There are many social pressures teens feel, as well as family expectations and demands. For some, those pressures might really have an effect on a teen’s mood, and could contribute to depression, anxiety, or another form of mental illness.
For instance, some of the pressures that adolescents might feel include 1) trying to make new friends and attempting to fit in. Healthy relationships with friends are central to a teen’s self-esteem. It also gives them an important social outlet. Another pressure is the demands of 2) participating in a sports team. Although doing so can give teens something positive and healthy to focus on, there might also be stress associated with practice after school and participating in games or matches. Of course, teens might also feel the anxiety of 3) trying to well in school and maintain good grades. This might be particularly true is if a teen is also on a sports team where a certain grade point average must need to be maintained.
If some of these pressures begin to feel like too much, teens might begin to notice how that stress is playing a role in his or her psychological well being. Depression might develop if an adolescent feels like he or she is not measuring up. Or if a teen carries beliefs about her abilities, worthiness, and competence, depression might also set in. On the other hand, anxiety might be a concern. Anxiety is a different sort of experience than depression. It can develop, for instance, if a teen feels fear or worry about his or her performance. Some teens feel anxiety when worried about rejection or strong criticism.
It’s important to know that there are differences between depression or anxiety and a short-term experience that might get your teen down in the dumps for a period of time. Furthermore, you might also see both depression and anxiety in your teen. These two forms of psychological illness can sometimes go hand in hand. The following are a list of signs to look for to determine whether your teen’s mood is worth seeking professional assistance from a psychologist or therapist or treatment center.
- Poor performance in school
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Lack of enthusiasm and energy
- Anger and rage
- Over-reaction to criticism
- Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
- Poor self esteem
- Restlessness and agitation
- Substance abuse
- Problems with authority
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling down
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Slow thinking
- Loss of motivation
- Sleep disturbance – insomnia / hypersomnia
- Appetite disturbance – weight loss/gain
Both depression and anxiety are common types of mental illness among teens. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately, 8% of teens meet the diagnostic criteria for major depression, and 10-15% experience depressive symptoms. NAMI also points out that in clinical settings, such as group homes, hospitals, or rehabilitative centers, as many as 28 percent of teens experience depression. In general, major depressive disorder affects almost 15 million Americans in any given year.
A recent study showed that adolescents between the ages of 14 to 18 tend to have symptoms that are typical of adult depression. The symptoms of depression in adults include depressed mood, sleep disturbance, thinking difficulties, weight/appetite disturbance, worthlessness or guilt, loss of energy, and suicidal ideation. Among adolescents in the study, the majority of them reported experiencing these same symptoms.
Certainly, there are challenges that come with the transition from childhood to adulthood, but most teens get through this change without significant behavioral issues or disturbance. Despite this, there will be periods of adolescence that will look like depression. Teenagers will experience discouragement, feelings of not fitting in, uncertainty about the future, an inability to meet the demands of parents and teachers, and this may result in a sullen mood. However, it may not be significant enough to be diagnosed as a psychological illness.
As a parent or loved one of your teen, it would be important to look for signs of mental illness, if you have any concerns. However, keep in mind that it’s always best to contact a mental health professional.