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How to Help A Teenager with Depression

How to Help A Teenager with Depression

Sometimes the signs of teenage depression can be easy to miss. In fact, at times it may be hard to distinguish between teenage "growing pains" and depression. The information and tips in this article will empower you to help a teenager with depression.

Is It Just "Growing Pains"?

A little moodiness and angst are often familiar traits of being a teenager. But changes in mood like persistent irritability, talks of being worthless, guilt, lack of enthusiasm and talks of suicide are red flags that something's amiss.

Signs of Teenage Depression

Here's a list of the signs and symptoms of depression in teens. If you've seen these behaviors in your son or daughter for the past two weeks, get help right away. (Teenage girls are more likely to suffer from depression than teenage boys.)

Behavioral and Physical Symptoms

- Withdrawal from friends and family

- Loss of interest in activities

- Getting too much or too little sleep

- Poor school performance

- Irritability, anger, hostility, or even violent behavior.

- Unexplained aches and pains

Emotional Symptoms

- Expressed feeling hopeless and worthless

- Expressed feelings of guilt

- Talked about committing suicide

How to Talk To Your Teen About Depression

Ok, so you've noticed some of the above signs of depression in your teenager. Now, what?

Now it's time to have a talk about depression.

Keep these communication tips in mind before speaking with your son or daughter.

- Try not to lessen his or her concerns by blowing them off or by trivializing how they feel. Accept that their feelings of pain and sadness are valid even if you don't fully understand what they're going through.

- Don't be surprised if they shut you out at first. Talking about depression can be tough for adults let alone teenagers. Let your teen know and feel that you're there for them.

Look for opportunities to speak with your son or daughter about their feelings. Be gentle but persistent. Don't give up.

How to Help a Depressed Teenager

The body and the mind are tightly linked. Therefore depression is worsened by little or no exercise, poor sleep, and poor nutrition, to name a few.

Teenagers are notorious for their unhealthy habits: eating junk food, spending way too many hours in front of a screen, staying up too late, the list goes on.

These tips and coping skills can help teens battling depression:

Ditch the screen for friends and face time

Teens go on-line, use social media, cell phones, and other devices as a form of escape.

But excessive screen time only worsens depression by increasing feelings of isolation. Combat this by making face time a priority.

Carve out some time every day to connect with your teen. Ban all gadgets, devices, screens during this face-to-face time. This includes the television.

Encourage your teenager to hang out with friends. Activities like sports, art, dance, and after school clubs are great opportunities for teens to connect with kids of their age who share similar interests.

Lend a helping hand

Having a sense of purpose is a powerful antidepressant and can boost self-esteem, allow them to focus less on depression and more upon others.

Suggestion: Volunteer with your teen. It can be a great bonding experience.

Lift depression with stress reduction

School and social pressures are often top stress triggers for teenagers. This is not to be taken lightly because excessive, persistent stress is linked to depression.

Regularly practicing stress reduction techniques is effective at relieving depression, melting stress and increasing feelings of well-being.

Embrace the light

Is your teen getting enough sun? Sunlight is a great mood booster. Aim for 20 minutes of sunshine a day. Don't forget the sunscreen.

You may want to invest in a light box to use during the winter months when sunlight makes less of an appearance.

Encourage your teen to exercise regularly

Recent studies show that regular exercise rival antidepressants for reducing depression. Exercise doesn't have to be boring. Challenge them to work out for at least 30 minutes a day.

Get a decent night's sleep

Teenagers need more sleep than adults. Up to eight-nine hours, to function at their best. Besides limiting screen time and practicing regular relaxation techniques, teens can adopt healthy sleep habits.

Encourage better nutrition

Teens and good nutrition don't often go together. Eating the right foods is just as important as getting a good night's sleep. Omega-3 fats are especially important because they boost mood and encourage proper brain function. (Read also: Foods for Fighting depression)

Seek Professional Help for Your Teen with Depression

It is important to seek out help from a mental health professional. This is an important step, not only because professional help can provide a support system, but also because professional help can provide tailored treatment that can be very effective.

Antidepressant Medication and Teens

Although antidepressant meds can be an effective form of treatment, it's not entirely understood how they impact developing brains. In fact, many antidepressants carry side effect warnings for teens and young adults.

Teens with bipolar depression, a family history of bipolar disorder, or have attempted suicide in the past are vulnerable to negative effects of antidepressant meds.

Teens taking antidepressants should be closely monitored in the first few months of treatment. Call your doctor or emergency services immediately if you notice any of the following:

In addition to new or worsening depression look out for:

-If your teen expresses that they have new or worsening thoughts of committing suicide
-Have attempted suicide
-Anxiety that has either started or gotten worse
-Restlessness and agitation
-Panic attacks
-Insomnia
-Irritability
-Aggressive, angry, or violent behavior
-Making dangerous and impulsive decisions
-Mania

Psychotherapy for Teenage Depression

You might also consider counseling as a form of depression treatment. Psychotherapy (Talk therapy) can be effective in getting teens to open up about their feelings.

If you choose psychotherapy as part of your teen's depression treatment, remember that it may take some time to find the right fit.

  Read alsoHow to Deal With the Depression: Basics and Beyond

Teen Depression and Suicide

Teen suicide is sky rocking, especially among teen girls. To lower teen suicide rates, it's crucial to pay attention to the warning signs.

Depressed teens who abuse drugs and alcohol are more prone to commit suicide.

Keep a sharp eye out for these suicide warning signs:

1. Saying goodbye to friends and family as though for the very last time.

2. Acting recklessly, purposely getting involved in dangerous situations.

3. Talking or joking about committing suicide

4. Writing stories and poems death and dying

If you think a teen is in danger of committing suicide, please seek help right away.

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