Teenage Depression: Causes and Prevention

In the previous post we looked at 5 things you can do if you think a teenager may be depressed. In this thrid and final post we will discuss what are the possible causes of depression, and how to lower the risk factors for teenagers getting depressed.

What causes depression?

There is no one definable cause of depression.  While there are many physiological conditions associated with depression  (chemical imbalances, high levels of stress hormones, etc.) these are just as likely to be symptoms, as opposed to causes, of depression.  Similarly depression is not transmitted genetically as it is associated with learned patterns of thought and behaviour.

There is widespread agreement that depression is associated with how individuals respond to stressful or negative situations and messages.  It involves how an individual thinks about reality and the manner of the belief systems that are generated through various thought processes.

For teenagers there are certain events that may trigger depression.  Events such as:

  • Family turmoil or breakdown.
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Significant social rejection
  • Traumatic events or injuries
  • Failing exams

Depression amongst teenagers has also been linked to drug and alcohol abuse.

When considering the list above remember that what is considered a traumatic event for a teenager might be very different to what an adult considers to be traumatic.  Try to see things from the teenager’s point of view.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

Encouraging teenagers to exercise regularly and maintain a balanced diet, are often recommended methods for reducing the risk of developing depression.  As I write this I am very aware that getting some teenagers to exercise regularly and eat well is can make ending world poverty look easy, but a healthy lifestyle does lower the risk of developing depression.

Another important factor in teenagers maintaining good mental health is sleep.  There is an increasing amount of research that suggests many teenagers in the western world are sleep deprived.  All of us can relate to the world looking a lot worse, and life feeling a lot harder, when we are tired.  So too with teenagers, if they do not get enough sleep their capacity to cope with stressful situations are diminished and their ability to solve problems constructively lessens.

Of course, as with most facets of healthy teenage development, a safe, loving, and supportive home life will increase the chances that teens will develop constructive thought patterns and higher degrees of resilience.  Teenagers who are encouraged to talk about their feelings and feel free to discuss problems openly and honestly are les likely to bottle up negative thoughts and feelings.

That been said, a happy home is no guarantee of avoiding depression, it will merely lessen the risk.

Depression can be a confusing and distressing for both the sufferer and those close to them.  Please seek professional help if you or your teenager are struggling with depression.  Depression is treatable and sufferers and those close to them can return to a normal lifestyle.

Below are some links to some services that can provide information and support.

Black Dog Institute

Beyond Blue

Professional Counselling (Australia)

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