Guiding Teens Through Depression: Recognizing and Responding

Teen years are tough, and many young adults face the challenge of depression. Especially in the wake of 2020: with the subsequent global pandemic, political upheaval, and current-day threat of on peace and safety across the world.

A powerful podcast interview that I had recently with Dr Judy Osterhage provides guidance, helping us understand and support our teenagers better as we attempt to navigate the new world climate.

Listen here on Apple Podcasts, Podbean Spotify, Amazon, iHeart Radio, Podchaser, PlayerFM, and BoomPlay.

Spotting the Signs of Depression in Teens

Depression can be hard to see. Teens might feel deep sadness, worthlessness, or lose joy in favorite activities. It's important for us to be able to identify these signs, so that we can spot a teen in emotional pain, and get them the necessary support and guidance.

Some of the signs of depression in teens may include the following:

  1. Emotional Distress: Feeling persistently sad, with or without tears.

  2. Anxiety: Experiencing constant worry or nervousness.

  3. Lethargy: Having a continuous lack of energy or motivation.

  4. Anger Issues: Exhibiting temper outbursts or violent behaviors.

  5. Irritability: Getting annoyed or frustrated easily.

  6. Sleep Disturbances: Facing challenges with sleeping too little or excessively.

  7. Appetite Changes: Experiencing significant changes in eating habits, either eating too little or too much.

  8. Social Withdrawal: Pulling away from friends and family, avoiding social interactions.

  9. Loss of Interest: No longer finding joy in activities that were once enjoyable, including school-related activities.

  10. Unfounded Fears: Feeling scared without a clear reason or cause.

  11. Guilt and Shame: Overwhelmed by feelings of extreme guilt or shame.

  12. Focus Issues: Struggling with concentration and maintaining attention.

  13. Memory Challenges: Experiencing difficulties with memory retention.

  14. Substance Use: An increase in the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

  15. Academic Struggles: A noticeable decline in academic performance or grades.

  16. School Attendance: Frequently missing school or specific classes.

  17. Self-Criticism: Often making self-deprecating or critical remarks.

  18. Feeling of Helplessness: Feeling powerless to improve or change situations.

  19. Pessimism: Harboring a belief that situations will not improve or get better.

  20. Death-Related Comments: Making remarks related to death or dying, even casually.

  21. Dark Creative Expressions: Engaging in writing, drawing, or listening to content that revolves around hopelessness, violence, or death.

  22. Suicidal Threats: Making statements or jokes about committing suicide.

NOTE: Any time one or more of the last 5 signs or symptoms are seen or suspected, immediate attention is necessary!

Understanding the Risk Factors of Teen Depression

Certain things increase the risk of adolescent depression. The podcast discusses these risk factors, offering insights into the mental health challenges teens face.

According to Healthline, there's a number of risk factors involved with depression. Here are some of them:

The Biochemical Aspects of Depression

Depression, categorized as a mood disorder, is thought to be influenced by the biochemical dynamics within the brain. Central to this concept are neurotransmitters, the brain's chemical messengers, which facilitate communication between the brain and various body parts, playing a pivotal role in regulating numerous physiological functions. The onset of depression is believed to be associated with an imbalance in these neurotransmitters, affecting the overall harmony and function of the mind and body.

The Role of Neurotransmitters in Susceptibility to Depression

The presence of lower levels of certain neurotransmitters could be a contributing factor in making some individuals more prone to depression. Key neurotransmitters involved in this susceptibility include:

  • Serotonin

  • Norepinephrine

  • Dopamine

These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in mood regulation, and their diminished levels may influence the onset and severity of depression in individuals.

The Influence of Genetics on Depression

Genetic predispositions can play a significant role in the likelihood of developing depression. If an immediate family member, such as a parent or sibling, has experienced depression or another mood disorder, it may elevate one’s risk of facing similar challenges. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), there is a 70 percent probability that an identical twin may develop depression if their twin has been diagnosed with the condition.

It's essential to note, however, that depression can also manifest in individuals without a familial history of the disorder. This suggests that the development of depression could be influenced by a combination of genetic factors and personal life experiences.

