The school holidays can be a testing time for families – parents trying to find new ways to keep children and teens occupied; while young people themselves may be missing school friends, or trying to assert their own independence, or simply bored no matter what activities are suggested. But what if problems are a symptom of something more concerning?
Many people wonder if children and teens can really suffer depression. In the case of teens, adults may attribute symptoms of depression to normal teen emotional swings. But experts and paediatricians point out that children and teens really can get depressed, and may be afflicted with the true illness of depression.
What Causes Young People to Succumb to Depression?
As in adults, depression may have multiple causes or one cause that varies among individuals. There are some factors that are unique to certain stages of life, however.
Children, like adults, may become depressed because of genetics. They may have inherited a tendency toward depression, and perhaps there was a trigger that caused it to surface. Children may become depressed due to divorce, as they are uniquely affected by their immediate family’s dynamic.
Bullying at school is also something children may have to face that is not a factor for adults – not to mention cyber bullying, which can have devastating consequences. Low self-esteem can also develop through comparing themselves to peers on social media.
A child with a tendency toward perfectionism may be more prone to depression as well. Children with this tendency may ‘beat themselves up’ unnecessarily over failures or perceived failures.
This age group is considered particularly prone to depression. This may be due in part to the hormonal upheavals that occur during the teen years. But be careful – it’s easy for adults to take this information and think ‘it’s just hormones’ and therefore think the depression does not need to be addressed. Experts agree that depression, regardless of its cause, is something that should be addressed and treated.
Teens may also be dealing with the bullying/self-esteem issues mentioned above, or even just ‘harmless’ teasing. They may be experiencing their first crush; or rejection from the opposite sex, or indeed same sex – realising one’s sexuality and then facing the prospect of coming out is an additional and potentially enormous minefield for those affected. Other causes may be purely physiological; maybe nothing is particularly wrong in the teen’s life, but his or her brain just seems to run in a depressed mode.
What Are the Signs?
Here are some warning signs of depression in young people.
Parents should be vigilant for any talk about suicide or morbid fascination with death. Other sources point out that television and films should be carefully monitored, both for potentially depressing subject matter and for the psychological effects of TV viewing in general (studies show that children who watch six or more hours of TV a day are more prone to depression).
– Sleep disturbances or changes in sleep habits
– Sudden increase or decrease in appetite
– Angry outbursts and/or irritability
– Lack of interest in social activities or friends
– ‘Touchy’ about perceived rejection
Some of the signs of depression in teens are like those in children; some are different. As with children, parents of teens should be keenly aware of any indications of suicidal thoughts. Music, films, and television are also sources of potentially depressing images and subject matter – although it’s important to emphasise that an attraction to these may be a symptom rather than a cause. Also, many teens attracted to ‘alternative’ subcultures can find solace and support there; and non-mainstream interests can be a positive indication of free thinking and independence.
Other signs may include:
– Weight loss or gain
– Over-exercise and/or obsessive dieting
– Binge eating
– Angry outbursts/yelling at parents
– Withdrawal from social activities and family
If your child is showing some of these signs over a period of time, you may wish to consider seeing whether they would be open to seeing a therapist who could help them. Hypnotherapy can be an extremely effective way of working with young people on a number of levels – a significant one being that they don’t have to talk about their issues if they don’t want to, or don’t feel able to. Like adults, they appreciate the deep calming relaxation involved in hypnotherapy, which can help them gain perspective on and control over their issues, and work towards clarity and understanding.
I am a qualified hypnotherapist, experienced with working with depression (see my ‘success stories’) who has successfully completed the Uncommon Knowledge course ‘How To Lift Depression Fast’. I am also experienced with working with young people, and offer a free 15 minute phone consultation (07947 475721). I am based in London, UK but can work remotely wherever in the world you may be; so please do get in touch if you or your child are affected by depression – I can help.
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