Adolescence can be a trying time for a lot of young people, with many challenging changes associated with this time of the developmental stage. The physical, emotional, psychological and social changes that come with this phase of a young person’s life can be confronting and hard to deal with. If a young person is finding that they are experiencing mood swings or are finding it hard to deal with day-to-day life, then this may indicate that there could be serious emotional or mental disorder that requires immediate attention and may indicate adolescent depression. If you or someone you know is experiencing longer than normal feelings of sadness or low mood that could be affecting how you think or feel and impacts what you do, then you should speak to someone about this or seek medical attention.
Depression is a serious condition that can make you feel consistently low and coping on a daily basis becomes extremely difficult. It can sometimes be hard to distinguish adolescent turmoil from depressive illness, as there are many changes that young people are experiencing throughout their adolescent development.
The adolescent years are a time when individuals develop their own identity and a sense of self. Both biological and developmental factors contribute to depression in adolescence and if depression is left to develop and is untreated, it can worsen and become life-threatening.
Some of the symptoms that may indicate depression are:
- Risk-taking behaviour
- Isolation and/or withdrawal from family and friends
- Inappropriate sexual behaviour
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Negative impact on study and career choices
- Poor self-esteem
- Lack of concentration, forgetfulness or indecision
- Problems getting out of bed
- Changes in eating habits
- Restlessness and agitation anger or rage
- A feeling of sadness and hopelessness
- Suicidal ideation
It’s not known exactly what causes depression but a range of issues may be involved, including:
- Early childhood trauma – this may have an impact on an individual due to the loss of a parent, or physical, emotional or sexual abuse at some stage, or throughout the early years of childhood.
- Biological chemistry – there has been research carried out throughout the years that indicate that depression may be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
- Inherited traits – depression is more common in individuals where there is a history of depression in the family.
- Hormones – depression has been known to be related to changes in the body’s balance, causing depressive episodes.
- Learned patterns of negative thinking – depression can be linked to learned patterns of negativity and helplessness throughout the developmental stages from childhood through to adolescence.
There are a range of risk factors that may be the cause of depression including:
- Chronic illness or disability
- Low self-esteem
- Weight issues
- Long term bullying or academic problems
- Having been victim or witness to violence, such as sexual or physical abuse
- Sexuality issues
- Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- Having a parent or other blood relative living with depression
- Dysfunction within the family
- A family member who has committed suicide
- Relationship breakdown
- Death of a loved one
- Stressful life event.
Depression is serious and prevention is crucial. If left untreated, it can worsen to the point of becoming life-threatening. There is no sure way to prevent depression, however, some of the most effective ways to treat depression or seek help in adolescents are:
- Reach out to a close friend or a trusted family member
- Talk to your teacher or school nurse
- Talk to your General Practitioner (GP) or a mental health specialist
- Contact a minister or spiritual leader
- Seek treatment through a Counsellor, Psychologist or Psychiatrist
- Contact online services such as suicide prevention or lifeline in your state
Adolescent depression is a serious mental health condition and probably won’t get better on its own. Depression left untreated could possibly lead to other serious health conditions including emotional or behavioural issues and the risk of suicide, so don’t wait to get help. Professional treatment is available and the support of family and friends can have a dramatic impact on improving young people’s lives and bring hope for the future.