What Causes Depression In Teens
Depression may be caused by several different factors, according to Rachel Busman, PsyD, a board-certified child and adolescent psychologist and senior director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute. For starters, she says kids can have a biological predisposition toward anxiety or depression, which sets the stage for the condition. In other words, having a parent with depression makes children and teens more likely to develop depression themselves. Thats partly because kids learn from their parents behavior and tend to imitate their actions.
Depression may also be triggered by your biology/brain chemistry, as well as negative childhood experiences like neglect, trauma, abuse, or parental divorce. Another risk factor is being forced into stressful life events like dealing with a family death or starting college without sufficient coping strategies or a support network. Whats more, Rothman says kids who have a hard time in school, such as those with learning disabilities, could develop depression if theyre falling behind in their classes and grades.
Teen Drinking Might Be A Symptom Of An Underlying Depression
Because alcohol is easy to obtain and socially acceptable, it is a very popular means of self-medication for depression. Despite the fact that it is illegal for young teens to purchase alcohol, they are often able to get it through their parents’ liquor cabinets, unscrupulous store clerks, or older friends who purchase it for them.
Former Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration administrator Nelba Chavez, PhD, says “Parents need to know that alcohol use can also be a warning sign or a cry for help that something is seriously wrong in a child’s life.”
Talking To Someone About Depression
It may seem like theres no way your parents will be able to help, especially if they are always nagging you or getting angry about your behavior. The truth is, parents hate to see their kids hurting. They may feel frustrated because they dont understand what is going on with you or know how to help.
- If your parents are abusive in any way, or if they have problems of their own that makes it difficult for them to take care of you, find another adult you trust . This person can either help you approach your parents, or direct you toward the support you need.
- If you truly dont have anyone you can talk to, there are many hotlines, services, and support groups that can help.
- No matter what, talk to someone, especially if you are having any thoughts of harming yourself or others. Asking for help is the bravest thing you can do, and the first step on your way to feeling better.
Social Media And Perceived Isolation
Another study last year of a national sample of young adults showed correlation between the time spent on social media and perceived social isolation . The authors noted that directionality cant be determined. That is, Do people feeling socially isolated spend more time on social media, or do more intense users develop PSI?
If its the latter, they noted, Is it because the individual is spending less time on more authentic social experiences that would decrease PSI? Or is it the nature of observing highly curated social feeds that they make you feel more excluded?
Which brings us what we now call FOMO, or fear of missing out.
Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, observes that FOMO is really the fear of not being connected to our social world, and that need to feel connected sometimes trumps whatevers going on in the actual situation were in. The more we use social media, the less we think about being present in the moment.
Instead we might be occupied with worrying why we werent invited to a party were seeing on Instagram, or making sure we dont miss a single post from a friend. But if were always playing catch-up to endless online updates, were prioritizing social interactions that arent as emotionally rewarding and can actually make us feel more isolated.
Does Social Media Cause Depression
Is using social media making our kids unhappy? Evidence is mounting that there is a link between social media and depression. In several recent studies, teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms were shown to have a substantially higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time.
Does that mean that Instagram and Facebook are actually causing depression? These studies show a correlation, not causation. But its worth a serious look at how social media could be affecting teenagers and young adults negatively.
One reason the correlation seems more than coincidental is that an increase in depression occurred in tandem with the rise in smartphone use.
A 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the number exhibiting high levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the suicide rate for girls in that age group increased by 65 percent.
Smartphones were introduced in 2007, and by 2015 fully 92 percent of teens and young adults owned a smartphone. The rise in depressive symptoms correlates with smartphone adoption during that period, even when matched year by year, observes the studys lead author, San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Meaning Of Phobia
Suicide Warning Signs In Depressed Teens
Seriously depressed teens, especially those who also abuse alcohol or drugs, often think about, speak of, or make attempts at suicideand an alarming and increasing number are successful. So its vital that you take any suicidal thoughts or behaviors very seriously. Theyre a cry for help from your teen.
Managing Symptoms: Staying Healthy
Being healthy is important for all children, and can be especially important for children with depression or anxiety. In addition to getting the right treatment, leading a healthy lifestyle can play a role in managing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Here are some healthy behaviors that may help:
- Having a healthy eating plan centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes , lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds
- Participating in physical activity each day based on age
You May Like: Does Pristiq Help With Anxiety
Teens Suffering From Depression Are At Higher Risk For:
- 30 percent of teens with depression also develop a substance abuse problem.
