If your teen exhibits any of these symptoms, it is important to seek professional help immediately. However, it is also essential to remember that depression exists upon a spectrum and that the severity of your teen’s symptoms will vary greatly.
Effective treatment for teenage depression includes psychotherapy and medication. The skills learned in the best depression treatment programs empower teenagers to live lives not dominated by their mental health condition.
If a child or teen is suffering from depression, treatment should begin as soon as possible. Depending on the severity and whether or not there are other accompanying mental illnesses (such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety or bipolar depression) a combination of psychotherapy and medication may be needed.
Talk therapy (psychotherapy) has been proven to be an effective treatment for depression in children and teens. Two types of talk therapies that have been shown to be especially helpful are cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. Both are considered empirically based, meaning that they have been tested and shown to be beneficial.
Some adolescents with depression can benefit from antidepressants, particularly SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft) and citalopram (Celexa) help certain natural chemicals in the brain manage mood.
However, for some teens medication is not necessary. In these cases, a doctor will work with your teen to find an alternative therapy that will not only treat their depression but also address any physical symptoms they are experiencing such as low appetite or difficulty sleeping.
As a parent, you can provide your teen with support and encouragement as they seek treatment for depression. You can be an empathetic listener and encourage them to seek help, even if they are hesitant or ashamed of their symptoms. You can also help them establish healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, eating nutritious foods and getting plenty of sleep.
For teens who are not ready to take antidepressants, psychotherapy may be an option. Also known as psychological counseling or talk therapy, this type of treatment involves talking about depression and related issues with a mental health professional. Different types of psychotherapy may be effective for depression, including cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.
Encourage your teen to talk about their feelings with you and with a therapist. If they feel embarrassed or ashamed, remind them that their symptoms are real and help is available. You can also encourage them to take steps to help improve their mood, such as limiting media use (which is linked with depression) and getting enough sleep.
If your teen has suicidal thoughts, seek a mental health professional immediately. They may need to be hospitalized while they learn coping skills and develop a safety plan.
After a physical exam and lab tests to determine whether or not there is an underlying physical cause of depression, your teen will likely undergo a psychotherapy evaluation. This will usually include an in-depth discussion about their thoughts, feelings and behaviors as well as a questionnaire. Parents are often not present for these sessions because teens may be reluctant to discuss sensitive issues in front of their parents. However, there are some psychotherapies that involve the entire family, such as dialectical behavior therapy.
When your teenager is feeling down or having negative feelings, it’s important for you to help them recognize that their mood and behaviors are not typical. They may need to be reminded that depression is real and can’t just be “brushed off.”
Psychotherapy or counseling teaches teens how to manage their emotions, as well as cope with their symptoms. Often, it starts with a therapist explaining how thoughts and emotions interact. Then, the teen will learn how to change those thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to their low mood. Often, a therapist will offer guidance on how to deal with life stressors, as well. Teens may meet with a therapist in their office or on a secure telehealth platform, usually once a week for 30 to 60 minutes.
Some types of psychotherapy that are helpful for adolescent depression include interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy, and family therapy. These psychotherapies are usually offered in conjunction with medication or as an alternative to medication.
While you can encourage your teen to seek treatment for their depression, it’s also important for them to want it. If they don’t, it can be difficult for a mental health professional to work with them. If you notice that they aren’t interested in getting better, try to encourage them by showing that you care and offering to listen without judgment.
For many teens who struggle with depression, alternative medicine can be a powerful and effective treatment. A combination of dietary changes, exercise, light therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful in improving symptoms. These treatments are not a substitute for medication, and should only be used under the supervision of a health care professional.
Teenage depression is often difficult to diagnose and treat. If you notice changes in your child’s mood or behavior that last more than a few weeks, it is important to get them evaluated by a mental health professional. Depression can be serious and, if left untreated, it can lead to other health problems.
If your teen does decide to seek help for depression, make sure they choose a therapist that specializes in working with teenagers. They should also choose a therapist that practices one of the psychotherapies that have shown some success in treating depression, such as interpersonal therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Antidepressants can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in some teens, so it is important to monitor your teen closely when taking these medications. Your doctor may prescribe only small supplies of pills at a time and may recommend that you lock up the medications at home so they cannot be easily stolen. It is also important to let your teen know that there is nothing embarrassing or shameful about depression, and they should not feel the need to hide their symptoms from friends and family.
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