Teen Depression statistics indicate that only 33% of teenagers with depression access the appropriate help or services. This leaves the other 67% to deal with the intense feelings of hopelessness and feelings of isolation on their own. Depression often leads to the teenager withdrawing from potential support networks due to feelings of isolation, which sets a negative cycle into place if the teen does not received the help and support needed. Often the depressed teen lacks the insight to be able to pinpoint the problem or that there even is a problem. This results in the teen seeking relief from negative emotions through maladaptive behaviours. Untreated, these maladaptive behaviours can escalate to result in negative consequences such as
- Eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia - It is reported that girls have a higher risk of experiencing depression than boys. The teenage years are characterised by exploring sexual identity and so most teenage girls are preoccupied by their developing body image. When teen depression is untreated, feelings of inferiority and worthlessness are perpetuated. In an attempt to rectify this many depressed teen girls resort to extreme methods to improve their sense of self-worth. In many cases this results in the onset of an eating disorder.
- Running away - Depression can cause the teen to become so overwhelmed by their negative thoughts and emotions that they feel unable to cope with even minor problems in everyday life. Many depressed teenagers try to escape their realities by running away. This is often also a cry for help.
- Problems at school - A common physiological symptom of depression are fatigue and low energy levels which has a negative impact on concentration. This can result in problems with school work, poor attendance and lack of social participation. These occupations are the building blocks to the teen's future, so if left untreated, continued poor performance in the various life areas could have detrimental effects on the life of the future adult.
- Addiction - While experimentation is common in teens, the experience of depression magnificently increases the risk of drug and alcohol abuse in teenagers. Often the depressed teen uses substances as a way to 'numb' or 'escape' from the negative emotions they experience. However, in today's technological world, substance abuse is not the only form of addiction in teenagers. There is a rapidly growing trend toward teens becoming addicted to technology. The depressed teen may find solace in the faceless characteristic of the cyber-world. The depressed teen may become addicted to overcoming feelings of isolation through technology.
- Violent and Reckless Behaviour - Constant exposure to negative emotions can cause violent outbursts in some teens who find it difficult to express their emotions verbally. There is also an increasing trend of teens who 'bottle-up' negative emotions over a long period of time to lash out with violence when these emotions become intolerable. Since the depressed teen often lacks self-respect, reckless behaviour such as sexual permissiveness can be used as a cry for help.
- Self-injury - sometimes the emotions experienced by the depressed teen are so intense and overwhelming that self-injury and self-mutilation such as cutting, burning and biting are seen better alternatives.
- Suicide - when feelings of hopelessness and helplessness become so severe, the depressed teen may have suicidal ideation, which inevitably leads to suicide attempts as a cry for help if the depression goes untreated. Worse still. The teen may experience their situation to be so hopeless that they see death as the only option.
Given the negative effects of untreated teen depression, it is crucial that the signs and symptoms of depression are recognised early and the appropriate services are accessible to teenagers.
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