What is Depression?
Depression is officially defined as a medical disorder that causes an individual to persistently feel sad, low or disinterested in regular activities. While some temporary level of “the blues” is common in everyone depending on personality or situation, depressive disorder lasts for an extended period of time and is generally resistant to simple willpower. Major depressive disorder is diagnosed when significant symptoms are present almost every day for a minimum of two weeks. Around 5 percent of adolescents suffer from major depressive disorder either as a response to a stressful situation or an independent occurrence. Dysthymic disorder is a milder version of depression that can last for at least a year. While the effects of dysthymic disorder are somewhat lighter than major depressive disorder, it can still impair functioning at home and school.
What Does Depression Look Like In Teens?
Depression in teens can present differently than it does in adults. It is often assumed that affected individuals will be more sad and tearful than usual, but it can also make teens consistently irritable, listless, tired or uninterested in activities they used to enjoy. Episodes of depression usually last an average of eight months after which it either resolves or recurs. Changes in how a teen handles school can be a real indicator of the presence of depression:
- Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating, which can affect all aspects of school from paying attention in class and following directions to completing assignments. This can also lead to an impaired ability to organize, plan or practice abstract reasoning
- Social isolation or withdrawal from friends and peer interaction
- Aggressive behavior at school, such as increased fights, arguments or disrespect for authority figures
- Heightened sensitivity to real or perceived criticism
- Other conditions such as ADHD can combine with depression to contribute to learning disorders. Having one mental condition does not mean an individual can’t develop others
- Increased anxiety, which may manifest in difficulty being away from home or trouble transitioning from one environment to the other
- Undiagnosed and untreated learning disorders can trigger depression if a teen is frustrated with his academic difficulty or lack of progress.
What Do I Do Now?
If you feel like depression may be playing a role in your teen’s school performance, it is important to seek out help right away. Make an appointment for your child with his regular doctor, who can assess and refer you to the right resources to help him heal and recover. You should also make his teachers and school counselor aware of the issues he is facing so that they can make sure that he gets the extra assistance he needs in class. Remember that the road to recovery is often slow and bumpy, so be patient. As long as you are helping your teen address the problem with every resource you can, then you are on the right path.
Liahona Academy, located in southern Utah is a residential treatment center dedicated to helping teen boys overcome the effects of depression. Through regular therapy, accredited academics and healthy recreation, our residents gain the confidence they need to lead a successful life. If you would like to discuss our program or would like a free consultation about your son, please contact us at 1-800-675-8101.