Depression in Teens

Caretakers of Ms A, 13-year-old girl visited a psychologist reporting the chief complaints of the girl being self-harming, sad, unhappy, isolated, and inexpressive most of the time of the day over a period of time. After having a few counselling sessions with Ms A, the psychologist got to know that she was a pampered child for seven years until her parents were blessed with their second child. Once the second child was born, all the attention shifted towards the younger kid and the girl was not able to take on a positive note. She was unable to understand the reason behind this and hence, she was unable to cope with it. She started feeling sad as she no longer had that much attention of her parents which she used to have. Due to all of this, she started spending time alone and isolated herself. Later, to seek her parent’s attention she started harming herself as she was suggested by one of her friends. Meanwhile, her parents got divorced which impacted her mental well- being badly.

As a part of the treatment, the kid had to undergo six sessions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) after which she was completely able to get out of her diagnosed depression.

After precisely analyzing the case, it is learned that Ms A had to undergo a series of psychological ups and downs which led her to such severe depression. First of all, it was a sudden and unexpected shift in the attention of the parents from her to the younger sibling. The divorce of her parent went to be the second reason and picking up of faulty behaviours from her peers also contributed to it. All of these factors are known to be affecting a teen’s psyche adversely.

Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is quite often found to be a serious mood disorder. It causes severe problems that affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities such as sleeping, eating, or working. For diagnosing depression, the symptoms must be prevalent for at least two weeks.

The medical community once assumed that depression was a medical condition dedicated to only adults. However lately, it was discovered that the risk of this condition can begin even in childhood or in the early teens. Later, it increases steadily through the mid-20s. Around 11 per cent of the young population had have experienced an episode of depression by the end of their teenage years, as per the experts. “One in four children from the age group of 13-15 years in India suffer from depression, which affects 86 million people in South-East Asia region,” stated a report by the World Health Organisation.

Teenage is an exuberating stage of life where the dreams are colourful but ambitions are vague and confusing. When the kids are young, the parents take protective & preventive measures for helping them to cope with their activities and they even keep them secured. As the kids grow older their problems become more complex and the parents are expected to be more vigilant of how their child is turning out. Affirmative actions from both the parent are required if their child shows an unusual and sudden behavioural change and especially if he/she is identified with depression.

Teens need the help of a professional to get better, but prior to there is a need for them to recognize the need for it. Depression in children, teens, and young adults should not be taken as a minor phase, it’s a major condition which affects the rest of their life. It interferes with their daily life routine leading to behaviour changes, suicidal thoughts, and affect the person entire life in all the aspects.

Teens’ parenting is a tough task as the caretakers are expected to deal them with utmost care and maintaining a fine balance between pampering and discipline. The caretakers should give enough personal space for the teens without assuming to relive their passions or goals upon their children.

If there is something which is not going as expected with teens, parents should initiate a talk with them and find out the reason behind that change. Depression could be transmitted through the family, basing upon the family mental history or especially, if the parents are separated. Sometimes, parents feel that the teens are not going to open up with them, it would be better to involve a person with whom the teen is more close to, for example, an aunt /uncle or elder brother/sister/cousin. As depression among teens is growing at an alarming rate, parents or caretakers must be vigilant enough to recognise if their child is going through a depressive phase.

Possible causes of Depression in Teens:

Reasons, why depression is affecting a very large proportion of the youth, is difficult and subjective to figure out but there are few known common observable factors, such as:

• Teenagers are suddenly bombarded with a whole new world of emotions and they are unaware of the ways to handle them or in other words, they are ill-equipped to handle emotions.

• Parents’ divorce, negligence, and abuse can also be a cause for depression in teens.

• They might feel weak against several situations and this guilt can remain with them throughout their adulthood as well. Here, the point which needs attention is even if a teenager doesn’t face any such challenges, he/she can be depressed too.

• An inherited tendency toward depression also can be a reason. Depression runs in some families, but not everyone with a depressed family history becomes depressed. It means that people with no family history of depression also can have depression.

• Besides life events and family history, other factors which play a vital role to cause depression includes social environment, medical conditions, and negative thought patterns.

• Other possible triggers for teen depression include learning disabilities that lead to academic difficulties.

