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Depression In Adolescents: Signs, Evolution & Risk Factors!

One thing is certain: Depression is a serious disease which, although so much is written about it, there is so little known. The most common illness of the century, this is one of the heaviest burdens that a human being can wear – heavier than any other physical illness – because those who suffer from this disease see themselves in a constant struggle, between their desire to live their lives normally and the thoughts that aren`t at all pleasant, balancing towards the darker parts of our mind.

When it comes to teenage depression, things become even worse, because at this stage teenagers lack of the necessary tools to manage their own emotions and thoughts. So, each sign of this disorder gets a larger size than an adult.

Still, because so much information has been written over the years about depression in adolescents, we would like to be rather different in this article and show what the teenager mind feels, so that the parents can read and understand exactly what`s going on; but, also what they can and cannot do. Because, we cannot help someone if we don`t really get exactly what`s going on.

Why Does Depression Occur?

Depression is a medical condition which can occur in just about anyone. Unfortunately, there are still preconceptions about this illness, despite the fact that more and more people all over the world manifest its signs. What`s even more astonishing is that it often happens even for educated people to associate this disorder with “madness,” in the not-so-nice sense of the term. Therefore, before going to the signs of depression, a more detailed explanation is necessary to clear things out.

So, depression is practically an imbalance of chemicals that are produced in the brain. In fact, this physical imbalance is responsible for a lot of the symptoms of some mental diseases. The sudden change of hormonal levels is the one that causes all the signs of depression – the normal response of the brain.

For instance, take one of the most common situations where there`s a risk of depression – trauma. When we go through a powerful trauma, which frightens us or exerts us much beyond any limit, our brain secretes a much larger amount of hormones than we have been used to ever since. That installs the state of great stress or sadness. In this way, a hormonal imbalance is installed, which is responsible for all the signs of a first episode of depression.

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However, the problem arises in the rapidity that the bran uses to learn this response and, in the next state which causes us even a minimal upset, it will eliminate the same amount of hormones, creating a tough response and, quite often, devastating for the person concerned.

When adolescents are concerned, the problem is that they aren`t mature enough to know how to manage their feelings, and they aren`t yet aware how to make a difference between the really upsetting cases in life and the “small impediments,” characteristic to everyday life. That`s why depression in adolescents can be extremely tough and, at least, started for the most insignificant reasons.

Statistics Related to Depression

  • In the world, 121.000.000 people suffer from this illness. This is most common than diabetes and is expected to become one of the main disabilities by 2020.
  • Over 50.000.000 European citizens suffer from this disorder, which means almost 7% of them suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the main factor of cases of suicide. Every year, 820.000 people commit suicide due to this particular disease.

Signs of Depression in Adolescents

There are a few symptoms that parents can try to acknowledge when they notice them at their teenager children.

Sadness

The most common sign of depression is accentuated sadness, but this disorder isn`t just about this. However, because it governs much of the teenager`s state of mind, we have to talk a little about to help parents understand exactly what`s happening for them to be able to help their child.

It`s important to not confuse sadness characteristic of a loss or an unpleasant thing to the one of depression.  To better understand the sadness characteristic to depression and why the words of encouragement and funny moment have no effect, it`s necessary to imagine who would you feel the worst day of your life, amplify this feeling 10 times and feel there`s no way to escape. Pretty overwhelming, isn`t it? – Know more!

Now imagine that this state of sadness persists for days or even weeks, and that no one and nothing is able to get you out of this state. A tough and dark despair in which you`ll burst into tears from the most innocent reasons, like the fact that someone you don`t know has looked for a longer period of time towards you.

A lot of times, this sadness is manifested more obviously. In some cases, adolescents with depression who are more extroverted leave anyone to see his/her state of mind. However, when introverted adolescents are concerned, this state is more masked and inhibited, so it often happens for them rage in anger and aggression in the most inappropriate moments.

Irritability

We explained above how sadness feels and that, if it`s not manifested, it may easily lead to aggression. An adolescent who suffer from this illness may get annoyed and disturbed rather quickly, sometimes even from the most insignificant things. For instance, he may get annoyed from the fact that his mother cleaned him the wardrobe or entered his room without knocking.

Still, although is somehow wrong to chose these reasons, the adolescent shouldn`t be condemned for such episodes of anger. Parents need to understand that this is a feeling of depression and not a characteristic of its temper, being very difficult, if not impossible, to refrain from being annoyed.

Anxiety

When you are in an episode of depression, you`re afraid! You are afraid of the future, of people, of today or tomorrow, you are afraid of everything! You live in a complete state of tension which goes beyond reason or your own personality. A brave teenager today may turn into one who doesn`t have enough courage to talk or wake up in the morning. He may turn into a person who, although very calm until this episode, is now forced to live in a state of constant stress. This is what anxiety really is, despite its irrationality, it isn`t only a sign of depression but also a self-contained disease of which many people suffer. Quite often, even these states of anxiety are the ones that lead to depression.

In order to remove this symptom, parents should create an environment to the teenager that can make him feel secure and in which he may not be able to find any reason to stress or tension. It recommended that people who suffer from depression to go away for a while from their usual stressful environment.

Loss of Interest of Ordinary Activities

In a first phase, when it comes to easy depression in adolescents, there`s a lack of interest in activities that until then were a pleasure. Reading a book, talking to parents, going out with friends or playing video games  have now become a burden, an activity that doesn`t cause any joy any longer, and they may even be perceived as a torment. – Click here!

