Teenage years are depressing because they are going through some of the biggest changes in their life. Teens start high school and have to deal with being little in a school again. They go through major hormonal changes. Their bodies develop and grow. They have to decide whether or not they are going to college or not. If they choose college, then what college will meet their needs the best? Will they even be accepted to the college they want to go to? These are major decisions and changes they have never experienced before. Then there is the daily life.
They wake up in the morning dreading school, they know they have to go. They just don’t want to go. Then they get ready and go to school. They are depressed about school. They go to all their classes. The end of the day is nearing and they may be depressed about having to go home. Their family life might be bad. They go home and what do you do? Sit down, watch television, play a video game, lock themselves in their room, or just going around being mad at everyone and their life. This really is the pits. They need to change their life whether it be changing their after school activity or changing their attitude.
Depression is defined as a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. No two people feel or experience depression the same way. The symptoms and causes of depression are very different for everyone.
Lawrence Clayton, Ph.D. and Sharon Carter write, “The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that for 4 to 10 percent of the American public at any given time the “downer” mood doesn’t lift.” They also reported that one quarter of the population would experience a major depressive period during their lifetime (8). One out of four people will have a problem with depression in the United States. NIMH also reported that “approximately 4 out of a 100 teenagers get seriously depressed each year. Clinical Depression is a serious illness that can affect anybody, INCLUDING TEENAGERS” (“Let’s Talk” 1).
Gerald D. Oster, Ph.D., Sarah S. Montgomery, MSW, write, “Clinical depression refers to a condition marked by the changes in one’s mood and by associated behaviors that range from a mild degree of sadness to intensely experienced feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thought’s” (43).
Did you know suicide is the second leading cause for death in teenagers? “Suicidal thoughts, remarks, or attempts are ALWAYS SERIOUSif any of there happen to you or a friend, you must tell a responsible adult IMMEDIATELY it’s better to be safe than sorry” (“Let’s Talk” 3). According to a website called Depression.com “Each year 250,000 teens attempt suicide, and 2,000 complete it. Since 1960, teen suicides have doubled. Girls are more likely to attempt suicide, but boys kill themselves four times more often, usually with guns (“Depression” 1).” Suicide is not the answer.
According to Lawrence Clayton, Ph.D. and Sharon Carter there are a lot of symptoms to depression:
The symptoms to look for in yourself, or anyone you suspect may be depressed, are as follows: social withdrawal, lack of interest in usual activities, frequent tearfulness, unkempt appearance, belief that no one cares, feelings of hopelessness, beginning or increasing use of alcohol or other drugs, inappropriate feelings of guilt, pessimistic outlook, excessive anxiety, low self-esteem, inability to concentrate, excessive irritability, difficulty in making decisions, prolonged sadness, recurrent thoughts of death, desire for revenge, thoughts of suicide, sudden drop in grades or work performance, very high or low energy level, sleeping too much or not enough, loss of appetite or overeating, and confusion.
They do not need to be experiencing all of these symptoms to have a problem.Experiencing any four is enough to warrant concern (9-10). They should definitely get help if their problem persists over two weeks.
Why are they having these problems? Is it their grades, their relationship with their friends and family, alcohol, drugs, sex, or is it something else? The causes for depression vary. Someone might get depressed because they spilt milk in front of everyone in the cafeteria and everyone turns and looks. If the same thing happened to someone else, it would not even bother him or her. Some people the weather effects them and they become depressed; on the other hand, a person can become depressed when a good event in their life is about to occur.
Clayton and Carter describe six stages of depression: change, pain, anger, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation. The stages go in that order but they can stop at any stage or can regress.Change is described as being hard for teenagers because they have experienced time as slower then adults. Adults have been around longer so time passes quicker for adults. Change is hard for teenagers because most fear risks like asking a peer out on a date.
The second stage is pain. Good and bad change occurs in ones life. With teenagers, good change can be a devastating as bad. Graduating from high school is painful, knowing they might not ever see their peers again. While bad change can hurt like rejection, relationships ending, and a death of a loved one. Change can be very painful for teenagers because they have not had enough exposure to it. Teenagers do not always understand the pain will pass and will not hurt as much.
Clayton and Carter go on to say that anger comes from pain. When the pain hurts, teenagers can become angry. How they deal with their anger depends on how depressed they will become. They can handle their pain in different ways: dissociation, projection, passive aggressiveness, displacement, minimization, denial, repression, somatization, diffusion, and expression. They should be aware of which way they express their anger.
Guilt can cause one to blame themselves for a romantic rejection, failing to reach an important goal, receiving less than acceptable grades, or failing to be admitted to a particular college. For example a teenager’s parents breaking up causes them to feel the blame for their parents being separated. This guilt obviously is inappropriate because they had no responsibility in their parents not getting along.
The depression gets worse from the guilt. The teenager starts feeling hopeless. The hopelessness then takes over and they feel worthless. When the worthlessness sets in, they are showing signs of depression. Worthlessness then turns into thoughts about how everyone would be better off without them. The teen then feels they don’t want to deal with life anymore (Clayton and Carter 74-79).
Here are a few quick fixes depressed teenagers can try: do some form of exercise, eat a banana, drink a couple of glasses of water, keep a journal of everything they eat, laugh frequently, have a good cry, change the scene, do volunteer work, do something thoroughly selfish, start a fitness program, hang around happy people, plan an escape, talk to they school counselor, go to the library, change their sleeping patter, get some sun, start a project, cut caffeine from their diet, move away, go to college, live with a relative, get a job, or join the military. If none of these things work then the next step is therapy.
Therapy will only work if they want it to work. When they start therapy most teenagers are scared to open up. The therapist takes an oath not to release any information unless they are self-harming. If they are trying and nothing is improving, it perhaps could be because they have a chemical imbalance in their head. The therapist is the only one who can tell them whether or not they need to be put on medication or receive some other treatment.
Oster and Montgomery list things to remember when teenagers go to counseling:
Many adolescents believe that therapy is for “crazy” people. It is helpful to explain that therapy is for people who are feeling emotional hurts and pains and need an objective listener. There are many therapists willing to help; it is up to you to find a qualified and personable professional. Most teens feel a sense of relief after entering therapy and find it useful to be able to share personal feelings and secrets. Individual therapists come from a number of different theoretical perspectives, including psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral. Most therapies are helpful to reduce present family tension and to enhance communication (128).
Depression in teenagers in the United States has grown through the years. One out of four people today will have a problem with major depression. This number is high. If teens can understand what depression is and get help today then they can learn how to deal with depression. We may be able to bring down this high statistic.