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Depression is a sickness. One that is not rare but a lot of people just see as an excuse. An excuse to do nothing or to get attention. They say everybody has their bad days. But depression is a serious issue that a lot of people deal with.
For Teenagers it is even more critical because they are still developing and trying to find their place. It has a lot of influence on their behaviour, future behaviour and life.
I wanted look into and talk about an important subject where I could change something. And if it just helped one person, it would be a lot.
In society there are a lot of topics one is not “allowed” to talk about. Depression is one of them. From the beginning on I knew I wanted to write about something that mattered, something a lot of people don’t understand and want to forget. I wanted to show that of course it is possible to talk about this and I wanted to draw attention to this underrated topic.
People look away thinking the person needs its own space and would ask for help if the situation would turn out to be severe. We grow up with the mindset, that we should be quite and give other people privacy, when all they need is someone to talk to.
With that mindset we teach children that it is not okay to think one needs help and ask for it. I know a lot of such cases, where someone was too scared to ask for help and did not know how to help one self and I did not want them to feel helpless anymore.
I could not live with the thought that so many people are not okay just because they are afraid to ask for help, so I wanted to show them that it is okay and how they could help themselves.
Definition of adolescent depression
Adolescent depression is a common sickness among teenagers. 1970 there was still so little attention drawn to it, that it did not “exist”. Now, however, 10 to 15 percent of adolescents suffer under teen depression. This disorder can be treated with therapy or/and medication. It is a mental illness, that can also affect the body and cause unexplainable pain. As Teenagers are fragile personalities it can affect them in ways one would never think a “mood” could affect somebody and not just their present but also their future and their children’s future.
4 types of depression commonly found in teens:
Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood
It occurs in response to a big event in life such as divorce of parents, moving and big changes. This disorder can last up to six months.
It is a low grade, chronic depression. It lasts more than a year. Symptoms of dysthymia are irritableness, low energy, low self-esteem and hopelessness. It can interfere with concentration and decision making. 4 out of 100 teens suffer under this form of depression.
Mostly it is genetically transferred. This form can be treated but not cured. Teens with this disorder suffer from periods of depression followed from periods of mania where they cannot judge risk.
It is the most serious form of depression and 8 percent of teens meet the criteria for it. After puberty begins, girls are twice as likely to suffer under depression. The symptoms include persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest and frequent report of physical aches and pains.
Difference between adolescent and adult depression
Teenagers are a lot more vulnerable than adults as they are still “developing” and trying to find out how to handle their lives on their own and how to become an adult. There are much more physiological, relational and environmental changes. They are trying to format a new more independent self-identity. This is why causes and symptoms differ between adult and adolescent depression. During depression adults often feel emotional pain where teens talk about physical pain such as headaches, backpain, stomach problems or they just do not feel well. Also, adults feel sad while teens are more irritable, defiant and less patient as usual. Teenagers experience sharp declines in their grades and are overly sensitive to criticism up to the point where they avoid activities because of their fear of failure.
Causes for adolescent depression
The causes for depression in teens are mostly important things in their life as friends who can cause peer pressure or sports where teenagers try to achieve good results and want to be the best but cannot make it, also the changing hormone levels and the developing bodies. Depression is a response to stressful life events. It is associated with stress, anxiety and in worst possible scenarios suicide.
Development of shame and self-criticism
A big problem is that depressed teens often feel shame and blame themselves for the situation they are in. They try to find a way out without having to ask for help because they are afraid to be a burden to someone. Thay feel that they are doing something wrong and believe that it is not okay to feel depressed. In some cases, shame and self-criticism even lead to suicide.
“Social relationships are the key to happiness and joy but also depression and anxiety”3 We are born with the need to create a positive effect in mind of others. With maturation it is the knowledge that we are valued, seen as individuals of worth by others that creates a sense of security. To create this security, one must impress other people to feel that they are being valued. Humans are innately motivated to seek social acceptance. That is probably why especially teenagers try to follow the trends and adapt their selves. Thay try to be and look like others to be accepted and that is a cause of stress in the adolescent life. Parents tell them what they are not allowed to do and it is in their nature to compare themselves and not feel accepted because they are not allowed to do as much as others. They feel shame and withdraw themselves just to not tell others that they are not allowed to, in other words that they are “different”. In adolescence people rate their peers equal or greater than their parents that is why the opinion of other adolescents is more important than the parent’s one. Teenagers criticize themselves for being different than others and not doing the same things.
Ways to help
It is clear that an adolescent with depression needs help but often they do not have the courage to ask for help or when people ask what they can do the answer is “I do not know”. People feel de need to help and think that the first step is before helping knowing what the problem is so they know what to do. Teenagers in a state of anxiety cannot explain what is going on. They need the assurance that the people that want to help know in some way what they are doing or at least do not stress them out even more. One has to be careful with helping and try to find out the needs of the person without expecting an explanation for their behaviour.
How can I help myself?
Important is that one understands oneself and what its body wants to say. A depressed adolescent cannot always distinguish reality from their thoughts. Depression lets the person think negatively and makes it hard for the teen to judge a situation. To help oneself it is important to simplify depression. The sadness is caused by negative thoughts and undesirable outcomes. The goal is to learn how to overcome and manage these thoughts and feelings. If you feel bad because of negative thoughts, change them. Use coping strategies and problem solving.
The three B’s (Brain, Body, Behaviour)
Connect your emotions with your body and behaviour. What do you feel in a situation, how does your body react and how do you behave. Concentrating yourself on these things you begin to understand yourself and your situations better. Understanding makes controlling your emotions easier. If you know how your body reacts and how you behave when you feel certain emotions, you can recreate them by behaving the way you would, feeling this certain emotion. For example, when you are happy you smile and maybe jump and scream a bit. When you behave this way, your body thinks that you are actually happy and sends hormones out so you feel better.
Handle negative thoughts
Firstly, try to categorize your thoughts into three kinds of thoughts. (1) I am unlovable (2) I am worthless (3) I am helpless. Try to categorize each thought and not just how you are feeling.
After categorizing try to find another way to look at it and search for evidence that your thought is real and not just something you made up. If that is too difficult imagine the “Mucker Monster”. Imagine that he is the one telling you all these negative thoughts and try to find evidence that he is wrong.
Another helpful thing is to keep a “positive diary” where you can and should write in every day what positive things happened during the day and what you like about yourself. Each day a small compliment to yourself. Write down what made you happy on that day and never write negative things in there.
Set four easy goals. For example, tell somebody what you are feeling or find something positive about yourself every day during two weeks or somethings like that. When you reached your goals, reward yourself and set four new goals.
Coping and problem solving
Think about your situation. Ask yourself if your situation can be changed. Do not be an easy judge. Do not just always answer this question with no. If the situation cannot be changed try a coping strategy and if it can be changed try a problem-solving strategy.
To lift mood and reduce anger and anxiety: do something fun and distracting (play with a hula hoop)
For reducing irritability, anger and anxiety in general: do something soothing and relaxing (imagine being somewhere beautiful and quiet, imagine sounds (at the beach, waves, feel the sand))
For fostering better sleep, reducing stress, generate energy: do something that expends a lot of energy (running)
To feel more connected, calm yourself, gain another perspective: seek social support
Problem definition: What is the situation? What is the problem?
Goal definition: What do you want to change? What would be the perfect outcome?
Solution generation: How can you reach your goal? What do you have to do?
Consequential thinking: What will happen when you do that? How will people react? Will something change?
Self-evaluation: Would the outcome be as wished? Is it the right thing to do?
If not, go back to point 3.
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