- Teenagers with depression are likely to have a smaller social circle and take advantage of fewer opportunities for education or careers.
- Depressed teens are more likely to have trouble at school and in jobs, and to struggle with relationships.
- Teens with untreated depression are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, leading to higher rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Teens with depression seem to catch physical illnesses more often than other teens.
- Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, the third leading cause of death among teenagers.
- 90 percent of suicide victims suffer from a mental illness, and suffering from depression can make a teenager as much as 12 times more likely to attempt suicide.
- Less than 33 percent of teens with depression get help, yet 80 percent of teens with depression can be successfully treated.
Teen Depression Statistics Sources:
Treatment For Depression In School Years
Treatment for teen depression begins with a mental health evaluation by a trained professional. Specifically, this evaluation should take into account a students developmental and family history, school performance, and behaviors.
Once the evaluation is complete, teen depression can be addressed by a variety of therapeutic modalities:
Read Also: Pristiq Dose
What Is Teen Depression
The teenage years can be really tough and its perfectly normal to feel sad or irritable every now and then. But if these feelings dont go away or become so intense that you feel overwhelmingly hopeless and helpless, you may be suffering from depression.
Teen depression is much more than feeling temporarily sad or down in the dumps. Its a serious and debilitating mood disorder that can change the way you think, feel, and function in your daily life, causing problems at home, school, and in your social life. When youre depressed, you may feel hopeless and isolated and it can seem like no one understands. But depression is far more common in teens than you may think. The increased academic pressures, social challenges, and hormonal changes of the teenage years mean that about one in five of us suffer with depression in our teens. Youre not alone and your depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw.
Even though it can feel like the black cloud of depression will never lift, there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself deal with symptoms, regain your balance and feel more positive, energetic, and hopeful again.
If youre a parent or guardian worried about your child
Most Teens With Depression Are Not Receiving Treatment
Depression is not a weakness, and you should never feel ashamed of a depression diagnosis. While major depression is a widespread mental health condition, it still requires attention and professional treatment.
You may be tempted to ignore your negative feelings and symptoms associated with depression, but a consistent treatment plan is vital for depression management.
Left untreated, depression has a higher chance of recurring throughout your lifetime.
According to the MHA, the majority of adolescents with depression 60% did not receive treatment for their major depression from 2017 to 2018. Further, more than two-thirds of adolescents diagnosed with depression did not continue with consistent treatment.
Also Check: What Are The Three Stages Of Schizophrenia
If You Think Your Child Is Depressed
If you think your child may be depressed, it’s important to talk to them. Try to find out what’s troubling them and how they are feeling.
Whatever is causing the problem, take it seriously. It may not seem a big deal to you, but it could be a major problem for your child.
Your child may not want to talk to you. Let them know that you are concerned about them and that you’re there if they need you.
Encourage them to talk to someone else they trust. This could be another family member, a friend or someone at school.
It may be helpful for you to talk to other people who know your child, including their other parent.
You could also contact their school to see if they have any concerns.
Anxiety And Depression In Children: Get The Facts
Many children have fears and worries, and may feel sad and hopeless from time to time. Strong fears may appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often very distressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe and cared for. Although some fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression. Learn about anxiety and depression in children.
Recommended Reading: Stress Induced Anorexia
The Darkest Mood: Major Depression With Melancholic Features
Not only that: No one disputes that in-person social interaction is linked to better mental health. So even if we dismiss the correlation between social media and depressionsay, calling it neutralthe decline in in-person social interaction could certainly account for the increase in depression and unhappiness. And why has in-person social interaction declined? Probably because screen time increased.
None of this means you should yank the phone out of your teens hands. As other studies have also documented, moderate use of smartphonesaround an hour a dayis not harmful. In my analyses of data from the Youth Risk Surveillance System survey administered by the CDC, negative effects on mental health appeared only after two or more hours a day of use. Of course, most teens use their smartphones much more than two hours a day , so it makes sense to consider setting limits.
