Teenage Depression Often Gets Overlooked

Understanding teenage depression is crucial to prevent school drop outs and suicidal attempts among teens.

Childhood depression occurs even during infancy through toddler to teens, but it is often misunderstood for irritable non compliant behavior. The early support that could come forth from parents, teachers and friends is thus lost. The results then are disastrous.

Why does teenage depression go unnoticed?

  • The prevailing misconceptions regarding children’s mood and behavior detract the child health issue that is so widely prevalent.

  • The society holds unrealistic expectations on children’s normal behavior.

  • Mood swings and occasional melancholy, the parts of normal psyche are often not condoned.

  • Most of us fail to recognize that normal childhood development lays a lot of stress on children.

How can childhood depression be prevented?

Parents and teachers’ early intervention can prevent the irreversible consequences associated with full blown childhood depression: Bad moods, temper tantrums, peer fights, disinterest in routine activities and falling grades at school should alert the parents and teachers to look for underlying cause.

No child likes to misbehave and be unpopular with parents and teachers. 

A miss behaving child is actually trying to draw your attention to something that you have failed to notice.

If a child is failing to meet your reasonable expectations, then please look hard enough for underlying psycho social upheaval. This could be the initial stage of depression.

Though obvious presentation of commonly known sickness is lacking, childhood depression is also a disease that needs affectionate caring by caring parents, teachers and friends.

Gravity of teenage depression related child health issues

Depression during tween and teen years is much more common than perceived. It affects 20 percent of teenagers by the age of 18 years and accounts for 50 percent of suicidal attempts among children and youths between the ages of 5 and 24 years.

According to latest available statistics from the U.S., teenage depression effectuated suicide is a major cause of death during teen years.

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Prevalence of teenage depression

  • High incidence of childhood depression during teens and increase in its severity by late adolescence gives it the name “teenage depression”.

  • Average incidence of childhood depression is estimated to be 2 percent with boys and girls being equally affected during the tween years.

  • The risk of major depression increases 2 to 4 folds after puberty and the incidence rises to 4-8 percent during teenage development.

  • The symptomatic presentation of depression among teenagers is noted twice as frequently in young girls as compared to the teenage boys.

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Factors that contribute to teenage depression

  • Children and teenagers are often grossly misunderstood.
    Their irritability, mood swings and withdrawn attitude is taken for antisocial behavior.

  • Adults expect growing youths to be well behaved all the time.
    They fail to recognize the persistent pervasive sadness that children hide by putting on bad behavior.

  • Childhood is a phase of great transition.
    Children go through enormous emotional upheavals with a smiling face. However, some challenges leave them with feelings of helplessness and inadequacy. Consequently, poor self esteem, inferiority complex, bad moods and depression sets in.

  • Ambivalence is normally experienced during teenage development.
    A developing mind in a grown up body is unable to meet the expectations of parents, teachers and the society a large. This generates the feelings of self reproach and guilt during psychosocial development of childhood.

  • Onset of puberty initiates sexual turmoil.
    This lays exceptional demand on growing youths, with partially developed self-restrain to curb the sexual arousal and control hormones related mood swings
  • Dating violence leads to poor self concept and emotional upheaval. Depression and poor academic performance surface and the vicious cycle is set. 

  • Need to meet scholastic excellence to achieve the chosen profession. The rising competition leaves teenagers overwhelmed. The expectations set for a smooth transition into the adult society seem too high. They are seized by the feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.

  • Stress triggered binge eating also ends in depression and isolation. 

  • Inordinate social networking predisposes teens to facebook depression. Moreover, one of the media effects is depression, which is caused by excessive exposure to electromagnetic waves.

  • Peer popularity has a direct effect on teens’ self-concept.
    Conflicts and aggressive unhealthy competitions among peers often leaves traumatic childhood experiences; and jeopardize children's healthy self-esteem development. The effect gets further augmented in absence of parental support.

  • Children with low self-esteem feel shunned away, lonely and isolated. They start doubting their ability to keep up the interpersonal relationships and get socially withdrawn.

  • Displacement in to a new environment
    Change of school, or if the family moves in a new locality or totally migrates to another country causes psycho social stress and can precipitate symptoms of depression.

  • Children do not easily talk about their psycho social problems to adults. They try their best to meet the expectations of the society and hope to solve even the distressing issues on their own accord.

  • Besides, it is not easy to talk about ones depression.
    It is certainly not the same as sharing happy moments.

  • Genetic predisposition to teenage depression is well documented.
    Children, who have a family member suffering from depression, succumb more easily to the social demands, adversities and scholastic challenges during their teen years.

  • Unresolved adverse life events lead to childhood depression.
    Death of near and dear one, parental disharmony, divorce, major accident or sickness in the family makes teenagers prone to depression.

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Spot the warning signs of teenage depression

Short lasting bad moods and occasional melancholy is part of life, but if it persist for more than 15 days at a stretch then it is diagnosed as major depression.

Teenage depression is identified by five or more of the following symptoms, remembered by mnemonic SIGHS ESCAPES:

The Depressed Sighs Escapes
  • S - Sad mood
    Feels sad every day and almost through out the day, and may have tearful sad appearance.

  • I - Interest
    Loss of interest in their environment and in almost all the activities.

  • G - Guilt feeling
    Inappropriate and excessive feeling of guilt, nearly every day.

