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Teen Depression

Most people have feelings of depression at times in their lives.  Sometimes it's related to an event - a death in the family, losing a job, challenges at school, a break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, a divorce - leaving a person feeling lost, scared, sad, or helpless.  This is all very normal.  But, for some people, these feelings are daily, or near daily, and are emotions that are not linked to an event or situation - seemingly for no apparent reason - and can dramatically impact their ability to carry on their day-to-day lives.

Depression is more than just having a bad day.  The Depression and Anxiety Association of America defines depression as, "a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general. When these feelings last for a short period of time, it may be a case of 'the blues.'  But when such feelings last for more than two weeks and when the feelings interfere with daily activities such as taking care of family, spending time with friends, or going to work or school, it's likely a major depressive episode.  Major depression is a treatable illness that affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions."  

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States today, with an estimate 15-20% of teenagers having a depressive episode by the time they reach adulthood.  Like many other illnesses, it often runs in families and can be brought on by genetics, stress, trauma, life circumstances, changes in neurochemical levels in the brain, o the use of drugs and alcohol. These possible causes include a combination of psychological, biological, and social sources of distress. Unlike just "being down" or "having the blues", the symptoms of depression continue for at least two weeks and can last months if left untreated.  

Symptoms of Depression

  • changes in sleep
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight
  • fatigue
  • loss of energy
  • loss of pleasure from activities
  • trouble thinking
  • lack of concentration
  • difficulty making decisions
  • lack of interest
  • agitation
  • negative self-perception
  • a sense of hopelessness 
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • physical aches and pain
  • suicidal thoughts 

Behavioral Changes Associated with Depression

  • changes in friends
  • isolation
  • trouble at school
  • use of drugs and alcohol
  • aggression and irritability
  • lack of attention to physical appearance and hygiene

The good news is that support, treatment, and strategies can help.  Talk therapy with a qualified mental health professional, changes in lifestyle, and sometimes medication prescribed by a doctor are very effective in treating depression.

If you think your child is depressed, be sure to check it out.  Take your child to the family doctor to rule out any other illness.  If your doctor believes that depression is a possibility, reach out to a qualified mental health professional for a full evaluation and diagnosis  They will then develop treatment options and a treatment plan for your child.  For more information about depression, treatment options, and support, visit the "Parent" page at Erika's Lighthouse.

Watch as teens explain what they wish that parents knew about teenage depression.



Erika's Lighthouse - Teen Depression

Erika's Lighthouse Chapter at BHS

Anxiety and Depression Association of America



The Handbook of Childhood and Teen Depression
by Erika's Lighthouse
This is a practical guide, written by parents for parents, with information and ideas on what to do if a child is suffering from depression. Many parents don't know the signs of depression or where to turn for help. Understanding what's going on with a child, finding the right treatment, dealing with the schools, negotiating insurance issues – challenges that parents face when their child is suffering from depression, dealt with in a frank and understanding way, in an easy-to-read format. To download a free copy, click here.


The Disappearing Girl: Learning the Language of Teenage Depression
by Dr. Lisa Machoian
The Disappearing Girl, the first book on depression in teenage girls, helps parents understand:
• Why silence reflects a girl’s desperate wish for inclusion, not isolation
• Subtle differences between teen angst and problem behavior
• Vulnerabilities in dating, friendships, school, and families
• How, if untreated, girls will carry feelings of helplessness, anger, and depression into adulthood
Dr. Machoian also offers conversation topics to help girls navigate mixed messages, develop their identity, make healthy decisions, and build resilience that will empower them throughout life, as well as helping parents manage their own frustration.



Conquering the Beast Within - How I Fought Depression and Won...And How You Can, Too
by Cait Irwin

For anyone in the clutches of the frightening beast that is depression, this book can help. In vivid words and images, Cait Irwin shares her own compelling story: how she struggled with clinical depression at age fourteen, was hospitalized, sought therapy, found the right medication, and successfully made the long, arduous climb back to good health. This powerful volume shares an inspirational message with all who are waging their own battles with depression: There is a way out.


Beyond the Blues: A Workbook to Help Teens with Depression
by Lisa M. Schab, LCSW
The activities in Beyond the Blues can help you cope with sad and difficult feelings, find new ways to make friends, and deal with conflicts. Little by little and on your own schedule, you can make small changes in your life that will lead you to a brighter, more enjoyable future. Since everyone is different and heals in slightly different ways, this book presents a wide variety of exercises.


When Nothing Matters Anymore - A Survival Guide for Depressed Teens
by Bev Cobain, R.N.C.
A survival guide for depressed teens, this book is written with personal stories from teens struggling with mental health issues. Topics include identifying depression, the connection between the illness, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, getting the appropriate help, coping strategies, staying well and the truth behind the stigma. Full of solid information and straight talk, When Nothing Matters Anymore defines and explains adolescent depression, reveals how common it is, describes the symptoms, and spreads the good news that depression is treatable. Personal stories, photos, and poetry from teens dealing with depression speak directly to readers' feelings, concerns, and experiences.

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