Symptoms of teenage depression: proposal for a new attitude


Symptoms of teenage depressionSymptoms of teenage depression

In this page I want to talk about the symptoms of teenage depression.  First I will describe them.  Furthermore, I want to discuss the very concept of symptoms when applied to teenage depression.

I think that the concept of using the word ‘symptom’ for the symptoms of teenage depression is, in itself, depressing.  Teenagers, like any human being, have some very basic needs to meet. They also have a number of other, more sophisticated needs.

The basic needs are sleeping and eating.  When teenagers suffer from depression, their sleeping habits can become problematic. They may sleep too much or too little. They can have nightmares or bad dreams, and in extreme cases may not even sleep at all for many days.

Eating habits can also become problematic. They can eat too much or too little, and can appear nervous. They can lack the energy needed to eat, and end up eating less than is necessary.

Depression can also produce issues with self-esteem and self-image.  Depressed teenagers are likely to see themselves as guilty, worthless, unable to make good decisions, not deserving of a future, and generally have a negative sense of self.  This negative outlook towards oneself is, simultaneously, both an effect and a cause of depression.

Since depression is energy consuming, it produces effects on energy levels too.  Depressed teenagers begin to have difficulties concentrating, or lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. This happens because these activities require energy.

Why I don’t like the word ‘symptom’

As I mentioned above, I’m going to question the attitude we have towards the symptoms of teenage depression and depression in general.  We have many organs.  All of them have to work well for us to be in good health.  We are machines, and like machines we need maintenance.



It may be true that some of organs, such as our livers, need to function like a machine, but it is not the case with our brain.  Our brain is not a machine, simply because we are not machines.

Let’s talk again about our liver. If we observe symptoms with our liver, then we have a doctor make a diagnosis, we have him give us a treatment, and, all going well, we get well again. With depression, we observe some symptoms, we have a doctor make a diagnosis, and we have him give us a treatment, but do we get well again?

Yes and no. Yes because the symptoms disappear. No because no medical treatment can give our life meaning. We need a meaning to live, whilst a machine does not.

Let me repeat it: we aren’t machines, we need meaning to live.

We don’t rebel, when we are considered as machines, because of our deep conditioning to consider ourselves as such. This conditioning is very strong and is one of the biggest signs that our culture, the Western culture, is profoundly sick. A society which is interested only in production, money and power, and not in humanity, is an unhealthy one.

We aren’t machines

We aren’t machines. Let me stress this idea again with an example of a person who made a machine of himself.  I learned about him through a documentary, but believe me, he is not alone. A lot of other people are living in this manner.

He works 20 hours per day. He needs huge quantities of caffeine to carry on. He wakes up very early in the morning (a day for him is still only 24 hours) and takes on board enough caffeine to keep me awake for a month.

The saddest thing is that he has a son. He sees him only fortnightly. You would imagine him spending all day with his son. Instead, he works even then. The poor son is going to learn from his father to become a machine as well.  He is capable of withstanding this disintegration of his humanity. Many, however, rightly cannot.

“Man doesn’t stand forever his nullification. There will be a reaction.” (C.G. Jung)

I agree completely with this quote.  I am very much of the opinion that depression is not an illness.  Rather it is a scream against this attempt to turn man into a machine.  The symptoms of teenage depression are there to remind us that we can’t stand a meaningless life forever.

We want respect

We want to be respected, or at least, we want to be taught how to respect ourselves.  Obviously we want physical respect. In many parts of the world teenagers and children in general receive very little respect.  But it is important for us to be respected in all our human dimensions.

Above, I talked about a father who has very little respect for himself. He has turned himself into a machine.  His life has become meaningless.  We have the power of giving our lives a very personal meaning.  We would like to be allowed to respect and use this power.

We can think

This isn’t our only power. We are also the only animals that can think. We can ask ‘why’ and ‘what-for’.  This faculty is called reason. It’s different from intelligence. Intelligence is only about ‘how’.

Let’s consider learning within college. We are in a class where a disgruntled teacher of philosophy is lecturing students.  It’s a dull representation of the philosopher’s ideas.  The students are supposed to learn by a process of listening and repeating.

This is like to say to the student:

“You can’t think by yourself. You can only repeat something someone else better than you has already thought.  They will do the thinking on your behalf.”

This is an example of disrespect displayed towards the power of the students to think for themselves.

You know, philosophy is about thinking. “I think, therefore I am”, said René Descartes. Which means: “I am human, I have the power of thinking, I’m proud of it. I want to respect and use this power.”

The right way to teach philosophy

Now let us consider how the college would teach in the presence of respect.  We would have our teacher throw the national curriculum out of the window.  Instead of lecturing the students about dead philosophers, he would encourage the students to think about any subject they find interesting.  To think about, and to ask themselves ‘why’ and ‘what-for’?

He wouldn’t even add his own opinion, lest some students might adopt it out of awe.  The teacher would be only a facilitator encouraging the participation of every student.  He would intervene only if a student is voicing a prejudice that does not represent thinking, and is disrespectful to the students’ faculty of thought.

If our power of thinking is not respected it can be depressing.  We could begin by thinking about the symptoms of teenage depression and what they are trying to tell us.


Where to go now?