  • H - Hopelessness and helplessness
    Feeling of hopelessness and helplessness are the outcome of traumatized self-esteem.

  • S - School performance
    Disinterest in the environment and activities adversely affects children's scholistic achievements and school attendance.

  • E - Energy loss
    Children experience slowing down and feeling of fatigue nearly every day. Some, in hope to overcome the feeling of low energy levels, demonstrate restlessness.

  • S - Sleep disturbances
    Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping hours day after day indicate depression.

  • C - Concentration deteriorates
    Inability to concentrate on a task is exhibited as conspicuous indecisiveness. Consequently, depressed children's ability to think logically and study effectively also gets diminished.

  • A - Appetite loss
    Depressed children are disinterested in food as well. There feelings are blunted and so they do not even recognize hunger. Persistent distorted eating practices conclude in eating disorders; presented as 5 percent loss in body weight over a month or binge eating with 5 percent gain in body weight over a month.

  • P - Pleasure loss.
    Day after day, nothing seems to instil pleasure.

  • E - Emotional isolation.

  • S - Suicide attempt
    Recurrent suicidal ideation with or without a specific plan.

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Consequences of teenage depression

Temperament changes

Depressed children are usually irritable and easily excitable. This presentation of moodiness, however differs with stage of child's development:

  • Depressed infants
    Depression during infancy makes infants generally withdrawn.
    They cry silently but inconsolably.

  • Toddlers
    During toddler years, depression exaggerates separation anxiety. Depressed toddlers usually have loud crying spells.

  • Children in preschool and early school years
    Depressed preschool children demonstrate irritability, crying spells and temper tantrums. They too fear isolation and may even demonstrate separation anxiety inappropriate for the age.

  • Children in middle childhood, tween and teen years
    Under depression children in these formative years of development are in an irritated mood more often than they are sad.

    Their foul mood and emotional outbursts further impair their social interaction.
    They try to hide their grumpiness and frustration by flashing snappy comments at their associates. Dismayed by their noncompliant behavior, parents and friends leave them alone.

Isolated and friendless

  • Spend long hours watching television and browsing on internet.
    They are thus exposed to lot of inappropriate information for age.

  • Indulge in inordinate social networking.
    They make new friends in cyber space,
    which makes them susceptible target for cyber bullying and sexting related teenage depression.

  • In search for solace the depressed teenagers make new friends.
    They get into the groups of other maladjusted youths.

  • Battered self esteem weakens their personality.
    Their core values change and they begin to indulge in substance abuse, alcoholism and unsafe sex.

Depressed teenagers desire an escape.

They wish to escape from their frustrations and feelings of worthlessness. The absenteeism at school increases gradually. They even try to runaway from home in search of solace.

Suicidal attempts

Suicide is an extreme form of escapism. In face of pervasive and persistent feeling of hopelessness, teenage depression leads to indulgence in life threatening activities and frequent suicidal attempts.

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Help for teens with teenage depression

Mentor care

Depression sets in slowly over weeks. Each judgmental sweeping remarks from parents and teachers in relation to their inability to keep up with their expectations further corrodes into their already sore self-esteem.

  • Caring peers and mentors can help identify children succumbing to the upheavals of the growing phase.

  • Unconditional constant support from parents and teachers can bail out a child at early stages of depression and prevent the undesirable and irreversible effects of depression.

  • Drop in scholastic achievement and temperamental changes in teen and preteen children should initiate parents and teachers to look for the underlying cause for the disturbed state of the child.

  •  It is important for the mentors to curb the instinct to be authoritative and judgmental.

  • Patronizing also hurts.
    Only a friendly relationship and full liberty for an open bilateral dialect will make teenagers share their feelings.

  • They need to be listened to more than talk to.
    It is best to avoid any form of interrogation and argument.

  • Teens defy authoritative corrections and negotiation.
    So give a sympathetic ear with your undivided attention.

  • Be considerate about depressed teens’ ambivalence and continue caring with an encouraging attitude.

  • In spite of the consistent caring attitude of the mentors and peers, disturbed teenagers usually shun everyone away. However, only affectionate approach and not reformative instructions can bring children back on the track before they get caught in the vicious cycle of depression.


Mindfulness, The Path To Happiness & Healthy Mind

Mindfulness is an ancient practice that is adopted only over two decades in the modern relaxing therapy for stress, anxiety, depression and more. It is self-regulation of the mind.

Human mind is very active. It easily wanders away from reality of the present to pondering over the painful past and fears of future. Unresolved anxiety leads to disturbed mental health of which depression is the commonest.

The practice of mindfulness has been shown to be effective in alleviating depression and anxiety, even in children and teenagers. Click here for more on mindfulness. (Opens new window)

Medical management

If mentor care and mindfulness do not show the desired results then medical consultation must be sought at the earliest. In most cases, psychotherapy along with medications gives good results in 6-9 months.

Helpline for suicidal tendencies

Indications of suicidal tendencies

  • Depressed child who frequently refers to death.
  • Jokes about committing suicide.
  • Taking undue risks resulting in dangerous accidents.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Presenting the possessions of great sentimental values.

If signs of suicidal tenancies are noted, please contact help lines immediately –

In USA dial 1-800-273 and inform.

For rest of the world contact information CLICK HERE (Opens new window).

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