The last post talked about viewing the glass as half empty or half full, which leads to today’s topic – what if your teen always see the glass as half empty – is very negative in his or her outlook, and never seems to snap out of the blues? Depressed teens usually feel like the glass is half-empty: on school, on romance prospects, on future success. When this consistent focus on the negative descends, it tends to begin in the mid teens (around 15-16 years old) and happens more quickly in girls than in boys.
How can you tell normal teen moodiness from real depression, which is a mental illness that adult sufferers frequently state began in adolescence? The adolescent years are a time of huge hormone shifts which frequently results in wild and sudden mood swings. But the child with a pervasive sadness that descends and never lifts is not just experiencing normal teen moodiness. When adolescents feel blue and the depressed feelings are not related to external events or to female monthly cycles, there is cause to seek outside help for a diagnosis of clinical depression.
There is nothing wrong with being diagnosed as having a mental illness and there should be no stigma attached with a disease that impairs a specific body part, just like any other disease. With depression, as with other mental illnesses, that body part is the brain. Teenagers are greatly concerned with peer acceptance and peer pressure so for them, unfortunately, a stigma is frequently attached to mental illness. Therefore teens are reluctant to come forward and ask for help, with many not even recognizing that clinical depression is indeed a mental illness. Many even wrongly believe that the depression is their fault and criticize themselves constantly, even while not understanding why they feel bad.
“I hate my life and I hate myself.”
“The doctor said that this is common and that I’m fine, so it must be my fault.”
“I’ve got nothing to feel bad about – I have lots of friends with worse problems than me. Why do I feel so bad? I feel rotten inside. ”
Depressed teens are often grouchy, overly touchy, and easily irritated. Sounds like your normal teen mood swings, right? To distinguish depression from mood swings, several other accompanying symptoms help to make a proper diagnosis:
– changes in appetite
– unexplained weight loss or weight gain
– feelings of hopelessness
– vague physical complaints
– preoccupation with songs of sadness and despair
– giving away of possessions
– neglecting personal appearance
– withdrawal from friends
– loss of interest in pleasurable activities
– dark thoughts or openly dark expressions
While in any teen may have many of these symptoms at various times, a prolonged bout of multiple symptoms is worth discussing with the physician.
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: The increased risk for suicide (the third leading cause of death among teens) is the scariest part of teen depression. A vigilant parent who stays connected in their teen’s life, keeping watch for developing problems is the best solution to help teens get the appropriate support they need during the difficult years. By asking questions and staying involved, even while being pushed away, a parent can do the tough job of parenting properly.