We all feel low or sad or irritable from time to time. But depression is more than feeling unhappy for a few days. “What people don’t realize is that it’s not just about being sad. One of my friends described it as a persistent lack of motivation to do anything, a state of extreme emptiness without actually being able to pinpoint the reason as to why you’re feeling that way,” says Jannat Behl, founder of BabbleMe – an online therapy portal which connects people to qualified therapists.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India has the highest rate of depression with 36% of our population battling this serious mood disorder. “The majority of patients suffering fall in the age bracket of 6 and 25. And yet, mental health problems such as depression are oven shoved under the carpet in India and have somehow become equivalent with losing your sanity or not being completely able”, adds Jannat Behl. This may be changing with Deepika Padukone and Hrithik Roshan going public about their own battle with depression, and breaking the silence around mental disorders. But the issue still stands.
The majority of patients i.e. teenagers sadly suffer alone. Unlike adults, they don’t seek assistance. Why? Because they rely on parents, teachers and other caregivers to recognise their suffering and give them the help they need. The same parents and teachers who tend to blame it on hormone havoc.
However, there are multiple reasons why teenagers might suffer from depression. They face a host of pressures, right from questions about who they are and whether they fit in, to the changes that occur during puberty. So it’s easy to see why their moods swing like a pendulum. They can develop feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness over their grades, appearance, social status with peers, family life, unrealistic expectations, lack of a proper support system, relationship problems – you name it. But whatever the cause, when their family or friends don’t try to improve their mood or sense of isolation, there’s a good chance he or she may get depressed. “If you have a teen in your life, it’s important to spot the warning signs,” says Dr. Bhavna Barmi, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Founder of Psycare.
And did you know: “Having a depressive episode as a teenager more than doubles the risk of having another depressive episode in young adulthood,” says Dr. Sunil Mittal, Consultant Psychiatrist, Adiva Hospital.
Signs of Depression in Teenagers
Now with all this uncertainty, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between teenagers’ growing pains and depression. “For one, teenagers with depression don’t necessarily appear sad. The most prominent symptoms may in fact be anger, irritability and rebellion. Teens with depression may have no motivation, feel directionless and even become withdrawn,” adds Dr. Bhavna Barmi, Senior Clinical Psychologist. They may shut their bedroom door after school, stay in for hours, or even complain frequently of unexplained headaches, stomach pain, which may result in repeated visits to the school nurse.
Dr. Sunil Mittal, Adiva Hospital says, “Symptoms of depression in teenagers can vary in severity, but they can be divided into two categories – namely mood (emotional) and behavioral symptoms”.
Here are 25 signs of depression in teenagers that you need to watch out for.
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Feelings of hopeless and worthlessness
- Irritable or annoyed
- Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
- Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
- Conflict with family and friends
- Low self-esteem
- Fixation on past failures
- Exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
- Cognitive dissonance — for example, trouble making decisions, concentrating and remembering things
- Ongoing sense that the future is grim
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
- Feelings of guilt
- Tiredness and loss of energy
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Frequently skipping school
- Changes in appetite — either decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings and weight gain
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing or the inability to sit still
- Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches
- Social isolation i.e. withdrawal from friends and family
- Poor school performance
- Neglected appearance
- Angry outbursts, rebellious or disruptive behavior such as shoplifting
- Self-harm — cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing
It’s time we stop neglecting these symptoms of depression in teenagers due to the very apparent stigma in our society, as it can be very damaging if left untreated. “Instead of saying ‘snap our of it’ or waiting for the worrying symptoms to go away, consult a therapist”, says Jannat Behl, BabbleMe.
Don’t wait till it’s too late, because if you ignore teen depression – it may never go away…