The Connection Between Sleep Disorders and Depression

Chronic issues with sleep are often linked with depression. The exact relationship is not entirely clear to experts; whether insufficient sleep is a cause of depression remains a question. However, it has been observed that periods of low mood tend to follow instances of poor sleep quality or duration.

The Impact of Serious Illnesses on Mental Health

Dealing with a severe or chronic illness often brings significant stress and pain, which can heavily impact an individual’s mental well-being. Numerous chronic conditions are associated with increased prevalence rates of depression. Such conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Chronic pain

  • Arthritis

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Thyroid disease

  • Stroke

  • Cancer

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Dementia

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Huntington’s disease

The mental toll these conditions take often exacerbates the challenges faced by those living with these illnesses, highlighting the intricate link between physical health and mental health.

Opening Up Conversations

Communication is often heralded as the cornerstone of healthy relationships. Despite seeming like a commonplace piece of advice, mastering the art of communication is an invaluable skill that enhances the quality of our interpersonal relationships. As children transition into adolescence, the nature of communication within the parent-child relationship evolves, necessitating adjustments that respect the emerging boundaries fostered by their growing independence. This journey of adapting to new communication styles is a mutual learning process, enriching the relationship with nuanced understandings.

Effective communication becomes a bridge, fostering a sense of connection and understanding between you and your teenager. It paves the way for engaging in meaningful conversations, navigating conflicts, and sharing feelings with a sense of mutual respect and openness.

The benefits of effective communication include:

  • Bridging emotional distances and fostering closeness.

  • Facilitating open dialogues even when conversations seem challenging.

  • Encouraging your child to express their thoughts and feelings.

  • Enhancing the overall quality of the parent-child relationship.

Building Confidence in Teens

Confidence empowers teenagers, guiding them to make informed and safe decisions, and enabling them to steer clear of unsuitable people and situations. A confident teenager is likely to exhibit assertiveness, positivity, engagement, enthusiasm, and perseverance.

Teenagers who possess a robust sense of confidence are more adept at navigating challenges, such as participating in various activities and expressing themselves in class, without easily succumbing to peer pressure. They tend to approach difficulties with a resilient mindset, allowing them to recover and adapt more effectively.

For instance, consider a confident teenager encountering issues within their friendships. They might initially feel upset, but their inherent confidence allows them to rebound from these feelings, concentrating on the positive elements in their lives, such as other supportive relationships and family connections. They are more likely to view challenges as temporary hurdles rather than insurmountable obstacles.

On the contrary, teenagers with lower confidence levels might find participation in activities more daunting and may be more susceptible to the influences of their peers. They might approach challenges with a sense of defeat, possibly not exerting much effort when facing difficulties.

Taking the example of friendship issues, a teenager with lower confidence might internalize the problem, feeling overwhelmed by sadness and self-blame. Such experiences could adversely impact their self-esteem, leaving them feeling undeserving of friendship and companionship. This illustrates the profound influence of confidence in shaping a teenager's resilience and overall outlook on life and relationships.

A Helping Hand for Depressed Teens

This podcast is a rich resource, offering tools and advice to assist teens battling depression. It guides us in recognizing the signs and providing the care and support that teens need to navigate their challenging times.

🔗 Watch the video here to learn more about recognizing depression in teens.

And if you're new here, before you go: I'd love to introduce myself properly. My name is Emma G, and I'm a singer/songwriter on a mission to help people through the art of music and songwriting. I established Youth Empowerment through Songwriting [YES] Coaching back in 2019, with the aim of helping parents reconnecting with their teens, and teens reconnect with themselves using the power of music, and magic of songwriting.

As part of this mission, I started the Reconnect with your Teenager podcast series [the same name as my second book, which can be purchased here]: both with the aim of giving you, dear reader, some helpful, perhaps unconventional tips and tricks to help you help your teen.

Of course, if you are interested in exploring this further, please click here to book a discovery call with me, and let's help your teen find their way back to their best selves.

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

~ Emma G

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