24 August 2016
One would naturally be inclined to think teenagers have no business being depressed. Why should they? After all, they’ve got little worries – little compared to that of adults.
The above is the thought of an average individual but definitely not that of a professional in the field of human psychology.
Dr. Stuart Goldman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital said: “Going off into the world, establishing a clear identity, developing a capacity for intimate relationships, and forming a foundation to build a future career and adult life, are all part of the challenges to people in their teenage years, and that could make them vulnerable to depression.
“These are the things that teenagers are dealing with until their brain is fully mature. The prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain involved in reasoning and controlling impulses — finishes developing about age 25.
“Most people, who have a genetic vulnerability to depression, typically experience their first episode of the condition between ages 14 and 24.
“The vast majority of people with a depressive episode in this age group will have a recurrence within five years of the first episode,” Goldman said.
In order to determine if a teenager is depressed, Goldman described some common signs and symptoms in this age group:
A lack of enjoyment
Losing interest in one’s pleasurable activities is a tell-tale sign of depression. They may tend to start isolating themselves and be less sociable, withdrawing from their peers and spending more time alone.
Feeling persistently down seems to drain energy and increase fatigue, making it harder to get out of bed or keep up with usual activities.
Poor concentration and inattentiveness while in college, on the job or in the military can further erode self-esteem.
Early morning awakenings
Depressed teenagers may find themselves frequently waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning, unable to fall back asleep.
Increased alcohol consumption or use of other drugs
To ease the pain and loneliness of depression, some teenagers may resort to drugs as an escape or to numb their pain.
“Be honest with yourself about substance abuse. Don’t just say everybody else is doing it. Having a close confidant, whether it’s a friend or life partner, can help in recognising a problem and doing something about it, Goldman said.
People with depression can have a shift in their weight, in either direction. Some people lose weight because they lose their appetite and have less interest in eating, but others put on pounds, using food as consolation.
Goldman recommends that parents shift their role from “managing” their kids when they are 18 years to 20 years to becoming “consultants,” starting at age 21 and beyond, available to provide a young person with guidance and support.
But beyond that, teenagers must recognise that the best years they have is in their teens; rather than be depressed and let life pass you by, jack yourself up, and tell yourself – it is time to birth those world changing ideas and look forward to rewarding years ahead.
Author: Dotun Obatuyi
My name is Dotun Obatuyi (Dotunoba), I hail from Osun state, a public health scientist (monitoring and evaluation specialist), my keen interests are researching, critiquing and writing feature articles on health, science and technology as well as issues around the globe.