• Hormonal changes and physical health also affects mood and are known to cause depression in the long term.

• Nuclear families are present order of the day and some parents are unable to spend quality time with their children which might turn into a hurdle in the long run for the mental health of that teenager.

• Excessive stress related to career, studies or home environment could be an inherent reason behind the depression.

• Exposure to a different environment which is altogether completely new can lead to depression too.

Symptoms of Depression:

Nevertheless, the symptoms of depression are common in adult and adolescent. Always be alert and be mindful of your child suddenly shows the following symptoms which can only be noticed if you spend more time with them or talk to them:

• Has he/she lost interest in things that she or he used to really enjoy earlier?

• Is there a sudden change in eating or sleeping habits?

• Does the teen show very little energy or motivation to do anything?

• Is the teen feeling worthless, hopeless about her or his future, or guilty about things that aren’t their fault?

• Are his/her grades suddenly dropped, or is she or he found it difficult to concentrate on studies?

• Has had thoughts of suicide? If you find his/her the thoughts are really serious then there is an imminent threat and it’s necessary to have her/ his evaluated by a mental health professional immediately.

• Avoiding others and not being social or is isolating herself/himself for no apparent reason.

Psychological Intervention:

Depression in teens is curable with the help of a therapist. Once, the root cause is identified after you contact a therapist depression can be treated with the help of certain therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and even medication can be put into use.

The need for parental care:

• As a parent, one of the most important things to be done is to work on strengthening the mutual relationship with their child. Build empathy and understand them by putting oneself in the shoes of their teen. The parent might be frustrated that their kid seems to be acting mysterious and unsocial a lot of the time, however having the patience to understand their difficulty is the key here. Teens suffering from depression avoid performing their daily tasks. If there has been an incident which has deeply impacted their life, need more attention.

• To be a supportive hand, one needs to validate the child’s emotions but not his/her unhealthy behaviour.

• Being compassionate with the teen, asking him/her questions about their day at school or college and being emotional helps the teen to open up their pent-up emotions. Even parents with the best intentions often don’t realize that their concern can come across as an obstacle in their bond with the teen.

• Coming to conclusions without knowing actual reasons must be avoided as the teen may have a different point of view. Do not turn deaf ear to their problems and let them know that parents are there to heed them. Avoid being judgmental which actually makes the teen view parent as an ally and someone they can count on in need.

What if they are left untreated?

• Behaviour problems like self-harm, and isolation.

• Declining performance at school

• Issues with socializing

• Drug or substance abuse

• Pervasive irritability and sadness may cause violence or anger.

• Suicide threats or attempts.

• Promiscuous sexual behaviour

Data regarding teen depression in India:

The data mentioned below is according to the report released on the eve of World Health Day “Mental Health Status of Adolescents in South-East Asia: Evidence for Action” published in 2012 by WHO.

• Apparently, India stands number one in the highest teen suicides rate among 10 South-East Asian countries.

• The estimated suicide rate per 1 lakh people in India, in the age group of 15-29 years, was 35.5.

• The estimated suicide rates per 1 lakh people in this age group varied from 3.6 in Indonesia to 25.8 in Nepal, it stated.

• The report said the total population of India was 1,311.1 million, of which, adolescent (13-15 years) population stood at 75.5 million.

• It was reported that seven per cent of adolescents were found to be “bullied” and they felt disturbed due to comments of their peers, family members or teachers.

• 25 per cent of adolescent were “depressed” and “sad or hopeless” while 11 per cent were “distracted” and had a hard time staying focused on their work most of times or always, the report said.

Depression is a serious medical condition where both the teen and the caretakers need to be involved in the process of treatment. The teens must identify his/her difficulties and the reasons which are driving them towards such a state of mind. A complete cure can be achieved with the support of the caretakers and the therapist to the teen. Once the teen identifies the reason behind the depression he or she would definitely understand the need to undergo therapies like CBT and NLP to recover from depression. It is important for teens and caretakers to stop assuming and visit a psychologist. Beware of the behavioural changes in the teen and understand the fact that it is not necessary to hinder their personal space for that. Generally, the behavioural changes are associated with the hormonal changes they are currently going through, but it can be a lot more than that.

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