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Depression, clinically referred to as major depressive disorder (MDD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), and is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. Teenage depression is not uncommon. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that an estimated 3.2 million adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode (which makes up 13% of the U.S. population in that age group). Major depressive disorder that goes untreated can increase the risk of developing diabetes, osteoporosis, substance abuse, and more. MDD is a complex psychiatric disorder that affects mood, cognition, behavior, and impedes adaptive functioning. 

How To Help

It can be difficult to distinguish between behaviors associated with typical teenage insecurities and those that may be indicative of depression. However, being aware of and able to recognize the warning signs of teenage depression is imperative. When a teenager is struggling with depression consider providing support by:

  • Having open lines of communication: create an emotionally safe environment for your teenager to share. Have regular check-ins to make sure your teen knows you are available to listen and provide feedback (when asked). 
  • Encouraging your teen to take care of his or her body: engaging in healthful habits and physically taking care of one’s body can improve mental health. To help get them started offer suggestions like:
    • Eat nutritious meals
    • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and other drugs
    • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
    • Get enough sleep
    • Exercise regularly
  • Exploring different de-stressing techniques with your child: try out different stress reducing tactics and relaxation exercises to quiet the mind, like yoga or meditation. Research has found that meditation can help lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, improve insomnia, and more.  
  • Helping your teen discover what makes them laugh: research shows that laughter can boost one’s immune system, ease pain, enhance relaxation, assuage depression, and reduce stress.
  • Encouraging your teen to revisit and take part in things that made them happy in the past: although a common symptom of depression is being unable draw joy from previously enjoyed pastimes, going through the motions of engaging in hobbies or activities that were once fulfilling can be comforting and a familiar reminder that life has the potential to be brighter. 
  • Remaining non-judgmental and showing compassion: every child wants to feel seen, loved, and appreciated. 

It is important to be aware of your own limitations and recognize that your teenager may be dealing with certain issues that extend beyond your abilities. There is a plethora of highly qualified professionals available that have extensive experience, expert knowledge, and specialize in working with young people struggling with depression. 

Further Information and Support

For most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.

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