Picture this – everything is changing. Your body is maturing. You are being given more and greater responsibilities. Fun and friendships are a big focus, but you seem to have neither.
You know tons of people your age, but can you trust them? Do they even really like you? Just who are you anyway? Suddenly, you are second guessing everything and everyone, even yourself.
Even the normal things you did are not the same. The insatiable appetite you once had has dwindled to barely being hungry at all.
You find it next to impossible to fall asleep yet it’s a grueling task to drag yourself out of bed the next morning. You find yourself in a low or bad mood much of the time. Nothing feels right anymore. Does this sound familiar?
If the symptoms above describe how you are feeling, chances are you are either a teenager, you are suffering from depression, or both. Given the body’s chemical changes and the challenges faced in general, just being a normal teen can resemble depression in many ways.
The teenage years are full of highs and lows. The rollercoaster ride of the turbulent teens can be rocky enough without adding depression to the equation. The combination of being a teenager and being depressed at the same time can be overwhelming.
The fact is that depression in teens is different from depression in adults because teenagers are different from adults. Some of the differences are as follows:
The Social Scene
A sense of low self-worth is a common indication of depression. Feelings of unworthiness are often all-consuming. Negative self-talk tends to be a huge part of the cycle. The stress and anxiety that these struggles cause is heightened even further by a lack of drive or motivation.
One way in which we all tend to decide how we measure up is by comparing ourselves to others. Have we accomplished all that she has? Will we ever be as good as him? When comparing physical traits like weight, body proportions, and looks, it can easily get out of hand.
Comparing ourselves is a natural thing to do but a very destructive one too. Think about it – when comparing, you will either come up on the high or low end of the stick. Neither is conducive to a healthy self-image.
Depression has a voice that speaks to our heart and minds. The message is never a positive one. It tells us things like that we are not good enough, not attractive enough or not smart enough. We are easily deceived into believing lies, especially when we are comparing ourselves to others which only fuels the fire. As we look outward to set our standards, we are passing judgments inwardly.
The teenage years are a time of tremendous transitions. During adolescence, your body is changing from that of a child to one of an adult. Boys’ voices are cracking and changing. Girls are developing chests. While initially, it is a time of pride and excitement, the whole scenario can all change in a heartbeat when the class laughs at the shrieking voice or the girl gets whistled at by a crowd of boys.
Girls are generally the first to undergo visible physical changes. The earlier they do so, the more difficult the adjustments may be. They take note that they are “different” which can make the changes even rougher. Soon enough, boys find themselves in the midst of puberty, too, and begin comparing themselves and their changes to that of their peers. Late bloomers may have the hardest time of all whether male or female.
Teenage girls may feel as if they are in a whirlwind, being pushed into womanhood too fast, too soon. They may long to stay a little girl for as long as they can. Boys can feel left out and lonely if they don’t shoot up in height, begin to talk in a deep voice and no facial hair is surfacing. It’s easy to feel like the boat left without you. Or, that you are the only one in the boat.
Going through the various stages of puberty is enough to deal with but the fact that teens tend to experience them in different time frames can be extremely frustrating and difficult to adjust to. These factors are very challenging for even well-adjusted teens so when depression is thrown into the mix, you can only imagine the complications.
Modern technology, especially social media, hasn’t made the situation any easier either. Although bullying has been around probably since the beginning of time, within the past 20 years, it has taken on a new face. It is ever-present. It used to be that if you were being bullied, you could at least escape within the confines of your own home. That’s not the case any longer, though.
Smartphones, tablets, and platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have changed the dynamics of teenage lives forever. Through posts, tweets, texts and messaging, bullies can stalk their prey even in the privacy of the victim’s home.
The hurtful words can come through at any time of the day, anywhere you are. They can rip you apart and bring you so far down that it’s almost impossible to get back up. In times past, you could at least run and hide from bullying but today, that is next to impossible to do. Even when the devices are not around, the implications echo on.
The very nature of social media can be a breeding ground for depression to set in and it can make existing depression much worse. Imagine if your so-called friends were posting unflattering pictures of you or publically taking pot shots at you. Even grown adults would have trouble digesting such cruel things.
