A parent's guide to adolescent depression

A parent's guide to adolescent depression

A parent's guide to adolescent depression

For teens suffering from depression, family is a haven where they can receive support and warmth. This article provides some guidance and advice for parents to hopefully help depressed teens through difficult times.

Adolescents are prone to depression when facing the burden of learning, family problems, and emotional entanglements of boys and girls, and if they are not channeled in time at this time, they will make the teenagers who should be lively and cheerful become dull, depressed, and even depressed. Teenage depression is not a simple moodiness, it is a serious health problem that affects every aspect of a teenager's life.

Teens with depression may engage in the following "inappropriate behaviors" to cope with their distressing emotions

Experiencing academic problems: Depression can cause exhaustion and difficulty concentrating. This can lead to a child's reduced attendance, declining grades, and frustration with learning.

Running away from home: Teens run away from home or plan to run away from home. These behaviors are usually their distress signals in the hope of attracting the attention and help of adults. 

Smoking, alcohol, or drug use: Teens will try to "self-treat" depression through alcohol, smoking, or drugs, but this will only make the situation worse.

Low self-esteem: Depression can trigger and exacerbate a youth's debasement of self-image, including feelings of being ugly, failing, worthless, and ashamed.

Internet addiction: Teens use the Internet to escape the real world, but excessive use of mobile phones and the Internet will only increase loneliness and make them more depressed.

Risky behavior: Teens with depression may also engage in risky behaviors, such as getting drunk and having unsafe sex.

Violence: Some adolescents with depression, usually boys who have been bullied, can become aggressive and violent.

Other problems: including eating disorders, self-harm, etc.

Is it depression or the growing pains of adolescence?

If you're not sure if your child is suffering from depression or just experiencing the growing pains of adolescence, you can observe the duration and severity of symptoms and how your child behaves differently, and you can use some depression scales to help you judge. Unlike depression, sometimes teens have occasional anxiety attacks just because of stress and fluctuating hormone levels, and don't keep your child sad, tired, or irritable.

What symptoms may a teenager with depression have?

Feeling sad or hopeless

Irritability, irritability, hostility

Frequent tears and crying

Reluctance to communicate with friends and family

Loss of interest in various activities

Schools are not performing well

Changes in eating and sleeping habits

Fidgeting, anxiety

Low self-esteem, feeling worthless, or feeling guilty

Lack of enthusiasm and motivation

Fatigue, lack of spirit

Difficulty concentrating

Feel inexplicable physical pain

Thoughts of death or suicide

It is worth noting that the manifestations of depression in adolescents differ greatly from those in adults. The following symptoms are more common in adolescents than adults:

Irritability: Adolescents with depression tend to be very irritable rather than sad. They may be short-tempered, hostile, easily frustrated, or suddenly angry.

Unexplained physical pain: Adolescents with depression often complain of physical discomfort, such as headaches and stomach pain. If the physical examination does not reveal the cause of the pain, the pain may be caused by depression. 

Extreme sensitivity to criticism: Adolescents with depression often feel worthless, and this thought can make them extremely sad to experience criticism, rejection, and failure, especially for adolescents who are very self-demanding.

Less socializing: Adults tend to isolate themselves when depressed, while teens will have at least some friends when depressed, but will be less social, alienate their parents, or start spending time with a different group of friends.

In addition, for those adolescents who are severely depressed, they will often think or mention suicide, and even attempt suicide, which we need to be vigilant and must not ignore.

The following signs may indicate that a teenager is going to commit suicide and needs to be vigilant:

Talk about planning suicide or making jokes about suicide

Say: "I'm dead," "I wish I was gone forever," "I'm cornered," and things like that

Like to talk about death positively, or romanticize death ("If I die, people might like me more")

Write stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide

Regardless of danger or multiple injuries due to accidents

Give away valuables

Say goodbye to friends and family like a farewell

Look for ways to commit suicide, or look for tools and medicines to kill yourself 

How to communicate with a teenager with depression

If your child has depression, you need to take action to help him instead of waiting for the symptoms of depression to go away on their own. Communicate with your child and tell him that you noticed some of his depressive symptoms and that they worries you. Let your child share his experience and listen carefully. Make it clear that you are willing to provide support and assistance to your child.

Pay attention to listening, not preaching: When your child is communicating, do not criticize or preach, let him know that you support them unconditionally.

Don't give up: If a teenager turns you away at first, don't give up. Teens may be less inclined to talk about depression, and even if they do, they may have difficulty expressing their feelings clearly. While respecting your child so that he doesn't feel uncomfortable, you need to emphasize that you are worried about him and are willing to listen to what he is going through and feeling.

Acknowledge their feelings: Learn to acknowledge his feelings, even if his feelings or concerns may seem silly or unreasonable to you. If you say out of kindness, "Things aren't that bad yet," it's easy for your teenager to think you're not taking his feelings seriously and make him reluctant to open up with you. It is only when you truly acknowledge the pain and sadness he is going through that he can feel understood and supported, and open up to you.

Trust your instincts: If he pays lip service to business as usual, but behaves with unexplained signs of depression, you should trust your instincts. If he doesn't want to talk to you, try getting him to talk to a trusted third party: for example, a school psychologist, his favorite teacher, a professional psychologist, or a teen group teacher. The important thing is that he has a person to confide in. 

Five tips to help depressed teens

Tip 1: Encourage your child to socialize

Teens with depression will stay away from friends and activities they used to enjoy, but this autistic behavior will only make depression worse, so you need to encourage your child to socialize.

