Teens and Recognizing Depression
The adolescent years are often turbulent as hormones surge and young people explore their place in the world. Parents and others close to teenagers may find it difficult to determine which behaviors are normal and which behaviors and thoughts are more problematic. Recognizing when adolescents are suffering from emotional problems, such as depression, may sometimes be challenging but is always important.
Possible Symptoms of Teen Depression
- Apathy and lack of motivation
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or self-blame
- High sensitivity to failure or rejection
- Irritability and anger
- Agitation and restlessness
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Memory difficulties
- Withdrawal and isolation from others
- Slow speaking or movement
- Excessive sleep
- Changed eating habits
- Headaches, stomachaches or other pains
- Conflict with family and friends
- Preoccupation with and frequent thoughts of death
- Problems in school including a sudden drop in grades
- Neglected appearance
- Irresponsible or rebellious behavior
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Neglected appearance
- Self-harming behavior
The Helpguide website notes that teenage depression may not look exactly like adult depression. Teens may be more likely to display irritability and anger than sadness. Teens may also be more likely to experience unexplained body pain. Unlike depressed adults, depressed teens are more likely to maintain at least some friendships rather than completely withdrawing from relationships.
Anyone can experience depression. There are factors, however, that raise the risk. A family history of depression or other mood disorder makes a teen depression diagnosis more likely. Experiencing a chronic illness or having a learning disability also increases the likelihood. Stressful life events, such as family problems, bullying or the death of a loved one can also contribute. Although depression strikes both genders, girls are more likely to experience it than are their male counterparts.
When determining whether teens are displaying typical teenage behavior or are experiencing depression, the Mayo Clinic advises trying to determine whether teens seem capable of managing their emotions or are feeling overwhelmed. Helpguide notes that the teen years can be challenging but that most balance the challenges with good friendships and a degree of success in school or other activities. When life becomes unbalanced and when bad moods or acting out are more than occasional, it is wise to seek help. Any talk of suicide is an important red flag indicating that help should be sought without delay.
Teen Depression and Substance Abuse
Depression and substance abuse can affect each other in a cyclical way. Teens suffering from depression may turn to drugs like clonazepam and alcohol. These substances, however, can have brain effects that can cause or worsen depression. A 2005 article in the journal Addictive Behaviors examined a group of teens suffering from major depression and addiction to tobacco, alcohol and cannabis. The researchers determined that teens who were already suffering from depression were more likely to become dependent on cannabis. The pattern was not seen with alcohol or tobacco. Common stressors for all conditions included abuse, exposure to violence, attachment problems and experiencing early loss.
After addiction to drugs like clonazepam has developed and been treated, depression may be associated with relapse. A 2004 Addictive Behaviors article examined adolescents who had been recently treated for addiction to alcohol. Those who suffered from co-existing major depressive disorder relapsed much more quickly, on average, than did those without a depression diagnosis.
Treatment of Teen Depression
Depression may be treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Generally, the combination approach is the most effective. Antidepressant medications can be helpful but can also be associated with occasional paradoxical side effects in children and teens including an increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For this reason, if medication is used, close monitoring is indicated.
Psychotherapy for adolescent depression can take various forms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is common. Because teenagers generally live with their parents, family therapy can also be helpful.
A 2006 article titled, “What Teens Want: Barriers to Seeking Care for Depression” notes that when receiving care for depression, teens want to feel normal, connected and autonomous. The authors note that care providers should establish rapport with their patients and discuss with them the etiology of depression and its treatment. Helping teens make decisions about their treatment program is also wise.
Give Us a Call
If you or a teen in your life is suffering from co-occurring depression and addiction to drugs like clonazepam, we can help you find integrated treatment that addresses both issues in an effective and coordinated way. Call our toll-free helpline, and speak with one of our consultants. They’re available 24 hours a day and can help you understand your options. They can even check your insurance coverage for you if desired at no cost or obligation. Depression and addiction can both be treated. Call today, and begin a new life.