In their attempt to make their children happy, parents often try to offer them the opportunity of doing how they please. Still, this isn`t really appropriate, as it may lead to an episode of anger or crying. The best thing is to let your teenager choose what he wants to do by himself without pushing him towards any activity. The brain is a fantastic mechanism and the survival instinct, in the attempt of making us to feel good, it acts even when it seems there`s no escape. Even if unconsciously, the teenager will choose those particular activities which make him feel better.

Feeling Useless

When you are in depression, over all these feelings, there are also feelings of helplessness. Not only that you feel there`s nothing you can do to get out of this situation, but feel you aren`t good for anything and is your fault for everything bad happening. You often feel as a burden of your friends and family, and you think no one can understand you.

That`s why, the parents of teenagers with depression need to consider all these things and explain to them (daily, if possible) that everything will resolve in the end, and to offer them concrete solutions to get out of this situation as well as making sure they don`t feel useless. Constant discussions about what they feel might help parents understand what`s happening in their mind.

Evolution & Risk Factors

There are a few risk factors that can trigger depression around teenagers. After the entire grim presentation about this mental disorder outlined above, it`s necessary to talk about the way this disorder evolves and the stages through which an adolescent passes.

The First Episode of Depression

The occurrence of the first episode of depression may produce gradually or suddenly. The average duration is around 6 months, and the recovery is complete if the treatment hasn`t been fully followed.

The period in which the signs of depression install themselves is known as the prodromal stage. This is the “alarm signal” and announces the installation of a future episode of depression. The signs of depression aren`t yet at their peak, but they are getting worse from one day to another. Thus, the parents can take measures of precaution even from this moment, therefore avoiding their manifestation.

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If the treatment is applied now in a correct manner, there a high chance for the teenager to enter into remission and this to be complete. A chronic depressive episode may occur in 15% – 20% of patients, and the signs may persist for around 2 years. Five percent to 10% of patients who pass through this first episode end up developing a bipolar disorder. This is also known as “mania – depression,” the states oscillating between the 2 poles, from excessive sadness to extreme joy, or from indifference to accentuated anger episodes. Unfortunately, this is a mental illness which, unlike depression, needs to be “carried out” the entire life, the patient oscillating between episodes of mania and depression.

Treatment of Depression

The treatment of depression regarding a first episode is made in 3 stages:

  • Acute;
  • Continuity;
  • Maintenance.

The latter is recommended for those who have an increased risk of having a second episode of depression. All 3 must be followed under the close supervision of a psychologist.

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It`s considered that the teenager has entered complete remission when he hasn`t shown any signs of depression for 2 months.

Remission

There are 3 types of remission:

  • Complete;
  • Partial;
  • Incomplete.

There`s a risk of partial remission (minimum signs for a 2-month period) if the following risk factors are involved:

  • Chronic depression;
  • The signs are very severe;
  • There are cases in the family.

The Following Episodes of Depression

There are chances of 80% for the first episode of depression to be followed by at least one more episode during the lifetime. – Learn more!

The risk factors that can lead to other episodes of depression are:

  • If the first episode has occurred until the age of 20.
  • If the first episode has involved chronic depression (it lasted for more than 2 years).
  • If it`s accompanied by other mental illnesses, like anxiety or personality disorders. Also, if there`s a family history in this regard.

Recurrent Depression

The risk factors are:

  • 3 or more major episode of depression occurred.
  • There has been an episode of depression in the last year.
  • There have been 2 episodes of mood disorder over the last 5 years.
  • There are reminiscent behaviors of depressive episode.
  • There is an anxiety disorder.
  • There is a substance abuse.
  • Family history of major depression.

The treatment for recurrent depression in teenagers lasts for up to 2 years.

6 Tips on How to Give Your Teenager a Helping Hand

Because a teenager can easily move from exuberance to sadness, you may not differentiate some of his states from those of depression, meaning you aren`t always sure if there`s any reason to worry or not.

It`s important for a teenager to be able to find emotional support in his family. Here`s how you can help him:

  • Support him spiritually! Find the best moments to be near him, to find out what`s bothering him, what problems he has and what displeases him, but without leaving the impression that you are suffocating him. It`s ideal for you as parent to be the first person where your child can find support when he needs it. Be a good confidant for him!
  • Don`t be too demanding or authoritarian! Your chances to help him are compromised if you start judging him right after he finds it in his heart to unload himself to you. Learn how to listen to him first. You can offer him any possible suggestions you may have after you are certain you understood his problems.
  • Take it seriously! Don`t try to calm him down by simply telling him his depression will pass on its own. You might think you don`t really care about what he feels. Analyze any aspect of his depression together.
  • Show him confidence! Some failures, whether school or amorous, can spoil his self-confidence. If this is the sources of his depression, give him some credit and trust that your teenager really needs it.
  • Show him your solutions! Take advantage of your life experience, all those moments you`ve gone through in similar situations. Share him some of your stories to help him understand he`s not alone in this.
  • Ask for professional help! If your attempts to help him failed, and the problems is more serious than you originally thought, don`t hesitate to ask for professional help. You may not be able to resolve the situation on your own, and you might need the services of a psychotherapist.
Image courtesy of PittingtonCounseling.com
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