Adolescence

 

What are signs of depression?
Here is a list of common symptoms associated with depression. If you are concerned that your child might be suffering from depression, please contact your child's doctor.

Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying
Teens may show their pervasive sadness by wearing black clothes,writing poetry with morbid themes, or having a preoccupation with music that has nihilistic themes. They may cry for no apparent reason.

Hopelessness
Teens may feel that life is not worth living or worth the effort to even maintain their appearance or hygiene. They may believe that a negative situation will never change and be pessimistic about their future.

Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities
Teens may become apathetic and drop out of clubs, sports, and other activities they once enjoyed. Not much seems fun anymore to the depressed teen.

Persistent boredom; low energy
Lack of motivation and lowered energy level is reflected by missed classes or not going to school. A drop in grade averages can be equated with loss of concentration and slowed thinking.

Social isolation, poor communication
There is a lack of connection with friends and family. Teens may avoid family gatherings and events. Teens who used to spend a lot of time with friends may now spend most of their time alone and without interests. Teens may not share their feelings with others, believing that they are alone in the world and no one is listening to them or even cares about them.

Low self esteem and guilt
Teens may assume blame for negative events or circumstances. They may feel like a failure and have negative views about their competence and self-worth. They feel as if they are not "good enough".

Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
Believing that they are unworthy, depressed teens become even more depressed with every supposed rejection or perceived lack of success.

Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
Depressed teens are often irritable, taking out most of their anger on their family. They may attack others by being critical, sarcastic,or abusive. They may feel they must reject their family before their family rejects them.

Difficulty with relationships
Teens may suddenly have no interest in maintaining friendships. They'll stop calling and visiting their friends.

Frequent complaints of physical illnesses, such as headaches and stomachaches
Teens may complain about lightheadedness or dizziness, being nauseous, and back pain. Other common complaints include headaches, stomachaches, vomiting, and menstrual problems.

Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school
Children and teens who cause trouble at home or at school may actually be depressed but not know it. Because the child may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that the behavior problem is a sign of depression.

Poor concentration
Teens may have trouble concentrating on schoolwork, following a conversation, or even watching television.

A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns
Sleep disturbance may show up as all-night television watching, difficulty in getting up for school, or sleeping during the day. Loss of appetite may become anorexia or bulimia. Eating too much may result in weight gain and obesity.

Talk of or attempts to run away from home
Running away is usually a cry for help. This may be the first time the parents realize that their child has a problem and needs help.

Thoughts or expressions of suicide, or self-destructive behavior
Teens who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide. Depressed children and teens are at increased risk for committing suicide. If a child or teen says, "I want to kill myself," or "I'm going to commit suicide," always take the statement seriously and seek evaluation from a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional. People often feel uncomfortable talking about death. However, asking whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Rather than "putting thoughts in the child's head," such a question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Depressed teens may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way to feel better.

Self-Injury
Teens who have difficulty talking about their feelings may show their emotional tension, physical discomfort, pain and low self-esteem with self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting.

 


 

What are some tell-tale signs of substance abuse?
Warning Signs of Teen Substance Abuse.

Physical

  • fatigue
  • repeated health complaints
  • red and glazed eyes
  • lasting cough

Emotional

  • personality change
  • sudden mood changes
  • irritability
  • irresponsible behavior
  • low self-esteem
  • poor judgment
  • depression
  • general lack of interest

Family

  • starting arguments
  • negative attitude
  • breaking rules
  • withdrawing from family
  • secretiveness

School

  • decreased interest
  • negative attitude
  • drop in grades
  • many absences
  • truancy
  • discipline problems

Social Problems

  • new friends who make poor decisions and are not interested in school or family activities
  • problems with the law
  • changes to less conventional styles in dress and music

Some of the warning signs listed above can also be signs of other problems. Parents may recognize signs of trouble but should speak with their childs doctor, to get an accurate diagnosis.

What can I do to help my teenager with stress?
Teenagers, like adults, may experience stress everyday and can benefit from learning stress management skills. Most teens experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult, or painful and they do not have the resources to cope. Some sources of stress for teens might include:

  • school demands and frustrations
  • negative thoughts and feelings about themselves
  • changes in their bodies
  • problems with friends
  • unsafe living environment/neighborhood
  • separation or divorce of parents
  • chronic illness or severe problems in the family
  • death of a loved one
  • moving to a new community
  • changing schools
  • taking on too many activities or having too high expectations
  • family financial problems

The same mechanism that turns on the stress response can turn it off. As soon as we decide that a situation is no longer dangerous, changes can occur in our minds and bodies to help us relax and calm down. This "relaxation response" includes decreased heart and breathing rate and a sense of well being.

Teens who develop a "relaxation response" and other stress management skills feel less helpless and have more choices when responding to stress. Parents can help their teen in these ways:

  • Monitor if stress is affecting teen's health, behavior, or feelings.
  • Listen carefully to teens and watch for overloading.
  • Learn and model stress management skills.
  • Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities.

Teens can decrease stress with the following behaviors and techniques:

  • Exercise and eat regularly.
  • Avoid excess caffeine intake which can increase feelings of anxiety and agitation.
  • Staying away from illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
  • Learn relaxation exercises (abdominal breathing and muscle relaxation techniques).
  • Develop assertiveness training skills. For example, state feelings in polite, firm, and not overly aggressive or passive ways.
  • Learn practical coping skills. For example, break a large task into smaller, more attainable tasks.
  • Decreasing negative self talk.
  • Learn to feel good about doing a competent job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others.
  • Build a network of friends who help you cope in a positive way.
By using these and other techniques, teenagers can begin to manage stress. If a teen talks about or shows signs of being overly stressed, a consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist or qualified mental health professional may be helpful.

 


 

What should parents know about alcohol and teen drinking?
According to research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.

The three leading causes of death for 15 to 24 year olds are automobile crashes, homicides and suicides. Alcohol is a leading factor in all three.

Recent discoveries show that final brain maturity is not complete until age 25 and suggest that alcohol use, before then, may harm brain development.

The most common and effective way for an individual to combat his or her addictive behaviors is through a self-help support group, with advice and support from a health care professional, and a group of peers. Treatment should also involve family members because family history may play a role in the origins of the problem and successful treatment cannot take place if your child is in an isolated state.