral Symptoms of Teenage Depression:
· Mood swings (Even though mood alterations are normal to some degree in teenagers, severe mood swings are definitely something that should be addressed)
· Aggressive behavior: Aggression never solves anything it only causes more problems. Unfortunately teenagers (especially boys) are prone to violence when they face problems which don’t necessarily mean that they suffer from teenage depression. However aggression is in most cases (except in self-defense) a sign of dysfunction and it needs to be addressed.
· Alcohol or drug use: Unfortunately alcohol use is increasing among teenagers. Teenagers are using alcohol for many different reasons however none of them are good. Since alcohol is a depressant, teenagers using it are more vulnerable to depression than other teenagers.
· Bad temper
· Excessive crying
· Changes in appetite (Eating too much or not eating at all is an alarming sign of teenage depression)
· Insomnia or oversleeping (Not being able to get out of bed and not wanting to leave the room for days, weeks or months)
· Frequent accidents (with knives, any kind of tools, while crossing the street etc.)
· Sudden decrease in academic achievements
· Social withdrawal (Stops having friends over, going out with them, isolating herself or himself from everybody)
· Risk taking behaviors (shoplifting, fighting, taking drugs or using alcohol, premature or unsafe sexual activities etc.)
· Loss of interest in activities (loss of interest in all activities that were once enjoyed including sports or any kind of hobbies)
· Fatigue (There is no energy to do anything constructive)
· Agitation, irritation (You are not able to talk to her or him without conflict)
Cognitive Symptoms of Teenage Depression:
· Thoughts about death or suicide
· Memory loss
· Difficulty concentrating
· Intrusive thoughts
· Constant negative thinking
· Not being able to think "clearly"
Sometimes symptoms of teenage depression can be hidden or masked which can make them difficult to be recognized. This is one of the reasons why diagnosis can be done only by a psychologist or some other trained health professional.
If you suspect your child may have symptoms of teenage depression you need to take her or him to psychologist and get a professional opinion. If treatment is needed, you need to take part in it and do everything you can to help your child get better. Do not medicate your child on your own but follow the therapist’s instructions.
The best way you can help your child reduce and eventually get relieved of symptoms of teenage depression is to be a team player with her or his therapist. Also it is very good to go to family therapy, so that you and other members of family can learn how to cope with the depressed family member and give her or him the support that is essential for recovery.