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Teens and Depression

Ophelia Gherman, M.D.
October 27, 2016
Just as we are to physical illnesses, everyone is susceptible to mental health illnesses, including teenagers. Here are some indicators that your teen is depressed or is heading down the road to depression.

Just as we are to physical illnesses, everyone is susceptible to mental health illnesses, including teenagers. Due to peer-pressure for social acceptance, the many changes going on in their lives at this time, and any number of external and internal factors, teens can often be at risk for depression and anxiety.


Here are some indicators that your teen is depressed or is heading down the road to depression: 

(List compiled from Dr. David Burns’ 10 Cognitive Distortions)


1) All or nothing thinking: your teen sees everything in black or white and repeatedly use the terms “always” “never” and “every.” If their performance falls short of their expectations, they see themselves as a failure without any consolation.


2) Filtering: Your teen focuses on the negative aspects of situations and filters out the positive details. Positive affirmations are dismissed while mistakes are resented and overanalyzed.


3) Overgeneralization: Your teen draws a definitive conclusion based on one piece of evidence. For example, after a failed interview, one may overgeneralize and say they will never get a job.  These statements are usually full of hopelessness and negativity.


4) Jumping to conclusions: Your teen makes a negative interpretation without direct evidence to support their thinking. Instead of using logical evidence to lead to a conclusion, they will start looking for negative evidence that supports their pre-conceived idea. This builds resentment and distances the teen from their family member or friends.


5) Emotional reasoning and blaming: When your teen feels guilt, shame, and inadequate, they may believe their feelings are automatically true. They allow their feelings to guide their thoughts and decisions. This often leads to either internal or external blaming. They may blame you or others for their feelings and overlook their contribution to the problem by repeated statements such as “Stop making me feel bad about myself” or “You’re the reason why this happened.”


Helping your child overcome negative thoughts begins many years before adolescence. Bonding begins in the infant years and matures with the psychological maturity of the child. Be prepared for your teen’s future needs by forming bonds and communication models in the early years. Parents should spend quality time with their children, interacting regularly and purposefully. Make sure you spend productive and leisure time with your child and make the time enjoyable and comfortable. Connect with your child’s emotional needs early on. Be joyful in their simple joys and show sadness in their little sorrows. Children begin to mimic parents early on, so setting the right model of emotional management is crucial to future emotional maturity. By showing patience when tested and positive reaction when pressured, you are not only reflecting a Christ-like attitude but giving a spiritual example that will mold your child’s future emotional health.


In the teen years, encourage your Child to trust in God and His saving Grace. Spend time with your teen, asking them about their feelings. Don’t be quick to offer advice before getting the entire picture and understanding exactly how they are feeling. Reference Bible scripture and help your teen commit encouraging promises from the Bible. For example, Philippians 4:8 is the litmus test of what Christian thoughts and emotions should reflect. Additionally, praying with your child will help build trust and rapport. Admitting your parental need of Christ for forgiveness and transformation will open the door for communication and trust. Both boys and girls are susceptible to depression and anxiety at any age. Talking to your teen is a crucial aspect of their formative years.


Thoughts are subtle and invisible to parents, yet we can take comfort in the fact that God is the discerner of the mind and heart. Pray for wisdom to discern signs of negative thoughts and feelings and for grace to approach this sensitive and often private issue.


Note: This article is intended to create awareness, promote early detection, and to encourage prevention of this illness. At any indication that your teen may be suffering from depression, we highly recommend talking to his or her pediatrician for professional help.