Feeling sad, anxious, tired, upset, or stressed is normal—especially during adolescence. But when these feelings take over and affect your life on an ongoing basis, these feelings may no longer be normal, but may in fact be symptoms of an illness called depression.
Depression is serious. At the most extreme, it can lead to suicide. However, even in non-extreme cases, it can wreak havoc on a person’s life. To cope with feelings of sadness, fatigue, hopelessness, and inadequacy, some turn to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or other ways of acting out. Others simply slide academically or stop participating in extracurricular activities, losing interest in everything. These behaviors can have long-term consequences.
Depression is also common. According to TeenDepression.org,
- 20 percent of teens will experience teen depression before they reach adulthood. Here in Fairfax County, according to the Fairfax County Youth Survey, this rate is over 31 percent
- 10 to 15 percent of teens are experiencing some depression at any one time
- About 5 percent of teens are experiencing major depression at any one time.
Despite how common it is, people frequently fail to recognize depression and rarely realize the importance of getting help for it. Although clinical tests are required to make an accurate diagnosis of depression and get appropriate and effective help, knowing some typical symptoms can help you determine whether to seek such help. According to PubMedHealth, teens with depression may experience some or all of these symptoms:
- Persistent (over two or more weeks) feelings of sadness or irritability
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or self-hatred
- Thoughts and talk of suicide
- Changes in appetite (either an increase or a decrease)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Memory losses
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once considered fun
- Changes in sleep patterns: sleeping too much or too little.
To learn more about depression, check out these helpful sources:
- SCC helped sponsor an opportunity to open a discussion on teen depression in area high schools in December 2012. Thousands of McLean students and parents heard first-hand how Jordan Burnham, a troubled teen, survived a suicide attempt, faced his mental health issues, and now honestly shares his story. For those of you who missed this opportunity, we have excerpts of his talk available on YouTube.
- PubMedHealth provides a comprehensive overview of depression, including various forms of the illness, causes and risk factors, treatment options, and support groups. Don’t forget to check out the articles that specifically relate to adolescent depression.
- TeensHealth from Nemours provides a teens-eye perspective on depression, including explanations for what it is, what’s important to know about it, why it happens, and how to get help for it.
- On his blog, David Mrazek, M.D., provides some signs that will help young people recognize when they may be depressed and should seek help.
- An article from the Mayo clinic discusses the pros and cons of giving antidepressants to children and young people.
- TeensHealth from Nemours explains suicide, why it happens, and how to prevent it.
These resources are provided for information purposes only and are not intended to replace professional medical, health, or legal advice. Please consult your doctor, mental health professional or lawyer for advice that is specific to your needs. SCC, its officers, directors, volunteers, and attorneys hereby disclaim any responsibility for, or any liability resulting from, the use of these resources.