The teenage years seem like a 180-degree turn for your child’s personality. Your talkative child with the sunny personality seemed to have transformed into a melancholic and quiet teen overnight. This change may also reflect in his choice of hobbies. When once, he loved to be with friends and to play his favorite sport, he now prefers to keep holed up in his room.
The mood swings and the shift in interests may be normal for a teenager who has yet to come to terms with the changes his body is undergoing. However, parents need to be especially alert and watch for signs of depression. This phase of changes will leave the teen vulnerable to a lot of other factors. These “attacks” coming from different fronts may leave your teen depressed.
Contributing Factors to Depression
There are a number of factors that may lead to depression in a teen:
- Troubled family life. Some examples include parents who are divorcing, a loved one who is seriously sick or constant fights with siblings. He may be a victim of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. A stressful family life will have a big effect on the teen’s sense of confidence and self-esteem (or lack of it).
- Social life and peer pressure. Pressure from friends and the desire to fit in may tempt a teen to try drugs or alcohol, which can alter the makeup of the chemicals in his brain. Cases of bullying (especially those that are prolonged and left unchecked) may also leave the child depressed.
- Loss. This may come in the form of having to transfer homes and leave his current set of friends. This may also pertain to the loss of a loved one (such as a young friend dying or a parent leaving home due to a divorce). These are especially traumatic experiences that can drown the teen in the waves of depression.
- Physical vulnerability. Based on family history, a teen may be especially susceptible to this illness.
- Existence of other disorders. A teen may be suffering from a conduct, learning or attention deficit disorder. For one, these conditions can leave the teen in some level of mental imbalance. Also, these conditions will require some medication, which may only serve to heighten a teen’s depression.
Watch Out For Red Flags
The above contributing factors can serve as red flags that warn us of the possibility of depression in a teen. There are also some common symptoms to look for:
– Withdrawal from loved ones and friends
– Withdrawal from activities and hobbies that once were his passions
– Abrupt changes in body weight (either weight gain or loss)
– Abrupt changes in academic performance
– Statements pointing to poor self-esteem and a sense of hopelessness
– Sleep problems or drastic changes in sleep patterns
– Changes in eating patterns
– Signs of substance abuse
– Feelings of lethargy and fatigue
– Statements relating to his feelings of sadness or worthlessness
– Abrupt changes in school performance
– Lack of focus and concentration or forgetfulness
– Feelings of guilt or anger
– Problems with authority figures such as teachers and the police
A combination of the contributing factors plus these symptoms may indicate that your teen needs some help. The first step is to confirm the diagnosis, via a medical professional. Early intervention can do a lot to help your teen.
You can then consider getting professional help by way of a therapist. A therapist can provide much-needed counseling and may prescribe some medications. You can also enroll your teen in a short-term program such as a troubled teen wilderness camp. The camp can serve to challenge him to look inside himself so he can start processing the reasons for the way he feels or challenge him to look outside himself and see how much of a contribution he can make.
If the depression is diagnosed as something more serious, he may need to be separated from the things that cause him stress such as a tumultuous home life or bullying in school. This may necessitate something more long-term such as a troubled teen boarding school.