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Teens and Depression

Teens and Depression February 2012 Alison Dyck M.A.

While abstinence seminars may help a teen to choose to avoid premature sexual intimacy, parental influence is important. Parental influence is not just about imparting values. Parents who sustain warm, caring, emotionally supportive relationships with their teens throughout high school may help to guard their teen from major depression and lower their teen’s risk of premature sexual intimacy.

Teens may have down days. It happens. When those days stretch into weeks then there may be cause for concern. At this point, report cards may show something is up. The teen may be having trouble focusing and concentrating in class. Some have trouble sleeping; others may want to sleep a lot. Some may have no energy for school work anymore and this may show up in missed classes. Teens may not be interested in their friends and usual activities anymore. Others may find their appetite significantly increases or decreases. Some teens may feel excessively guilty or worthless. Guys may show depression with angry feelings erupting. Some teens may tend to dress in black clothing as an expression of how they are feeling. Some are drawn to poetry and music with morbid themes. When a cluster of at least five symptoms last for over two weeks, it may be time to consider seeking help. There are various types and depths of depression.

Depression may enter a teen’s life through a variety of ways. For some, there is a contributing biological factor such as an alteration in hormonal regulation. By age 15, a girl is twice more likely than a guy to experience depression. Some teens have a genetic predisposition to depression which is triggered through interaction with environmental circumstances. These circumstances may be: grief and loss of a family member, friend, or even a pet, abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), neglect (physical, emotional, intellectual), trauma, disability, long term illness, parental conflict and low parental support, having a depressed parent, parental economic problems, parental divorce, school transition, or abortion. The abortion may be the teen’s or the parent’s. Parental abortion may result in a lowered ability of a mom to attach to her living children. The teen senses this lack of attachment as a decrease in emotional support. Teens who have low parental emotional support, may seek the support elsewhere such as in a peer relationship. This relationship may lead to sexual intimacy.

While depression does not predict a teen may be sexually active, it may be a contributor. Then as a teen becomes sexually active, they may be at even greater risk for depression. Parental warmth of relationship may be an intervention that can interrupt this negative cycle. Parental warmth involves: caring eye contact, catching and complimenting positive behaviour, and compassion for failure. The parental relationship may be a huge factor in bringing the struggling teen back from the emotional darkness of depression and the dangers of premature sexual intimacy. If you have no teens in your life, perhaps you would consider becoming a caring, compassionate support person for a teen.