Teenagers and Depression
Symptoms expressed by children and adolescents may be different from those demonstrated by adults who are experiencing depression. Each individual child is likely to express symptoms of depression in their own unique way. Frequent warning signs might include difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, sudden changes in energy, poor academic performance, loss of interest in activities, superficial cutting, feelings of hopelessness, morbidity and preoccupation with thoughts of death, excessive concerns about their own health, and worries about their parents.
It is difficult to know what makes one person more predisposed to depression than another. Each of us is biologically different and we respond emotionally and physically to life events differently. Although life circumstances may trigger depression it is our thought patterns and our interpretation of events that seem to determine our emotional experiences in most cases. Difficulties at home, worries about academics, conflicts with friends, disappointments in relationships, illness, divorce, and the loss of a loved one or love relationship may trigger depressive episodes. Underlying thought patterns that relate to a child’s belief that they have little control in their environment, as well as negative beliefs about themselves are important factors that need to be addressed and challenged.
What can we do to protect our children and how can we help? When we have a positive trusting relationship with our children they are more likely to share information with us about their emotional experience. Unfortunately there is often a breakdown in communication between children and parents. When children are not comfortable sharing their concerns with us they often feel alone and isolated. As they struggle to work things out for themselves without adult guidance they may use poor judgment, have difficulty solving problems effectively, and act impulsively. It is natural for children not to share some personal information with us, however, they need to know that we are there for them when they are in crises, and that we will not judge them for their experience.
When we have concerns that we lack information about our children we need to be observant regarding their behavior. Although we are not mental health professionals, we do know our children and are familiar with their daily behavior and routines. If our child is demonstrating warning signs of depression it is important that we do not procrastinate with regards to getting medical or professional help. They may need to be screened to determine the degree of depression and risk for self-injury.
When we learn that our child is not in danger of harming themselves there are several things that we can do to help reduce or alleviate future depression. Encouraging our child to be seen for individual counseling and participating in family counseling ourselves to improve family communications is likely to be extremely helpful. Medical management for depression is usually the first step in resolving crises situations related to depression in children and adults.
As parents we want to do everything that we can to improve family and environmental conditions that will have an impact on our child. Reducing parental conflict and improving parental teamwork may be extremely helpful in lowering your child’s stress level. In addition, reducing our tendency to be emotionally reactive may also help our children to relax and feel safe in their home environment.
Depression in both children and adults if often related to an individual experiencing a sense of powerlessness in their life. Helping children develop a sense of age appropriate empowerment will likely contribute to them feeling better about themselves. If we can help them improve their ability to solve problems more effectively, improve social skills, and develop a sense of positive self appreciation they are likely to be happier and more optimistic about life.
By Donald Recupido
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