Treatment for Teens with Depression
As a society, we often use depression and sadness interchangeably, which can make it easier to overlook how serious depression can be over time. Teens who are struggling with depression are often unlikely to reach out to you first, which means it may be up to you to start the conversation. Sometimes, your teen may be anxious about telling other people what they are going through because they don’t want it to change how other people view them. For many teens, they may not recognize how their behavior has changed or that their low mood isn’t just a part of their personality.
If your teen is struggling with depression, it can be difficult to know when to reach out for help. The earlier your teen learns how to manage their depression, the more confident they will be in other areas of their life later on. Trails Carolina Wilderness Therapy is dedicated to helping your teen build confidence and a stronger support system.
The guide is meant to be comprehensive, but as such, not every section will be applicable to everyone. Instead, we invite you to click on the links in the table of contents to jump to the sections that most interest you.
Table of Contents
- What is Depression?
- Facts about Teen Depression
- Symptoms of Depression
- Types of Depressive Disorders
- What are the Causes of Depression in Teens?
- How to Talk to Your Depressed Teen
- Treatment Options for Depressed Teens
- How Does Trails Carolina Help Teens with Depression?
What is Teen Depression?
Depression is an umbrella term that is included in the definition of multiple mood disorders and exists on a continuum from more transient depressed mood states to more chronic forms. It’s estimated that at least one in four teens will experience a depressive episode in high school. While some may have a single episode that lasts a few months, others may have several, shorter episodes that may seem to spiral. Depressed teens are more likely to struggle with school motivation, making and keeping friends, and the impact of stressful life events.
Symptoms of Teenage Depression
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor academic performance
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of shame and unworthiness
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Unexplained body aches and pains
- Experimenting with substances
- Running away from home
- Thoughts of self-harm
Types of Depressive Disorders
Major Depressive Disorder. When people talk about clinical depression, they are usually referring to Major Depressive Disorder. This disorder is diagnosed when people have experienced the majority of the above-listed symptoms for longer than two weeks. These depressive episodes can last between weeks and months, but, like other types of depressive disorders, the severity of the symptoms will fluctuate.
Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, involves cycling between high highs and low lows–often unpredictably. Unlike people with major depressive disorder, they struggle to maintain to a stable “baseline” between the mood swings they experience.
Seasonal Affective Disorder refers to a recurrent type of depression, where symptoms typically appear in the winter and subside by the summer. As this depressive disorder is closely associated with inevitable changes in weather, learning new coping mechanisms can help manage symptoms but it is hard to prevent recurring episodes.
Adjustment Disorders describe difficulties coping with major stressors, transitions, and losses in one’s life. Going through changes in one’s life, particularly during adolescence, often trigger feeling depressed and overwhelmed and can get in the way of daily functioning.
What are the Causes of Teenage Depression?
Teenage depression is a serious condition, and if left untreated, can be detrimental to the individual and their families. Professionals believe a variety of issues are involved in the development of depression.
Mayo Clinic believes, “biological chemistry in the brain: having abnormal or impaired nerve receptors, hormones, inherited traits, early childhood trauma, learned patterns of negative thinking, having low self-esteem, being bullied in school, learning disabilities or academic problems, peer pressures, victim of abuse, having other mental disorders such as anxiety or bipolar disorder, having a physical disability or chronic pain, abusing drugs or alcohol, being LGBTQ+ in an unsupportive environment, dysfunctional family, and extreme stress,” are all causes of teenage depression.
Parents and teenagers alike expect young adult years to be difficult, and at times stressful. However, in recent years, stress has built up to extreme levels for teens. Not only is academic performance more critical than ever, but also social media has played a large role in teens developing depression. Being addicted to their phones, knowing what their friends are doing at all times, and also having to be “someone” in front of the camera has all led to higher instances of depression in teens.
How to Talk to Your Depressed Teen
- Ask specific questions. Asking open-ended questions like, “is there anything I can do” implies infinite possibilities but may also suggest that you aren’t confident about what might help. They are more likely to answer your questions honestly if you are straightforward.
- Offer support and encouragement. It is important to recognize that, ultimately, they are the ones that have to face and manage their depression. Let them know that you are there to listen and support what they choose to do, but that you can’t make decisions for them.
- Help them find resources. You may not have all the answers, but you can collaborate with your child to look into treatment options and online resources to learn more about managing depression.
- Assume you know what they’re going through. Everyone experiences depression differently, so trying to compare your child’s experience to someone else’s may feel invalidating.
- Try to take on their problems as your own. Many parents neglect their own self-care in order to try to help their child and feel responsible for every choice they make.
Treatments Options for Teenage Depression
Trails Carolina believes in a positive and holistic approach in treating teenage depression. Our trained staff uses the most up to date methods of therapy, academics, and real-world scenarios to treat depression.
A wilderness environment provides a fresh perspective for teens who are struggling to feel engaged in their day-to-day life and cope with problems. A focus on adventure activities teaches teens healthy coping mechanisms to take with them after they leave that serve as a powerful tool for self-reflection and connecting with others.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help teens “recognize and change negative patterns of thinking.”
In conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, Trails Carolina teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy. Our professionals teach yoga and meditation allowing teenagers to be in the moment, and to understand and regain control over their bodies. The tools of mindfulness are used as a coping strategy, and the teenager can use these tools when they reenter the world.
Trails Carolina also focuses on dialectical behavior therapy, which “emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living.”
We believe in education, continual learning, and incorporating life skills.
How Does Trails Carolina Help Teens with Depression?
At Trails Carolina, we take students out of their high-stress, fast-paced lives and immerse them in a nurturing, calm, wilderness environment. Just the stark contrast between the two places is often enough for a teen to begin to focus on healing themselves. Wilderness programs offer unique benefits that no therapist’s office can offer. Spending more time outside, whether engaging in physical activity or sitting around a fire, is associated with significant physical and emotional health benefits.
Trails Carolina is a dynamic treatment center that focuses on patient growth as a guide for healing. We treat teens with depression using a mix of mindfulness-based activities such as yoga and meditation, and the top therapeutic methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, individual therapy, group/family therapy, education and awareness, and wilderness therapy.
HelpGuide says, “The negative effects of teenage depression go far beyond a melancholy mood. Depression can destroy the essence of your teen’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger.”
Trails Carolina treats depression by creating a safe and healthy environment for your teenager. Your teen will have a full clinical assessment; there we can gauge what therapies will best suit their needs. The wilderness experience will provide your teen with the necessary life skills they need in order to be successful when they transition home.
“What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?” Behavioral Tech. https://behavioraltech.org/resources/faqs/dialectical-behavior-therapy-dbt/
Smith, Melinda M.A. “Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression.” HelpGuide. Oct 2017 https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/parents-guide-to-teen-depression.htm
“Teen Depression.” Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/teen-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20350985
“Teen depression.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/teen-depression#1