During the early months of each year, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center conducts an informal study in an attempt to understand who is calling us for help and what needs they’re calling us about. In recent years, the trend has been that most of the children and teens we see are experiencing depression, often coupled with anxiety.
Approximately 1 in 5 teens experience major depression, but about 60% do not receive treatment.
While everyone can have a bad day or two that eventually passes, with serious depression there is a more intense and prolonged feeling of hopelessness and inability to function in the important areas of one’s life, at school, at home or with peers.
“Both children and teens are at risk of depression when they experience traumatic events in their lives, such as divorce, death of a loved one, abuse or illness,” says Elissa Smilowitz, LCSWR and Coordinator of Triage & Emergency Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center.
But there isn’t always a dramatic event that triggers depression.
“Beginning around puberty, the risk of depression in teens increases,” says Regina Barros-Rivera, Associate Executive Director at the Guidance Center. “Their bodies are changing, and they’re experiencing hormonal fluctuations that can make them irritable and moody.”
During the teen years, peers become the number one influence in each other’s lives, but that doesn’t mean your role as a parent is any less significant. “Even though you feel them pulling away, your teens still need you during this time,” says Barros-Rivera. “They are more likely to begin engaging in risky behavior, so your influence is as important as ever. They need you to help them develop good judgment.”
Along with adolescence comes a whole host of new pressures. Schoolwork, body image, sexual orientation and peer pressure all can combine to make a teen feel overwhelmed.
So, while moodiness is a hallmark for adolescents, how do you know when your teen is experiencing depression and might need professional treatment?
Here are some signs that may indicate depression:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Low self-esteem
- Increased anger
- Worry about loss of control
- Crying often
- Inability to feel joy
- Changes in appetite (either increased or decreased)
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Feeling tired
- Changes in grades or attitude toward school
- Having trouble concentrating
- Physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches
- Use of drugs and/or alcohol
- Expressing thoughts of suicide or wanting to die
Remember, it’s important that a medical doctor examine your teen since some symptoms of depression can have a physical cause such as thyroid problems, diabetes or other conditions. It may also run in families.
If you begin to see several of these symptoms lasting two weeks or more, contact North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center at 516-626-1971.
Note: For some helpful tips on preventing depression in your child or teen, click here for an article from the Mayo Clinic.