Depression (a mood disorder) is one of the most common mental illnesses in America. It is estimated that 20% of adolescents will deal with depression by adulthood, and between 10%-15% will deal with depressive symptoms at any one time. Unfortunately, only 30% of depressed teens are treated for their illness. There are many risk factors that may predispose a teen to depression—these include: a family history of depression, chronic physical illness, another undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, or abuse. Adolescent females develop depression twice as often as men do, and approximately two-thirds of teens with depression also suffer from another mental illness, such as dysthymia (another mood disorder), anxiety, antisocial behaviors, or substance abuse.
Depression is more than just 'feeling down'. It is a potentially serious mental illness that, if left untreated, can have devastating consequences. Depression is not something to brush aside or take lightly, nor is it a failing of the child. So if your child comes to you with any of the following symptoms, or if you notice your child acting in the following ways, don't dismiss their problems. They need help and understanding, not judgment or dismissal.
Signs and symptoms of depression include a change in a teen's previous behavior or attitude, and these changes can cause significant distress and problems in school, home, and social life. The symptoms can have varying degrees of severity, but any changes in your teen's emotions or behavior should be taken seriously. According to the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms include:
Feelings of sadness (sometimes expressed as unexplained crying spells)
Feelings of hopelessness or emptiness
Irritable or annoyed mood
Frustration or anger, even over small things
Loss of pleasure or interest in previously enjoyed activities
Loss of interest (or conflict) with family and friends
Feeling worthless or guilty
Fixation on past failures, exaggerated self-blame or criticism
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
Need for excessive reassurance
Difficulty thinking or concentrating, making decisions, or remembering