7 Reasons Why Depression Amongst Teenagers Is Common Nowadays
The one experience that unites parents of teenagers worldwide is grappling with teenage blues. Happy little kids suddenly metamorphose into sulking aliens and refuse to discuss what is going on in their precocious heads; adolescents become conscious of their individuality and start behaving secretively. Though mood swings are part of growing up pangs, parents feel worried being unaware of the issues that may be bothering their children. Teenagers, on the other hand, believe that they have grown up enough to deal with problems on their own, but often, they lack the emotional maturity to deal with the situations. Moodiness during the wonder years is normal due to hormonal changes in the body but sometimes behavioural changes can mask a serious concern – depression. About 4 - 5% of pre-pubertal children are affected by depression and the rate is almost the same for boys and girls. However, at the pubertal stage, compared to boys, girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression, and the average age of onset of depression is 14 years. The reason for depression being more common in girls can be attributed to the fact that girls attain physical maturity earlier and their bodies are biologically designed to respond to emotional stimuli necessary for child-rearing from the onset of puberty. Hence girls are more sensitive emotionally. Hormonal changes do lead to mood swings in adolescents but it tends to stabilize after the initial period of upheaval. The main difference between normal teenage mood swings and depression is the frequency in change of mood. Youngsters going through pubertal mood swings can be sulky or irritable for some time, but once their mood improves, they are back to being happy and outgoing. Depression, on the other hand, is an internalising mood disorder. A teenager suffering from depression will remain downcast or sad for prolonged periods and external stimuli may not improve her/his mood. Teenagers suffering from depression are also at risk of developing anxiety. General symptoms of depression in teenagers are –
- Withdrawal – The teenager withdraws from social interactions and no amount of coaxing or exciting proposition can influence her/him to be more participative.
- Lack of interest – The child loses interest in activities that he/she found interesting until recently.
- Changes in academic performance – Grades plummet, and she/he loses interest in studies.
- Changes in eating habits – The teenager develops some form of eating disorder. Body image issues also contribute to this and girls are more at risk of developing complications related to anorexia and bulimia.
- Changes in sleeping patterns – Either sleeps too much or has difficulty in falling asleep.
- Self-injury – More commonly seen in girls, self-inflicted injuries like cuts on inner arms using razor blade or knife is often a coping mechanism for depressed teenagers.
- Low self-esteem - Teenagers are at an age when they are just beginning to have questions about individual identity. They want to look and behave like their role models and the disparity between the real and the imagined often leads to low self-esteem. Underestimation and humiliation by adults are also responsible for low self-esteem.
- High sensitivity to negative feedback or rejection.
- Frequent complaints of physical pain like a headache, stomach ache, or body ache.
- Expressing interest in death or having suicidal thoughts.
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