Teen depression is one of the serious illnesses of our time. About 20% of teenagers experience depression before adulthood with 10-15% of teens experiencing symptoms of depression at any given time.
Given its prevalence, it’s somewhat surprising that most parents remain ignorant and oblivious to teen depression and wouldn’t recognize the symptoms in their teens. In their defense, teen depression can look very different from adult depression. Furthermore, the illness can be hard to diagnose since symptoms typically vary from one teen to another.
Another reason why teen depression can be hard to identify lies with teens themselves. Teenagers who live with depression can go to great lengths to hide it from their family and friends. The stigma associated with mental illnesses can prevent depressed teens from speaking out due to shame and fear of being ostracized. Teenage boys are especially reluctant to admit they’re depressed because they don’t want to be seen as weak or wimpy.
How They Hide It
These and other reasons lead teens to hide or mask their depression in various ways including:
Forced happiness. Thanks to the cultural and media stereotypes, we mistakenly assume that depressed teens cry a lot, mope around or stay in bed all day. However, teens who appear always happy, smiling, excited or cheerful could be wearing a “happy face” to mask their depression. While it can be hard to see behind this mask of happiness, it can slip sometimes revealing the anguish behind it.
Addiction. In an attempt to block out depressive thoughts or cut through the bleakness of their emotions, some teens might turn to addiction. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, food or porn all serve to temporarily lift the teen’s mood, making them forget their depression for a little while. Professional help is often needed to identify depression as the root cause of addiction in teens.
Unusual anger and irritability. Depressed teens can funnel their pain into anger, gradually becoming abusive and hostile. Seemingly small things can lead to irritation, annoyance and angry outbursts. It’s often difficult for parents to see through this anger to the emotional pain their teens are experiencing so the depression can easily go unnoticed.
Becoming more isolated or social. Teens can hide their depression by isolating themselves from their friends and family. They might become withdrawn and find excuses not to engage with others. Alternatively, they can become more social and outgoing in order to feel less isolated and alone.
Reckless behavior. Teens who are trying to mask their depression can also adopt risky behavior such as gambling, drinking, dangerous driving or rebelliousness towards authority.
In spite of the bleakness surrounding depression, it is important to remember that all hope isn’t lost. Getting your teen admitted to a therapeutic boarding school might be the best way to help them overcome their depression.
With appropriate care at the right therapeutic setting, your child can go on to live a rich and fulfilling life.