It is normal to feel down or irritated every once in a while. In particular, children and teens may experience occasional sadness as they grow due to their changing bodies and brain. However, when negative thoughts and feelings persist for weeks or even months, it might be more than just “being down in the dumps.” It might be major depressive disorder also known more commonly as depression.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that occurs at any age and impairs the way one feels, thinks, and behaves. It is recognized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and sometimes, thoughts of suicide. It can interfere with daily activities such as eating, sleeping, going to work, and managing schoolwork. A diagnosis of depression is made when these symptoms last for at least two weeks and symptoms impact a person’s ability to function in their everyday life.
What are the causes and risk factors for depression?
The cause of depression is not always known as there are many factors to consider. Just as in adults, depression in adolescents and teens can be caused by any combination of reasons:
- - Environment (family and social problems)
- - Stressful life events (such as losing someone close)
- - Physical illness, chronic illness, or disabling medical conditions (focus issues, learning problems, conduct concerns, or anxiety disorders)
- - Family history of depression
- - Bullying
- - Spending a lot of time on social media
- - Alcohol or drug use
What are the signs of depression?
Adults, teens, and children exhibit the signs of depression in many different ways. Some signs of depression include:
- - Feeling or appearing sad, tearful, anxious, or sometimes feeling “empty” or “blah” like you have no feelings
- - Feeling hopeless, feeling like everything is your fault, feeling that you aren’t good at anything or that everything is going wrong
- - Spending less time with family and/or friends
- - Withdrawing from activities previously enjoyed or not enjoying things as you used to
- - Changes in appetite such as eating more, eating less, or eating specific foods (such as carbohydrates or sweets)
- - Weight loss or weight gain
- - Sleeping more or less than usual
- - Decreased energy, tiredness, fatigue
- - Difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- - Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still.
- - Caring less about work or school.
- - Not doing well in school
- - Angry outbursts and irritability (Note: In children, irritable or angry mood may develop rather than a sad mood)
- - Having thoughts of suicide, wanting to die, or trying to harm yourself
- - Physical complaints like headaches, stomachaches, digestive problems, general aches and pains
There are no two people who are affected by depression in the same way. Some individuals experience every symptom of depression while others experience only a few symptoms. Because depression can show up in many different ways, it can be difficult to notice at times. If you think you or a loved one might be depressed, it is important to seek help.
Where to seek help?
Contact your family doctor to rule out health conditions which could cause depressive like symptoms. If your doctor thinks you or your loved one has depression, they may refer you to a mental health specialist.
Find and setup an appointment with awho can help identify, diagnose, and incorporate appropriate treatments for depression.
You can also reach out to a trusted adult, guardian, school counselor, or friend for help.
Adults can also reach out to the SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for mental health referrals in their area.
Teens can also find help by texting the word “safe” and your current location (address, city, state) to 4HELP (44357).
How is depression treated?
No matter the severity, depression can get better with treatment, However, it can get worse or last longer without help. It is important to seek treatment as soon as possible as the earlier the intervention the more effective it can be. There are several effective treatments for depression such as psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy”), medications, or the combination of the two.
How can you support yourself and/or your loved one during treatment?
- - Continue to educate yourself about depression.
- - Be patient and understanding in your expectations.
- - Understand that therapy is a process: mood will improve gradually rather than immediately.
- - Ensure you are eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep, and exercising daily.
- - Set realistic goals.
- - Enjoy time with others and let others help you.
- - Postpone important life changing decisions.
- - Encourage positive emotions and moods in a gentle way.
- - Balance a healthy social life without over-scheduling.
- - Assign responsibilities and rewards.
- - Develop strategies that will increase coping mechanisms in the face of life obstacles.
- - Talk as a family about mental health and wellness.
How we can help.
Here at Rogers Counseling & Play Therapy Center we consider the developmental appropriateness of our therapeutic services with our clients. With our adult and, we utilize psychotherapy techniques such a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which are evidenced based in their effectiveness to treat depression. However, sometimes adolescents and teens need more than just talk therapy. Given this, we incorporate games and art into the session to increase the effectiveness of therapy.
For children, we recognize that talk therapy techniques are not developmentally appropriate as children do not have the vocabulary or insight of adults, so it is difficult for them to talk about their struggles. Therefore, we utilizeto help children understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to achieve positive change.
For our practice, it is important to include parents and/or guardians in the treatment process. Guardian involvement and support is essential for making positive change and is critical to your child’s progress. We will meet with you regularly to discuss your child's progress and provide effective parenting tools. In addition, we offer parenting counseling in order to collaborate with guardians in their efforts to support their child or teen going through depression.
If you’re interested in coming in for an assessment, call us at (713) 234-7172 for a complimentary ten minute phone consultation.