Have a time each day to communicate alone: Set aside time each day to meet your child alone face-to-face, and focus entirely on your child during this time without distractions or other things at the same time. The simple act of face-to-face communication can go a long way towards alleviating adolescent depression. Also, remember: talking to your child about depression or how your child is feeling does not make your child's situation worse, on the contrary, your support for your child can greatly speed up his recovery. Parents should also pray with their children.

Join a youth group: Encourage your child to join a weekly youth group to learn Bible truths and make friends with other students. Parents can share what they have learned with their children after the group or read the Bible with their children, such as the Psalms.

Help your child not isolate himself: Do your best to help your child engage with others. Examples include encouraging your child to hang out with friends, inviting your child's friends to your house to play, and taking your child to participate in activities with other families.

Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities: Let your child participate in extracurricular activities (e.g. sports, art, dance, music, etc.) that are suitable for him. Perhaps children will lack motivation and interest at first, but slowly they will feel better and regain enthusiasm.

Encourage your child to volunteer: Helping and serving others is a great way to relieve depression and boost self-confidence. Help your child find projects that interest them. You can also participate in volunteer activities with your child, which will also strengthen the relationship between you and him.

Tip 2: Cultivate healthy lifestyle habits in your child

If the child is inactive, sleep-deprived, and malnourished, it can increase the level of depression. So, as a parent, you need to cultivate healthy lifestyle habits for your children:

Get kids moving: Exercise is good for mental health! It's best to give your child an hour of exercise each day, but not the kind of boring or ultra-high-intensity exercise. You can collect more sports: for example: walking the dog, dancing, playing basketball, cycling, skateboarding, etc. - as long as you can move, it is beneficial.

Limit time spent on electronic devices: Teens like to go online to escape from real problems, but this can reduce the amount of time kids spend socializing and exercising. Parents can sign a media use agreement with their child, which not only unilaterally limits the amount of time your child can use electronic devices each day, but also includes the amount of time you need to limit the use of electronic devices each day, which will make the child feel fair and more willing to cooperate.

Provide nutritionally balanced foods: Foods rich in healthy fats, high-quality protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables can help the brain have a healthy state and help improve mood. Eating too many sugary or starchy foods (which many teenage depressed people prefer) can only negatively affect their mood and energy.

Reduce academic pressure: If your school puts too much pressure on your child, then lower your high demands for your child's grades, constant stress will reduce brain capacity, which can lead to cognitive impairment and emotional disorders.

Encourage adequate sleep: Teens need 9-10 hours of sleep per night, so that your child gets enough sleep and doesn't let your child stay up late.

Tip 3: Seek professional help 

If your child's depression is severe, you need to take him for help from a psychiatrist and psychologist.

Ask your child for advice: Be sure to ask your child for advice when choosing a psychologist or seeking treatment options. If you ignore your child's opinion and just make unilateral decisions, your child will not necessarily cooperate with the treatment. In addition, no single therapist can cure all diseases, and no single treatment is suitable for everyone. If your child is uncomfortable with the treatment or can't communicate well with a doctor, you should look for a more suitable professional.

Discuss treatment options: Talk to your doctor about treatment options. Depression does not necessarily require medication, and talk therapy is an appropriate initial option for people with mild to moderate depression. However, for major depressive disorder, it is necessary to seek professional psychiatrist, use drugs and other medical treatment.

Pharmacotherapy is risky: Drugs and other medical treatments are generally a visit to the mental health department of a general hospital or a specialized mental health hospital, and the choice of hospital and doctor should consider seniority and experience in the field of adolescent depression. Antidepressants have been developed and tested in adults, and their effects on adolescent brains are not fully understood. In addition, antidepressants themselves have risks and side effects. Therefore, if the child is taking antidepressants, parents need to carefully observe the child's condition after taking the medicine.

Tip 4: Give your child support during treatment

When your child is in therapy, let him know that you are always there to support him. You want your child to feel accepted, cared for, and valued.

Understand them: Life with a teen with depression is difficult, and you may feel exhausted, rejected, hopeless, upset, or various other negative emotions. During this difficult time, remember that your child did not mean to become difficult. They are suffering, so please do your best to be patient and understanding.

Keep an eye on your child's treatment: Whether it's psychotherapy or medication, make sure your child follows the doctor's instructions and track changes in your teen's condition. If depressive symptoms become more severe, be sure to see your doctor.

Be patient: The road to recovery for adolescents with depression can be long, so be patient. Most importantly, don't always blame yourself and don't compare your own family to other families. You just need to do your best to provide the necessary help to your child.

Tip 5: Take care of yourself and other family members

Parents may devote all their energy to caring for a child with depression, neglecting the needs of themselves and other family members. However, you need to take care of yourself during this difficult time and get support from other family and friends.

Don't suppress your emotions: Don't feel strange when you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or angry, it's normal for these emotions to appear, and don't blame yourself for it. You can seek help from friends, family, church groups, or a psychologist, and talking to them about your feelings can help ease your bad feelings.

Take care of yourself: The stress that your child's illness can bring to you can affect your own mood and health, so you need to eat properly, get enough sleep, and make time to do what you love to take care of yourself.

Be honest with other children: Don't shy away from talking about depressed children because you're trying to "protect" other children in your family. If something happens at home, the children can feel it. If you don't tell them, they'll just imagine worse outcomes. So, be honest with other children about what's going on, allow them to ask questions and share their feelings.

Also focus on other children: Depression in one child can cause stress or anxiety in other children, so make sure not to neglect other children, who may also need special attention or even receive professional help.

Avoid finger-pointing: Parents may easily blame their child's depression on themselves or other family members, but this will only make the already stressful situation worse. Know that depression is usually caused by multiple factors, so families should not blame themselves for the problem, except in cases where the child is abused or neglected.

Hopeful: Treatment for depression, difficult and sometimes lengthy, is curable.

作者:Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.

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