The teenage years can be a real bummer. Puberty, lack of confidence, school, fair-weather friends all add up to some pretty awkward years. Many of us leave high school ready to figure ourselves out and adjust into a flow of life. But many fall into a deep and chronic depression during the teenage years. According to a recent study, the rates of depression among teenage girls has seen an alarming increase over the past few years.
There are countless different varietal conditions that give many teenagers the “blues.” For example, all of the social, biological, emotional, and mental changes can really wreak havoc on a person. The pressure to conform or look a certain way is a huge source of stress for women of all ages, all over the world, but for teenage girls, it can be the worst. Our society is so hugely driven by social media and reality TV that it creates an unfortunate gap between real body image and those portrayed in the media that women try to conform to. For example, I’m 25, and when I was a teenager, Instagram and Facebook had just started really getting popular, so it wasn’t completely overwhelmed by fashion ads and people who make a living off of doing makeup, so we still turned to magazines and TV to build our ideas of the perfect look. However, this unrealistic view is now force-fed by the touch of a button and has aided in the rise of depression levels among teenage girls in America.
In a 2015 study, data showed that an estimated 3 million teens ages 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode during that year. That was 12.5% of the entire population of that age group. Out of that number, two-thirds of the population were female adolescents. These episodes ranged from a single depressive episode to episodes that inflicted chronic severe impairment on the lives of sufferers.
For the millions of young women who suffer from individual or chronic depressive episodes, it is crucial to understand that they are not alone. One of the hardest burdens to face when growing up can simply be reaching out for help. The tricky part is that people often downplay the severity of these situations, blaming it on “that time of the month” or “attention seeking.” This could not be farther from the truth.
Where it Can Lead
Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders associated with addiction. Depending on one’s school of thought, many people think that untreated depression in combination with cultural and social factors can create an alcoholic or an addict, “Well of course she drinks like that, her family life/job/relationship etc. is crazy!” The examples go on and on. The point is, it is very common for outsiders to want to blame external circumstances, and then feel confused or annoyed when the circumstances go away, but the depression in their loved one does not. This can create a rift between the depressed and the outsiders, further separating the person from the outside world.
Untreated depression usually leads to full-blown isolation, feelings of impending doom, possible anxiety attacks, and if severe enough, emaciation.
What it Looks Like
According to recent surveys, depression among teenage girls and boys can externally present itself in very different ways than mature adult depression. For example, it is mostly common for kids and teenagers to experience more physical side effects from depression. These can include feeling ill every day, rapid weight loss or gain, frequent fatigue, and untreated aches and pains.
Some of the external signs are usually more obvious – like withdrawing from favorite activities, change of eating and sleeping habits, frequent irritability or weepiness, isolation from family and friends, poor school performance, and drug use.
Unfortunately, these have all become signs of teens who are “just being crazy teenagers” so they often go unnoticed.
How to Help
While, yes, teenagers do experience mood swings and changes in tastes, habits, and friends, if you suspect your daughter to be changing completely, it is helpful to keep an eye on how long, and how deeply these effects are occurring. If it is all fleeting, you probably have a regular, growing kid. If these patterns tend to be more prolonged and increasing, it might be a good idea to start talking about it.
It is crucial to keep an open dialogue with a girl with depression. It can be very difficult for parents to not jump to anger or frustration when they see their daughter’s school performance plummeting or confusion when she no longer wants to play her favorite sport so they can sleep in on the weekends, but it is vital for parents to approach situations that are dealing with depression with compassion and understanding.
It is also beneficial to create a safe space for the girl. Have family meals at least once a week, take time to discuss how their days went, just being there is sometimes enough to make a difference. Other helpful tips are going to probably take a little more effort, for example, bringing your child to a therapist for counseling. Or if signs of depression crop up after a traumatic event, support groups can often be insanely helpful for anyone going through emotional turmoil.
The main goal to help with the rates of depression among teenage girls is that they are supported. Too often in this world do women feel ashamed to be vulnerable, too afraid to look weak. If your teenage daughter is showing signs of depression, it’s a safe bet that she will open up if approached with tenderness and compassion.
Getting Help At Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.