Adolescence is a uniquely vulnerable phase of our lives, and teenagers are more prone to depression than many of us realize. Teenage depression is more than simple moodiness - it is a serious mental health condition that interferes with the adolescent’s self-esteem, social life, and academic performance. Fortunately, adequate treatment and parental support, love, and guidance can help teens overcome depression.
While genes may increase the likelihood of depression in teenagers, environmental and social factors also play a significant role. The following factors can exacerbate symptoms or trigger the onset of depression in adolescents:
Adolescents with depression can significantly benefit from a combination of medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy). Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, is a method of treating depression by discussing the person’s feelings and concerns with a mental health professional. Various forms of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy, can be helpful for adolescent depression.
In cases of severe depressive episodes and a tendency toward self-harm, depressed teenagers may require hospitalization or a special outpatient program until their mental state improves. Seeking psychiatric treatment at a hospital can provide a secure and calm environment for your teen until they acquire coping mechanisms and develop a safety plan.
The stigma surrounding mental health conditions and treatment is still present among adolescents. As a parent or older relative, you need to reassure the teen in your family who struggles with depressive episodes about the importance of seeking professional help.
Most antidepressants are safe for adolescents, but the FDA labels them with the most stringent warning, also known as the black box warning. As a rare side effect, some children, teenagers, and young adults under 25 may experience an increase in suicidal ideation when taking antidepressants, particularly in the initial weeks after starting or when the dosage is changed.
It is crucial to closely monitor teens taking antidepressants for any signs of increased depression or unusual behavior, especially during the start of their treatment or in case of dosage change. Despite required precautions, the benefits of antidepressants outweigh the risks for most adolescents who struggle with depression. It is important to remember that antidepressants can reduce the long-term risk of suicide.
Finding the right medication or dosage may require time and experimentation, as every adolescent is unique. It is important to be patient during this process, as certain medications may take several weeks or even longer to fully take effect and for any side effects to decrease as the body adjusts.
Occasional bad moods or bouts of aggression are a normal part of adolescence. However, depression is a serious mental health condition that goes beyond sadness or irritability, causing a lot of pain for the teenager and disrupting family life. Luckily, there are many ways you can help your child feel better.