And Teen Suicide Symptoms and Treatment
Can you tell the difference between teen depression and normal teen moodiness? This is a serious question because teenage depression can lead to rebellious behavior, eating disorders, promiscuity, drug or alcohol abuse and, in extreme cases, suicide. Many parents are hesitant to jump too quickly to the conclusion that their children are actually suffering from depression. If you are one of them, the information and resources below may be helpful to you, and could even save your teens life.
According to WebMD, some researchers believe that as many as one in eight teens suffers from depression. This can be a frightening mental disorder for the parents, friends and siblings of a teenager. However, how can you recognize the difference between normal teen moodiness and serious signs of depression? When should you seek help for your teen?
To complicate the issue, the teenage years are a time of hormonal imbalances and extreme mood swings, even for teens who are not suffering from depression. These can be difficult times for teens, because they don't always understand themselves why they are crying one minute and overly exuberant the next. Teens are often self-conscious and easily embarrassed, yet they turn around and engage in loud, defiant behavior that causes people to stare at them or become critical of them. They frequently are unable to explain their own behavior. In addition, it is not unusual for all teens to experience periods of sadness or irritability. With all this going on, how can you tell if they are suffering from a temporary problem or from clinical depression?
Signs of Depression in Teens
First, be concerned if your teen's sadness or isolation from family and friends continues for more than two weeks. If your teen is spending a lot of time alone in their room, seems to sleep all the time, eats too much or too little, or begins exhibiting anti-social behaviors such as stealing, you should suspect that they may be depressed.
Some of the other symptoms of teen depression to watch for include: becoming isolated from their former friends and failing to make new friends; becoming extremely self-critical and berating themselves for failure or rejection; having low self-esteem. Teens may also begin playing hooky from school or lie about their homework, and their grades may drop dramatically. Despite the fact they may have many opportunities to participate in activities with their family, school or religious organization, they may frequently refuse to participate, and then complain of boredom.
According to WebMD, you should also suspect a problem if you see any of these depression symptoms: apathy, unusual headaches, stomachaches, fatigue or complaints about pain. They may have trouble concentrating or making decisions. They may appear to be irresponsible by skipping school or forgetting to show up for important obligations. They may start trying to stay up all night and sleeping during the day. They may have low grades, and they could feel guilty and critical of themselves.
Parents of teens should become especially alarmed if teens become angry or hostile, or run away from home. It can be extremely dangerous if they begin to get involved in high-risk behaviors such as drinking too much, driving recklessly, or getting in fights. It should be considered a crisis if a teen threatens or attempts suicide, or talks about hurting other people. One symptom to watch for is if they begin to give treasured items away to others. This may be an indication that they are contemplating suicide.
More Facts about Teen Depression
Teen depression usually occurs between the ages of 15 and 30, and it seems to run in families. If you or another close relative suffers from depression, your teens are more likely to suffer from it, as well.
There is no specific test for depression. A diagnosis is based on observations of the behavior of the teen. This is why it is so important to pay attention if you notice a change in your child's behavior. A therapist or doctor will also want to talk with the teen, to see if they will reveal some of their thoughts. Their thought patterns can also be a powerful indicator of depression. Suicide attempts indicate a need for emergency intervention.
Treatment for Teen Depression
If your teen shows any of the symptoms listed above, seek help immediately. Speak with someone through your religious organization or talk with the counselor at your child's school. Treatment for teen depression usually consists of a combination of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Sometimes it will be necessary for the entire family to get family therapy in order to reduce the tension and conflict in the family. Once in a while, a teen may even need to be hospitalized for a short time in order to have their depression symptoms stabilized.
If your child is put on antidepressant medications, the FDA warns that the medicine may temporarily increase their suicidal thinking for a period of time. It is essential that their parents watch them closely, and they see their doctor regularly, especially when they first start the medicine. However, once their symptoms begin to subside, antidepressant medications do seem to work with teens and they can make a tremendous improvement in their lives.
Teen suicide is considered an epidemic. Every year approximately 500,000 teens make a suicide attempt, and approximately 5,000 of them succeed. Your teen may be considering a suicide attempt if they seem to feel hopeless about their future, believe no one cares about them, abuse drugs and alcohol, make threats to kill themselves, or begin giving away their possessions or writing goodbye letters. Do not hesitate if you see these behaviors. Seek help immediately!
This author works at a high school, where we are frequently given information about some of the problems faced by teens. Often, this information comes with websites that can be a valuable resource. Parents may be interested in having this information, as well. Here are some websites that you might find helpful: The National Institute of Mental Health at www.nimh.nih.gov; The National Safe Youth Prevention website at www.Safeyouth.org; The National Suicide Prevention website at www.suicidelifeline.org; The Center for Social and Emotional Education's Bully Bust website at www.schoolclimate.org/bullybust; and The Trevor Helpline for gay and lesbian teenagers at www.TheTrevorHelpline.org. Don't delay in seeking help for your teen!
(Source of medical information: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/teen-depression)
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