Teens and depression

A teens life is filled with potentials and possibilities. It can also be a time filled with changes and stress. An attempt to assert more independence may bring on conflict with parents. Or a change in focus and perspective may facilitate a breakup of a romantic relationship.

Currently, with the country reeling from fears about jobs, financial safety and medical costs, it is to be expected that the anxiety and panic would trickle down to our teens.

However, typical teenage angst is not the same as clinical depression. The latter state requires treatment.

One source cites that one out of every eight teens experience a form of depression. And only 20 percent of teens with depression actually receive some treatment. 

Unlike an adult with depression who has the ability to get help on their own, a teen must rely on a parent, teacher, aunty or another responsible adult to recognize the depression and help them to get treatment.

Many adults in a teen’s life may mislabel a clinical depression as teenage moodiness. Another reason making this distinction difficult is that some depressed teens show symptoms of irritability, aggression and rage instead of the expected withdrawal or sad appearance.

Depression involves the delicate balance of chemicals in the brain call neurotransmitters. Therefore, it is not something one can “snap out of.”

This state of imbalance can come from a family disposition to depression, major life events or environment. It can also be part of another medical condition such as hypothyroidism.

There is no single cause for depression. Many factors play a role including genetics, environment, life events, medical conditions and the way people react to things that happen in their lives.

Depression comes in many types. It can appear as a short, intense episode called major depression or as a longer-lasting, less severe kind called dysthymia. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood, the third type, refers to a depressive reaction to a life event such as death, divorce, or other loss.

Signs and symptoms of teen depression include: Sadness or hopelessness; irritability, anger or hostility; tearfulness or frequent crying; withdrawal from friends and family; loss of interest in activities; changes in eating and sleeping habits; restlessness and agitation; feelings of worthlessness and guilt; lack of enthusiasm and motivation; fatigue or lack of energy; difficulty concentrating; thoughts of death or suicide.

While depression is one of the most common emotional problems in the United States, it is one of the most treatable condition. Treatment can include medication, talk therapy or a combination of both. Some 80 percent of those receiving treatment reports feeling better about themselves and life in general.

With untreated depression, a teen’s attempt to cope can lead to the following: Problems at school; running away, drug or alcohol abuse, low self-esteem, eating disorder, Internet addiction, self-injury, reckless behavior, violence or suicide.

Take immediate action of you suspect that a teenager in your life is suffering from depression. The condition is damaging if left untreated and the symptoms do not just simply go away.

• Tram Vuong Meadows is the therapeutic foster home program therapist for Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i. She can be reached at tmeadows@haleopio.org, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu‘e, 96766. More general questions? A support group of adults in our Kaua‘i community have “stepped into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families. Please e-mail your questions and concerns facing our youth and families today to Mary Navarro, executive director of Hale ‘Opio, at mnavarro@haleopio.org

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