Occasional sadness and irritable mood are normal in teens.
This is especially due to developmental challenges related to identity formation and relationships, inadequate sleep, poor eating habits, academic stressors, and hormonal changes. Depression, however, is different than typical sadness and involves more intense, frequent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anger, and frustration that make it challenging to function in everyday life. Teens struggling with depression may exhibit social withdrawal, poor motivation and focus, changes in weight and sleep, fatigue, and/or reduction in previously enjoyed activities. Teenage depression may also include frequent absences from school, poor school and/or academic performance, and even alcohol or substance abuse.
For some teens, depression can be so painful that it leads to suicidal ideation (i.e., recurrent thoughts about death) or attempts. Depression can be caused by environmental, psychological and biological (i.e., genetic predisposition) factors and can vary in intensity and duration. For a depressive episode to be diagnosed, a teen must present with depression symptoms that are prevalent most of the day for at least two weeks and impact family, social, and/or professional life. There are other types of depression that can affect adolescents as well including seasonal affective disorder and persistent depressive disorder (i.e., a form of depression that is less severe, but lasts for longer periods of time).
Fortunately, there are evidence-based treatments available for adolescents coping with depression, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction. In forming a therapeutic relationship with one of our counselors, teenagers feel understood and empowered while learning ways to manage overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Teens will develop coping strategies such as challenging negative thoughts, relaxation training, strengthening relationships, and healthy exercise and sleep hygiene to combat the debilitating effects of depression. Our psychologists and counselors will work collaboratively with other professionals, including your adolescent’s pediatrician, to ensure a comprehensive and wholistic team approach.