When It’s More Than Teen Angst: Differentiating Between Situational and Clinical Depression

"Teenagers are known for their angst and moodiness. You really can’t blame them with all that’s going on in their lives from physical changes and peer pressure to academic expectations and the formation of relationships."  Tyler Jacobison (Twitter | Linkedin

Feeling moody and grouchy once in a while is normal. Trouble begins when these feelings become more intense, persisting for weeks, months or even longer. Teen depression is an uncomfortable reality in our society and it’s up to parents to support and help their affected teens.

Situational vs. Clinical Depression

You can help your child by first identifying the difference between situational and clinical depression, their causes and treatment methods.

Situational depression (also known as adjustment disorder) occurs in the aftermath of monumental or traumatic changes in an individual’s life. In teens, situational depression can be triggered by parents’ divorce, a breakup from a romantic relationship, death of a loved one, academic struggles or even moving to a new area. Keep in mind that situational depression is temporary and things should go back to normal once the stressors are removed or your teen learns to cope with them.

In the meantime though, their symptoms are very real and are similar to those of chronic depression. They include:

  1. Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness or hopelessness.
  2. Changes in sleeping patterns –either difficulties in falling asleep or oversleeping.
  3.  Changes in eating patterns, loss of appetite and weight changes.
  4.  Loss of interest in hobbies, studies and life in general.
  5. Persistent lethargy and fatigue.
  6. Difficulties concentrating, making decisions or remembering tasks.
  7. Self-harming or suicide attempts.

 

Clinical depression, on the other hand, is more severe and is thought to be caused by a complex mix of brain chemical imbalances, genetic factors and social situations. It causes major long-term depressive symptoms that are pervasive enough to interfere with your teen’s daily life.

Different Treatment Approaches

The treatment your teen requires depends on the type of depression they have.

Managing Situational Depression

● Urge your teen to continue pursuing their hobbies and other leisure activities.
● Also, encourage them to eat a nutritionally well-balanced diet and get regular exercise to stimulate the production of dopamine to boost their mood.
● Joining a support group or talking out the situation with close friends and relatives can also help.
● If all else fails, seek the help of a trained psychotherapist.
Managing Clinical Depression
● Psychotherapy is a crucial part of helping your teen deal with clinical depression. Get feedback on their progress to ensure that the therapist you engage is the right fit.
● Appropriate medication in tandem with therapy will provide the best outcome for your teen. The medication might be for short or long-term use depending on the diagnosis.
● Hospitalization in a psychiatric facility might also be necessary especially if your teen is self-harming, suicidal or showing signs of delusion or psychosis.

With proper coaching, parents can learn responsive parenting skills that will help them discern behavioral issues that may predispose their teens to depression as well as learn how to assist their children to get over rough patches in their lives.

GUEST AUTHOR: Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn