The stereotype of sulky, moody, irritable, sullen teens is something all parents are familiar with, which can make depression among teenagers difficult to spot, so how can you tell if your teenage son or daughter is suffering from depression and not just being a typical teenager?
Depression among teenagers is on the increase and the statistics make scary reading: research has shown that one in five adolescents have some kind of emotional, behavioural, or mental problem, and one in eight are suffering from depression. But unlike adults, who are much more likely to seek help for their depression, only 30% of teenagers receive any kind of treatment.
Why is depression among teenagers so high?
Teenagers are under immense pressure. They have to deal with the trauma of adolescence and the physical changes their bodies are going through, plus the constant barrage of unachievable images of perfection portrayed by the media. Thirty years ago, depression amongst teens was virtually unheard of, but in today’s materialistic society, teenagers are made to feel inferior every time they open a magazine or watch the latest reality TV show.
The biggest problem with depression in teenagers is that parents are often completely unaware that their child is suffering from the illness because their symptoms do not always point to depression. Sulking, sullenness, aggression and antisocial behaviour are all considered to be a normal part of teenage life, but although these symptoms are very common in teens, they can also be caused by depression. Teenagers are also less likely to cut off contact with their friends when they are depressed, something that adults tend to do.
Teenage depression and suicide
Suicide is the third highest cause of premature death in teenagers and young adults aged between 15 and 24, and this rate has tripled in the last forty years. Such figures indicate that not only are teenagers becoming more vulnerable to depression, but they are increasingly likely to respond to the illness by committing suicide.
What are the symptoms of depression in teenagers?
All teenagers suffer from mood swings and periods of bad behaviour and irritability, but when depression is the underlying cause, other symptoms will normally be evident. Very often physical symptoms can indicate that there is something more going on beneath the surface, so if a teenager complains of headaches, a lack of energy, and sleep problems for more than a couple of weeks, they could be suffering from depression. Other warning signs to look out for include a drop in performance at school, changes in weight or eating habits, and a lack of interest in normal activities.
Who is most at risk?
Statistics show that teenage girls are more at risk than teenage boys. Teenage depression can be triggered by many things, but what might seem like a trivial concern to a parent is very often a major trauma to a teenager: for example, online bullying is commonly linked to cases of teen suicides, and parents are often oblivious until it is too late. Teenagers affected by bereavement, child abuse, and chronic illness are also vulnerable to depression, but it is not the severity of the problem, it is more the teens perception of their problem that is the real issue.