To say that depression in teens has an easy solution sounds quite audacious, but actually, the solution is so easy that it’s been known to mankind for thousands of years.
According to C. G. Jung, a famous psychologist, the solution is even an archetype, meaning that it has been known to all of mankind for thousands of years. We could even say that it’s genetic, if genetics had anything to do with it.
There are many archetypes, and I’m thinking about one in particular. This archetype has been given little importance in our culture, and now it’s becoming even less important. This is the reason it’s so difficult to talk about it. I’ll come back to it later.
Firstly, I want to outline the subjects I’m going to be discussing on this site.
They will be:
- causes of depression in teens
- symptoms of depression
I’ll talk about the causes first because I think that by understanding the causes we are able to prepare preventive measures against the problem. Prevention is always better than cure.
What is depression in teenagers?
Depression in teens is a serious problem. It affects everything in a teenager’s life. It can cause problems at home and school, drug abuse, alcoholism, disrespect for one’s safety, disgust for oneself, and, in the worst cases, violence and suicide.
Depression is an intense feeling of fear, which becomes unbearable and absorbs all the energies of a person. The only way out seems to be suicide. For more about the transformation of fear into depression, I recommend to read Beyond Fear by Dorothy Rowe. Depression The Way Out of Your Prison, by the same author, is a very good reading too.
To understand depression in teenagers we have to investigate the origins of all this fear which becomes depression.
Fear can also be transformed into courage, rather than depression. How can you do this? Is it just a matter of saying “Be brave” to the teenager? Unfortunately it’s not so simple.
You can’t learn to play piano just by saying “I play piano perfectly”. You have to practice long hours before achieving even a beginner level.
Causes of depression in teens
I’m going to rule out quickly some secondary causes like the effects of hormones and genetic factors. Although it’s true that genetic factors do play a role in producing psychosis.
Let’s make the example of a psychotic serial killer. She is suffering because she got the wrong genes. But the genes are not enough. She has to have been beaten regularly throughout her childhood to become psychotic. The social environment has much more power in passing on fear to children than genetics do. Have a look at the studies of Jim Fallon if you want to deepen your knowledge about this subject.
That the social environment has a main role in producing psychological problems is nothing new. Sigmund Freud is famous for having made a fortune helping people with psychological problems produced by the sex-phobic education of his time.
This is getting worse by the day, but there is good news; we can change all of this. Since the problem is within the social environment, and the social environment is a human creation, it can be changed. The social environment is not an abstract entity out of our control. Simply it is us. So, we have just to change ourselves to change the society.
However hard it can seem, it’s still possible.
Going on examining the possible causes of depression, I want to take into account the influence of bad events.
Examples of bad events occurring in a teenager’s life are:
- academic failures
- rejection from peers
- the death of a relative
There could be many more examples, but an exhaustive list of bad potential events wouldn’t be useful. What makes a bad event a real problem is the attitude. If a bad event is faced positively, it doesn’t contribute to a teen’s depression.
The bad event is a problem only if the teenager doesn’t learn to face bad events positively. They have to see such an attitude shown by someone within their close social environment in order to learn it.
Other factors contributing to depression are also themselves symptoms of the problem. If a teen gets depressed, he can suffer from insomnia, fatigue, eating difficulties, alcohol abuse and drug abuse. These are effects of depression, and they will also worsen the depression itself.
If the teenager is victim of negative judgements because of alcohol or drug abuse, this will also contribute negatively to their depression. These negative judgements will also make it more difficult for the teenager to ask for help, thus worsening the problem.
Since, as I said, society has a primary role in producing the conditions which can lead to depression, I’ll talk about a few SPDs. SPD being an acronym standing for Social Patterned Defects. SPDs are psychological problems that society fails to recognize as such, or even encourages and rewards.
Signs and symptoms of depression in teens
The next step of our journey inside the facts and opinions of depression in teens, takes us to the description of the symptoms.
The first sign that something is wrong is fear itself. It’s good if a teenager is allowed to talk about his fears in a non-judgemental setting. To describe one’s fears is half way towards conquering them.
It’s also important that the teenager learns the right attitude towards fear.
They have to learn this attitude from someone who:
- Has the right attitude towards fear.
- Has a sincere faith in the teenager’s ability to learn it.
If fear is on its route to become depression, a teen can become:
- change eating and sleeping habits
- lose interest in activities they were previously interested in
- withdraw from friends and family
- find it difficult to concentrate
You can also suspect depression if your teen is tearful or frequently crying, lacks enthusiasm and motivation, is fatigued or lacks energy, or feels worthless and guilty.
In even more extreme situations, they could be thinking about death and suicide, or asking themselves about the meaning of life, or indulging in trying to find answer to some existential questions, like the purpose of life itself.
Some symptoms of depression are particularly common in teens, and I will now go into them in more detail.
Teenagers are more likely to show the following symptoms when depressed:
Irritability or anger – While adults are more likely to be sad, teens will be bad-tempered, hostile, frustrated, and inclined to have angry outbursts.
Unexplained aches and pains – If a teen complains regularly about problems like headaches or stomach-aches, there could be a physical problem, but this could also be a sign of depression.
Extreme sensitivity to criticism – This is a sign of deep fear and insecurity. It should be investigated to find where these insecurities originate. Sometimes teens are under a lot of pressure to live up to someone else’s expectations. Maybe our teen doesn’t even sincerely feel these expectations are theirs, but they can’t express their sincere opinion for fear of disapproval. This could be one possible origin of insecurity and fear. Many other origins could be present. It isn’t simple, really a full analysis is required.
Partial withdrawing – Adults are more likely to isolate themselves when depressed. Teens will instead attempt to keep a few friendships alive.
Treatments for depression in teenagers
I’ll talk about treatments too.
Some of them are:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Anti-depressant drugs
- Physical exercise
- Talk therapy
- Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT)
It’s also important to know how to talk to a depressed teenager. It’s crucial not to trivialize their feelings. I’ll also attempt to give an introduction into the archetype I was talking about earlier, even if many books would be required to fully explain it.
Where to go now?
- Keep reading about Depression in teens: what causes depression in teenagers