Teenage Depression:- A silent killer that takes lives with no warning, sympathy, or remorse, depression is one of the most major mental disorders in the world. It affects people in many ways, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, and economic status.

When I say teenage depression, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Today’s teenagers have more on their plate than ever before—stressing about their future, trying to tackle schoolwork during a pandemic, dealing with growing pains, and figuring out their identity being just some of their day-to-day struggles.

Extreme cases of teenage depression often cause people to end their lives. According to WHO, the fourth leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds is suicide. Apart from this, depression also tends to leave long-lasting effects on the quality of life for those affected. What exactly is depression? How can we help reduce this alarming rate? Let’s discuss more to find out.

What is depression?

It’s necessary to know what it is to combat this illness. A depressive disorder is a serious medical illness that negatively affects mood, thoughts, and actions. Also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects different spheres of your life and can lead to various physical and emotional health issues.

Though grief and depression share similar features, depression is very different from the grief of losing a loved one or experiencing a traumatic event. Depression usually involves self-loathing and low self-esteem, while grief doesn’t.

Types of depression

Depression can affect teenagers in various forms and levels, some of the most common types being:

Clinical depression

Clinical depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder, is one of the more severe forms of depression. Some common symptoms of this type of depression are losing interest in activities and feeling overwhelmingly depressed for the majority of 2 weeks or longer.

Persistent depressive disorder

As the title suggests, if these symptoms last for two years or longer, you may have a persistent depressive disorder. Some of its primary symptoms are changes in appetite, continuous fatigue, trouble making decisions, and low self-esteem.

Bipolar disorder

Also called manic depression, bipolar disorder is different from the previously discussed types of depression. Someone with bipolar disorder goes through episodes of extreme mood changes ranging from manic “highs” to depressive “lows.” When they are in their extreme depressive phase, they show symptoms of major depression. People who have bipolar disorder typically rely on medication to help stabilise their moods.

Bipolar II disorder

This is a form of bipolar disorder with less severe depressive and hypomanic episodes. Depressive episode symptoms of bipolar II disorder include prolonged feelings of hopelessness and sadness, while the hypomanic symptoms are a persistently elevated or irritable mood. The general recommended treatment consists of counselling and mood stabilising medication.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is a period of significant depression during the winter months when days get shorter, and you get less sunlight. Since it is affected by seasonal changes, it usually goes away during summer and spring. Antidepressants and light therapy can help if you have this disorder.

Symptoms of Depression in Teens

Teen depression is a mental health issue that causes persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed doing. Although it can affect people at any point in their life, symptoms may differ in adults and teens.

Peer pressure, academic stress and changing sense of identity can generally bring about a lot of ups and downs in teens. But for some, the lows are a lot more persistent and permanent—this is a symptom of depression.

Symptoms include emotional changes such as:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, which might cause prolonged crying spells for seemingly no reason.
  • Extreme sensitivity to failures and constant need for reassurance.
  • Getting angry or upset over trivial matters.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Increased feelings of hopelessness and tiredness.
  • Loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy doing.
  • Trouble making firm decisions or handling responsibility.
  • Exaggerated feelings of self-criticism and guilt.
  • Fixating on past mistakes or failures.
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Meanwhile, some behavioural symptoms include:

  • Constant tiredness and loss of energy.
  • Either insomnia or sleeping excessively.
  • Drastic changes in appetite, such as reduced appetite resulting in weight loss or increased cravings leading to weight gain.
  • Persistent agitation or restlessness.
  • Frequent unexplained body aches and headaches.
  • Isolation from friends and family.
  • Poor academic performance or skipping school.
  • Self-harm tendencies, such as cutting, burning or uncontrolled tattooing or piercing.
  • Use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Suicide attempts.

It may be difficult to distinguish between the regular ups and downs of being a teenager and teen depression, but talking to them and getting to know their outlook on things will help. The degree of these symptoms may vary from person to person, but if these signs continue, it’s best to talk to a mental health professional.

Causes of Depression

Depression is a complex disease that can be caused by both biological and circumstantial. Some such common causes are:

Hormone levels

Changes in female hormones, such as oestrogen, during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause may increase the person’s risk for depression.

Family history

If you have a family history of depression or other mood disorders, you’re more likely to develop the same.

Brain chemistry

People who suffer from depression might have a chemical imbalance in the parts of their brain that are in charge of mood, thoughts, sleep and behaviour.

Early childhood trauma

Some events that take place in your early developmental stages affect the way your mind and body reacts to uncertainty and stressful situations.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions might put you at a higher risk of developing depression, such as chronic illness, chronic pain, heart attacks, cancer, etc.

Pain

People who have to face chronic physical or emotional pain for long periods of time are more likely to develop depression than the rest.

Treatment and how we can help

Depression can never fully be cured, but with the help of a doctor or a mental health professional, its symptoms can be treated. You can use either a single form of treatment or a combination of several, depending on the type of depression.

The centrepiece of treatment is usually medication or therapy or a combination of the two. When it comes to medication, there are many varieties, but SSRIs, antidepressants and anxiolytics are most commonly used. There are different types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, behaviour therapy, psychotherapy, and interpersonal therapy, which all help in different ways.

Teen depression was a lot more challenging to diagnose in the past, primarily due to the social stigma against mental illnesses. Today’s situation is very different, but we should continue to spread awareness and encourage open, honest and unbiased conversations about mental health in our daily lives. Take this chance to check up on yourself and the people you care about and make a change!

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