Depression affects more than one in five American teenagers, and girls are significantly more likely to suffer from depression than boys. Adolescents who suffer from teen depression are statistically much more likely to attempt suicide, so it is essential for parents and teachers to know how to spot the signs of teen depression and know what causes the disorder. This guide will discuss eight of the most common reasons for teen depression. Once you know the signs, you can empower your teen to seek the treatment needed to get better and lead a healthy, active life.
1) Social Ostracism
Teens who are socially ostracized from their peers are far more likely to experience depression. Adolescence is a time of uncertainty in which social acceptance provides a solid foundation for the teen’s self-image. Teens who are accepted by their peers generally develop healthier self-esteems than those who are isolated and excluded from social groups. Teens tend to form social cliques and exclude anyone outside them, which can make it even harder for isolated teens to find acceptance. Almost all teenagers experience some level of doubt about their own appearance, intelligence, popularity, and worth as a person. Depressed teens may feel that the rejection they face from peers is a sign that they lack personal worth, therefore worsening the symptoms of depression and increasing feelings of isolation.
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2) Major Life Changes
As much as teens can be rebellious, major life changes are even more stressful in adolescence than in adult life. Any drastic shifts in the home environment, such as moving, divorce, remarriage, or adoption, can trigger the symptoms of depression. If your teen begins showing warning signs of depression shortly after a major life change, monitor your adolescent closely. If the symptoms last longer than a few weeks, it is very likely that the teen is suffering from clinical depression.
3) Low Self-Esteem
In addition to bouts of low self-esteem caused by peer rejection, teen depression can be fueled by a general lack of self-worth. Some teens may experience such low self-worth that they develop dysmorphic disorders. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) occurs when a person literally sees his or her physical appearance as hideous, even when appearing normal or attractive to others. Anorexia and bulimia are two other forms of dysmorphia, both revolving around an incorrect perception that one’s body is extremely obese. Anorexic or bulimic teens may look in the mirror and see themselves as significantly heavier persons even as they continue to lose an unhealthy amount of weight. It is important to be able to spot the differences between normal teenage feelings of awkwardness and truly low self-esteem. Without a healthy self-esteem, the symptoms of teen depression will only get worse.
Bullying is one of the major causes of teen depression. Bullies are often insecure teens themselves, and many bullies suffer from teen depression as well. Certain teens are more at risk of being bullied than others, including LGBT teens and teens with special needs. Being perceived as different from the majority peer group is one of the main reasons for depression in teens, and bullies tend to target teens who are different from them in some way. It is important for parents and school officials to look out for the warning signs that a teen is being bullied based on his or her race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion. Just because a teen has one or more risk factors for bullying does not mean that action needs to be taken, but it does mean that the adults in the teen’s life should look for signs that there is a problem at school.
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5) Problems at Home
Problems in the home, particularly those between a teen and his or her parents, are some of the most common reasons for depression in teens. During puberty, teens begin to spread their wings and seek independence from their parents, and the most important relationships in those teens’ lives may shift from familial relationships to peer relationships, which can cause tension between teens and their parents. Sometimes this tension leads to family dysfunction and, in severe cases, abuse. If teens are being abused, verbally or physically, their chances of suffering from depression begin to rise. Abused teens may feel helpless and out of control of their home life. School is a stressful environment for most teens, so problems at home may leave those with teen depression feeling as if they have nowhere safe to rest and recharge. It is essential to sort out problems in the home as soon as symptoms of teen depression arise.
6) Genetic Depression
Sometimes, teen depression is caused by a genetic predisposition to depression and other mental illnesses. Depression is strongly hereditary, and it is possible for the disorder to skip generations. Even if no one in the immediate family has suffered from depression, a genetic predisposition may still be the primary cause of depression. Unfortunately, there are still many stigmas surrounding it, so genetic depression is often an unspoken occurrence in families. Teens struggling with depression may feel isolated from their friends and family or as if they are the only ones experiencing depression. One of the best ways to deal with teen depression is for families to be open and honest about genetic depression. Teens may feel that the depression is their fault, so knowing that the disorder can be attributed to a cause beyond their control can be a freeing and encouraging experience.
7) Drug and Alcohol Abuse
In many cases, teen depression is caused or worsened by drug and alcohol abuse. Teens often find occasion to drink at parties, at friends’ houses, and even at school. The pressure to drink and experiment with drugs can be overwhelming, and even the most well-behaved teens may eventually give in to that pressure. Drinking and drug use creates a feedback loop in which teens become depressed because of their substance abuse, increase their use of substances to cope, and then become more depressed. It is important for parents to learn to spot the signs of depression early and speak with their teens about healthy coping mechanisms. Many teens are uneducated about the dangerous effects of drug use and underage drinking. The areas of the brain that regulate judgment and reason are not fully formed in teenagers, so even teens who are aware of the risks associated with drug use may experiment anyway.
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8) Chemical Imbalance
Many teens who experience the effects of depression do not have any of the warning signs or risk factors typically associated with it. It is entirely possible for teens to experience depression even if they are generally cheerful individuals who lead a healthy and satisfying life. Depression can sometimes be caused or triggered by external factors, but more often than not, it is merely the result of an imbalance of neurochemicals in the brain. Various forms of treatment for teen depression can lessen symptoms and greatly improve the teen’s performance at school, interactions with friends and family, and overall self-esteem. It is important to remember that teen depression can have a variety of causes, and the most important thing is to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, so the suffering teen can seek treatment as soon as possible.