On Teenage Depression

On Teenage Depression

Most people are experiencing some degree of depression during the pandemic, but it is higher in teenagers. Not being in school, around friends, no extracurricular activities, no socializing and spending more time on social media and video games are taking a toll.

Some degree of depression has always been characteristic of adolescence. However, it is currently more severe for many young people. Many keep their feelings hidden, and this has caused many parents to be concerned.

Because of the biochemical changes and stress on teenagers, some depression is typically found in those between 12 to 18 years of age. Their bodies are changing quickly and there is increasing academic and social pressure.

The current increase in numbers and severity is believed partially attributable to the reliance on technology. Teenagers are often texting rather than talking. Young people are often playing games on their phones rather than interacting with other people. Physical activity is more limited. Activity and interaction with people are necessary parts of our lives.

How one appears externally is not always consistent with how one feels. Self-doubt, feelings of aloneness, failure and fear, are often not expressed. The need to be seen a certain way by peers often prompts a child to hide their true feeling from their friends. Many don’t know how to share feelings and thoughts with parents.

I advocate open communication in families. Teaching children the language of feelings when they are young creates a language to communicate how we are. Having conversations is invaluable. It is meaningful to create one-on-one time with our children. It can be time to share thoughts and feelings without distraction.

I discourage interrogating a child. It is best to be observant and involved. Be available. Have a conversation about depression and its role in our lives. Everyone will be depressed at some time; the loss of an animal, failing a test, loosing a friend. Disappointment can be difficult. It is wise to have someone who will listen. Talk about adolescent depression. Encourage activities with friends and less time on phones and computers. Mention the option of talking to someone outside the family so that it can be seen as an option if a child should prefer that.

Adults can seek counseling themselves if they have a concern. It is best to explore rather than regret.

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to drnataliegelman@gmail.com or through her website, www.drnataliegelman.com.