After my book excerpt was published in The Atlantic, some, like Sarah Rose Cavanagh, argued that we shouldnt draw any conclusions until we can do a controlled experiment randomly assigning groups of teens to extensive or low smartphone use. She concluded, My suspicion is that the kids are gonna be OK.
Shakya, H. B., & Christakis, N. A. . Association of Facebook use with compromised well-being: A longitudinal study. American Journal of Epidemiology.
Sleep Deprivation And Depression
Some of the ways in which social media use impacts mood may be indirect. For instance, one of the most common contributors to depression in teenagers is sleep deprivation, which can be caused, or exacerbated, by social media.
Research shows that 60 percent of adolescents are looking at their phones in the last hour before sleep, and that they get on average an hour less sleep than their peers who dont use their phones before bed. Blue light from electronic screens interferes with falling asleep on top of that, checking social media is not necessarily a relaxing or sleep-inducing activity. Scrolling on social media, notes Dr. Hamlet, can easily end up causing stress.
Social media can have a profound effect on sleep, adds Dr. Bubrick. You have the intention to check Facebook or Instagram for 5 minutes, and the next thing you know 50 minutes are gone. Youre an hour behind in sleep, and more tired the next day. You find it harder to focus. Youre off your game, and it spirals from there.
Don’t Miss: Theory Of Mind Schizophrenia
How To Communicate With A Depressed Teen
Focus on listening, not lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. Youll do the most good by simply letting your teen know that youre there for them, fully and unconditionally.
Be gentle but persistent. Dont give up if they shut you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Even if they want to, they may have a hard time expressing what theyre feeling. Be respectful of your childs comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
Acknowledge their feelings. Dont try to talk your teen out of depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Well-meaning attempts to explain why things arent that bad will just come across as if you dont take their emotions seriously. Simply acknowledging the pain and sadness they are experiencing can go a long way in making them feel understood and supported.
Trust your gut. If your teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. If your teen wont open up to you, consider turning to a trusted third party: a school counselor, favorite teacher, or a mental health professional. The important thing is to get them talking to someone.
Other Reasons Why Teens Drink
It could also be argued that drinking to cope with depression has almost become a badge of honor in our society, a visible sign to the world that one is, indeed, hurting.
Don’t Miss: Can You Have A Panic Attack While High
Important Teenage Depression And Suicide Statistics
Teenage depression and suicide are contributing factors to one of the most common preventable reasons why children are choosing to take their own lives. Teens kill themselves by the thousands every year, but suicide isnt just something that happens out of the blue. There is always a contributing factor that helps to facilitate the ultimate decision. Most teens with depression are also dealing with alcohol abuse, drug use, and may be suffering from physical or sexual abuse as well.
What Is The Difference Between Adult And Teenage Depression
While many of the signs of depression in teens are similar, there are some specific things to look out for in teens that differ from depression in adults. For example:
- anger or irritability is often the predominant emotion in teenage depression, rather than the overwhelming sadness seen in adults
- oversensitivity to criticism or rejection, due to the extreme feelings of worthlessness
- rather than complete isolation, teens tend to withdraw from some people, like parents and some social groups, but keep up at least some friendships
- unexplained aches and pains.
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish the signs of depression in teens from the changes that are involved in growing up. An obvious change in behaviour and that lasts longer than two weeks may be cause for concern.
Recommended Reading: Can You Go To Urgent Care For Panic Attacks
Which Teens Are At Risk For Major Depression
A teen may be more likely to have major depression if he or she has:
Family history of depression, especially if a parent had depression when young
Lots of stress
Frequent physical complaints, such as headache, stomach ache, or fatigue
Running away or threats of running away from home
Sensitivity to failure or rejection
Irritability, hostility, aggression
Symptoms of major depression may look like other mental health problems. Make sure your teen sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Tip : Manage Stress And Anxiety
For many teens, stress and anxiety can go hand-in-hand with depression. Unrelenting stress, doubts, or fears can sap your emotional energy, affect your physical health, send your anxiety levels soaring, and trigger or exacerbate depression.
If youre suffering from an anxiety disorder, it can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Perhaps you endure intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, get panicky at the thought of speaking in class, experience uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts, or live in a constant state of worry. Since anxiety makes depression worse , its important to get help for both conditions.
Recommended Reading: Aphobic Meaning