Not only can social media platforms open up a sea of opportunities to stage bully battlegrounds, they can also promote the temptation to compare. There’s the popular girl who just got asked to prom, the football jock posing in a photo with his new trophy and your friend showing off the new puppy she’d rather spend time with than you. It’s up close, personal and always in your face.
Being a teenager isn’t easy. It has never been, but it is more difficult now than it ever was before. Even normal teen changes can make it seem like the world is caving in but when you toss in a dose of depression, it can be devastating.
The Teenage Identity Crisis
The teen years are a journey. You are exploring many things that will become your foundation for adulthood. You may be searching for your identity, finding out what your interests truly are and figuring out who you can trust and rely upon. It is a wonderful time of self-discovery. Unless you have depression.
Wondering is a natural and positive part of growing up. It opens your eyes to exploring new options and to seeing things from a different perspective. It is not to be confused with doubting yourself, everything and everyone around you.
Depression steals the wonder from your teenage years. Instead of experiencing curiosity in a healthy way, you are anxious and perhaps even paranoid. You aren’t sure about the world around you so how could you be sure of yourself?
Depression can stunt the natural phase of development in teenagers. It can also cause deep-rooted insecurities that can carry over into the adult years. Athletes face a similar problem when they are trying to become better and stronger. They need to stretch their limits and move out of their zone of comfort in order to get to the next level.
But, if they are injured, they risk suffering even more damage if they push themselves too hard. The same is true for teenagers who are depressed. They are in a weakened state so the natural process of finding themselves can result in a damaged self-image.
Now that it has been established how difficult teen depression can be, it’s time for the good news. The situation is full of hope. Not only can finding help free teenagers from depression, it can give them the tools they need to set them up to succeed later in life. Medical recommendations can be addressed as well such as the possibility that an antidepressant is needed.
While the thought of an adolescent taking an antidepressant in such formative years might seem alarming, it is safe when practiced under the guidance of a skilled psychiatrist or a well-trained nurse practitioner. Still, great benefits can result from therapy by itself.
It is quite common for teens to feel as if they don’t have anyone who is there just to listen to them without passing judgment. It would be ideal if adolescents and teens were comfortable talking to their parents but usually, they aren’t. They feel intimidated. That is why talking to a professional can be so beneficial.
Within the state of Washington, even thirteen-year-olds have the right to complete privacy in their counseling sessions. While it may seem a bit strange to parents, it certainly is comforting to the teenagers.
Knowing that their secrets are safe encourages them to open up so they can receive the treatment they need and deserve without fear that there will be repercussions. The exception is when the client’s safety is at risk.
By addressing the issues of teen depression, teenagers can develop a strong self-esteem that will carry over to adulthood. The process of moving through the pain and dealing with the problems head-on means that hope abounds for a positive future.
In therapy, teens learn to set goals for themselves, both short and long-term ones. They also are given the tools that can help them with their current state of depression. These tools also help if they are hit with depression again in the future. Learning coping skills at an early age is priceless.
Teens who experience positive counseling are more likely to seek help if they run into problems when they are adults. They learn that therapy is a safe place where they can get the treatment they need to improve the quality of their life. Teenagers who have positive outlooks about the counseling they receive may very well encourage their friends to go for help. The power of positive peer pressure is amazing.
Taking the First Step
Help can’t begin until the first step is taken. If you’re a teen who is feeling depressed, or if you have a friend or a family member who is, start by seeking help. Talking to a counselor is a safe way to be heard without judgment and to get to know yourself better. You will also learn coping skills so that you can deal with the depression.
If you’ve been waiting for someone to give you a push in the right direction, this is it! Perhaps you are nervous about taking the first step. Fear and anxiety are symptoms of depression. Don’t let depression steal another moment of your life.
Admitting you need help isn’t easy, especially when you are a teenager. In fact, nothing is easy when you’re a teenager. That is all the more reason to take that first step. You don’t have to live in depression another day. There is help. Reach out to a counselor in your area so that you can get started on your brand new beginning today.
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