teen depression

Whats the Difference Between Teen Sadness and Teen Depression?

January 4, 2017

Adolescent depression is a serious mental health issue that can strike any child, at any time, without regard to race, gender, or socioeconomics.

It’s important to swiftly identify and treat depression appropriately because the risky behaviors associated with it can result in disarray and even irreversible damage to both the child and family. Treatment can often be accomplished at home or with outpatient professional guidance. However, inpatient care may be necessary if symptoms are severe, unresponsive to other treatment measures, or the child is a suicide risk.

The Stats Are Enough To Make Any Parent Look Twice

An estimated 3 million U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17, which is 12.5% of the population, had at least one major depressive episode in 2015.

Amongst 15-24 year olds living in the U.S., suicide is the third leading cause of death. Studies indicate that around 90% of suicide-victim teens had some type of mental health issue, such as depression. It’s the fifth leading cause of death for ages 5 to 14 and the second leading cause of death on college campuses.

Depressive episodes in adolescents will often reoccur, persist, or continue into adulthood. After suffering one major depressive episode, adolescents are more than twice as likely to experiment with and abuse alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

Yet, only 30% of depressed teens are treated for depression.

Identifying Depression

Depression can be difficult for a parent or loved one to identify in an adolescent because the age group already has hormones surging, which often makes them moody, irritable, and emotional.

The first step in identification is to understand what separates depression from routine sadness. Depression is a clinical mood disorder syndrome. It’s generalized as an intense sadness and/or irritability that’s manifested through negative thoughts and behaviors.

In more specific terms, there are a number of different types of depression, including major depression, bipolar depression, and persistent depression. Major depression is depression that lasts longer than two weeks and significantly impacts the teen’s activities of daily living. Bipolar depression involves a cycle of moods from very happy to very sad and is most often genetically linked. Persistent depression usually doesn’t display as severe, but it will often last longer and be more repetitively occurring.

The Symptoms Of Depression vs Teen Sadness

It’s important to note that not all depressed teens will exhibit every symptom. Nor will they manifest it in the same way or severity. Do keep in mind that some of these correspond with typical teen angst and teen sadness; as a parent, you’re looking for changes or significant impacts in the teen’s typical behavior, such as:

  • Intense sadness, loneliness, irritability, anger, discontent, pessimism, hopelessness, worthlessness, and/or emptiness.
  • Sudden disinterest in usual activities of enjoyment or obligation.
  • Apathetic attitude.
  • Listlessness, fatigue, tiredness, boredom, and slowness.
  • Restlessness, agitation, impatience, and irritability.
  • Social isolation.
  • Changes in normal sleeping patterns.
  • Changes in normal appetite.
  • Crying and tearfulness.
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • Lack of concern for their own safety – risky behaviors.
  • Difficulty concentrating, deciding, remembering.
  • Irresponsibility.
  • Chronic pain complaints.
  • Headaches.
  • Disinterest, skipping, or lack of participation in school.
  • Changes in friendships and other relationships.
  • Promiscuity.
  • Running away or threatening to leave home.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Obsession with electronics… constant need to be connected to the internet.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Violence towards others.
  • Self-harm, such as cutting.

Risk Factors For Depression

Biology is a factor in some cases, meaning that depression and/or existing mental health issues that cause depression are passed down through families.

Research has shown that a history of abuse, neglect, poor living conditions, trauma, bullying, and peer pressure can contribute to episodes of depression. Sexual identity crisis, being witness to constant arguing or violence, and social awkwardness are also risk factors.

Research is even showing that anxiety in general affects different teens different ways and can cause depression in teens that are simply more sensitive to it. A San Diego State University study recently found that five times more adolescents suffered anxiety and mental health issues today than their Depression Era counterparts.

Seeking Treatment For Depressed Teens

It’s a difficult situation to face. No parent wants to think of their child feeling any of the symptoms of depression. However, the next step is to recognize that depression isn’t something that can be wished away by neither you or the affected teen.

Like the cycle of grief, sometimes depression can run its course when it’s isolated to a specific event, such as a teen relationship breaking up. The teen may feel depressed for some time. But, as life moves on, the teen’s emotions heal and depression subsides. Other times, however, depression can be multi-faceted in its causes, effects, and severity. In either case, depressed teens are at a higher risk of suicide, making prompt recognition and treatment by parents essential to the welfare of the family.

What You Can Do At Home

  1. Talk to the teen in a nonjudgmental, open-dialogue manner.

Bring your concerns up to the teen, listing specific behaviors and incidences you’re concerned about. Actively listen. Avoid jumping to conclusions or interrupting. Be persistent without being overzealous. Avoid lecturing. Make it clear that you will provide whatever support is needed. Acknowledge their feelings; whatever it is may seem silly to you, but to them, it’s a deep seeded concern enough to cause the symptoms you’ve noticed. Being dismissive or passive will likely result in the teen shutting down further dialogue.

  1. Make any lifestyle changes needed to ensure you are available and the teen is healthy.
  • Create a schedule for face-to-face time with your teen where your undivided attention is on his/her needs.
  • Encourage recreational activities.
  • Provide a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Make exercise a priority.
  • Encourage journal writing and productive outlets to express emotions.
  • Speak with teachers regularly about school work and participation.
  • Set screen time limits.
  • Encourage at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
  1. Seek local counsel if your teen refuses to dialogue with you.

This may be a school psychologist or guidance councilor, a community center social worker, or a church authority. Pick someone you trust has the knowledge and skills necessary to provide your child a safe outlet to vent their issues.

  1. Seek professional outpatient care.

Research local mental health professionals in your area. Ensure that they specialize in depression, particularly teen depression. Make an appointment for your teen to have a meet and greet, conduct a comprehensive evaluation, and develop a treatment plan. Get your teen involved in the process. Remember, if he/she connects well with the therapist, then they’re more likely to engage and actively participate in the therapy. Talk therapy, group therapy, and/or antidepressant medications may be needed.

Inpatient Treatment Options

When at-home interventions and outpatient treatment fail or when the teen is exhibiting severe or life-threatening behaviors, inpatient treatment is usually the next step.

Inpatient stays at a treatment facility involve comprehensive care that can be a combination of group and individual therapies, family therapy, behavioral management, dependence therapy, and a range of medications with the ultimate goal of long-term management of dependency and/or mental health disorders. It provides a safe, structured, and stable environment that’s conducive to evaluating and managing treatment goals.

One of the many benefits of residential depression treatments is that the teen receives supervised care around the clock from a number of mental health professionals, but it’s all done in a home-like environment and amongst other teens who are living with similar mood disorders.

The length of the stay, family visitation, and overall patient freedoms within the facility are mandated by the facility based on the patient’s unique symptoms, risks, and safety. A typical stay is no less than 28 days.

As a parent of an underage child, you’ll be given a legal document upon entering your child into an inpatient treatment facility. It’s called informed consent, and it will explain all the treatments, procedures, and medications your child may be given.

In picking a facility, be sure that the facility specializes in teen care of depression and is highly accredited. Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center, for example, is an inpatient teen-only treatment facility for mental health, behavioral health and addiction issues.

Don’t Be Afraid To Take The Necessary Steps To Help Your Child

In closing, adolescent depression is prevalent. It’s commonly ignored or dismissed until life-altering consequences like suicide and self-harm show up. Recognizing the symptoms and taking immediate proactive measures at home, through guidance from outpatient mental health professionals, or through comprehensive inpatient care can help your child manage and overcome depression as quickly and efficiently as possible. To learn more about how inpatient mental health and addiction services may help your child, please contact Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center today.