Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Signs Of Major Depression in Teenagers, Dr. Beth Paxton

The teenage years are tough on almost everyone. Teenagers go through so many changes in such a short amount of time; it is understandable that they get the blues now and then. But, studies show that as many as four out of every hundred teens suffer from major depression each year.

One of the problems with depression is teenagers often do not talk to their parents about their feelings. This may be because they are embarrassed or because they think what they are going through is normal. But, if your teenager suddenly has a drop in grades, is breaking off relationships with friends and family, gets involved in abusing alcohol or drugs, or acting unusual in other ways, depression may be the problem.

There are many myths about depression in teenagers that often hinder them from getting the help they need. One is that all teens suffer from depression. While it is normal for teenagers to be moody, it is not normal to be depressed. Some parents are afraid to confront their teen when they notice changes in them. Many think that talking about the depression will somehow make it worse, but talking to your teen about their feelings will only help, if for no other reason that for you to get a better understanding of the situation. One thing you should be very careful with is if you hear your teen express wishes to commit suicide. It is a myth that people who talk about suicide usually do not attempt it. This is a very serious situation and should be dealt with immediately.

Because withdrawing from family is one of the signs of depression, you may not be able to get your teen to talk to you about how he or she is feeling. But, if you can, there are some things you should look for in conversations:

• If they mention they feel like their life is meaningless or worthless

• If they discontinue activities they previously enjoyed. For example, if your teen previously loved playing basketball and suddenly stops playing, offering no reasons as to why.

• They suddenly seem to have a negative attitude about everything

• They show trouble concentrating

• They are easily irritated and overreact with anger

• They suddenly start talking about death or dying a lot

• They want to spend most of their time alone

If your teen refuses to talk to you, there are some physical signs of major depression you might notice. Looks for frequent and unexplained crying, changes in sleep patterns (either sleeps all the time or seems to be suffering from insomnia), and changes in eating habits. If you know your teen’s friends well, ask them about your child’s behavior and see if they know what is causing it.

It is important that symptoms of depression in your teen be addressed. If they will not talk to you, see if the school counselor will talk to them. If they will not talk to the school counselor, schedule a psychiatrist appointment for them. Check to see if it is okay if you attend with your teen so you can know exactly what is going on. Initially, your teen or even the psychiatrist may not want you in the sessions, but later on, you may be able to attend. Try to convey to your teen that you are not nosing into his or her business, but rather concerned because of their changes. Remind them that there is no shame in talking about your problems with a psychiatrist. Be sure to let them know that there are many ways of finding relief for depression. Sometimes it may only involved counseling. This should be someone that your teen trusts and feels comfortable with so he or she will open up and talk about his or her problems. The first psychiatrist you visit may or may not be able to reach your teen. If not, do not hesitate to visit another. In some cases, medication may be also be given to help relieve the symptoms of depression.

The most important things in dealing with depression in teens are a) that you catch the symptoms early on, b) you try to stay in communication with your teen, and c) when you do seek treatment, you try to convey to your teen that you are only doing this because you love them and are concerned about them. Initially, they may resent your interfering, but hopefully in the long run, they will understand and appreciate your help.

About the Author: Dr. Beth Paxton is a general health practictioner providing helpful information for families and patients with
childhood depression.

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