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A guide to realizing if

your child is at-risk, displaying 

self-destructive behaviors, and

needs your help and intervention.




Struggling Teens

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Learn more how Total Transformation, an at-home program for parents, can help your struggling teen and heal your family.




Will being ADOPTED make adolescence  harder for my child?


How can I deal with the ANGER

 in our family?


Is my teen's BEHAVIOR just normal teenage rebellion?


What do parents and teachers need to know about BULLYING?


How do I find a THERAPIST for my teen?




How can I help my OVERWEIGHT



How do I find a good OUTDOOR PROGRAM for my teen?


My teen is cutting.  What do I need to know about  SELF-INJURY?


What is 'normal' teen SEXUAL BEHAVIOR and what is cause for concern?


How can I help my teen adjust to our STEPFAMILY?






Teen Depression

  Attachment & Attachment Disorders  -  Teen Suicide

Hotlines & Helplines  -  Counseling & Therapy  -  Self-Help & Support Groups

Anxiety & Anxiety Disorders  -  Emotional Health


Depression is defined as an illness when the feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair persist and interfere with a personís ability to function.


Though the term 'depression' can describe a normal human emotion, it also can refer to a mental health illness.  Depressive feelings can range in severity.  It is defined as an illness when the feelings of depression persist and interfere with a child or adolescent's ability to function.




Two of the main causes of depression are:

  • Unresolved grief due to death, loss of relationship, loss of hopes and dreams, abandonment, or traumatic event

  • Emotional detachment from fear or inability to connect with another or others

Children under stress, who experience loss, or who have attention, learning, conduct or anxiety disorders are at a higher risk for depression.  Teenage girls are at especially high risk, as are minority youth.


Depressed youth often have problems at home.  In many cases, the parents are depressed, as depression tends to run in families.


Over the past 50 years, depression has become more common and is now recognized at increasingly younger ages. As the rate of depression rises, so does the teen suicide rate.


It is important to remember that the behavior of depressed children and teenagers may differ from the behavior of depressed adults.  The characteristics vary, with most children and teens having additional psychiatric disorders, such as behavior disorders or substance abuse.


Mental health professionals advise parents to be aware of signs of depression in their children.


If one or more of these signs of depression persist,

parents should seek help


Frequent sadness, tearfulness, crying

Teens may show their pervasive sadness by wearing black clothes, writing poetry with morbid themes, or having a preoccupation with music that has nihilistic themes.  They may cry for no apparent reason.



Teens may feel that life is not worth living or worth the effort to even maintain their appearance or hygiene.  They may believe that a negative situation will never change and be pessimistic about their future.


Decreased interest in activities; or inability to enjoy previously favorite activities  

Teens may become apathetic and drop out of clubs, sports, and other activities they once enjoyed.  Not much seems fun anymore to the depressed teen.


Persistent boredom; low energy

Lack of motivation and lowered energy level is reflected by missed classes or not going to school.   A drop in grade averages can be equated with loss of concentration and slowed thinking.


Social isolation, poor communication

There is a lack of connection with friends and family. Teens may avoid family gatherings and events. Teens who used to spend a lot of time with friends may now spend most of their time alone and without interests. Teens may not share their feelings with others, believing that they are alone in the world and no one is listening to them or even cares about them.


Low self esteem and guilt

Teens may assume blame for negative events or circumstances.  They may feel like a failure and have negative views about their competence and self-worth.  They feel as if they are not "good enough."


Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure

Believing that they are unworthy, depressed teens become even more depressed with every supposed rejection or perceived lack of success.


Increased irritability, anger, or hostility

Depressed teens are often irritable, taking out most of their anger on their family.  They may attack others by being critical, sarcastic, or abusive.  They may feel they must reject their family before their family rejects them.


Difficulty with relationships

Teens may suddenly have no interest in maintaining friendships. They'll stop calling and visiting their friends.


Frequent complaints of physical illnesses, such as headaches and stomachaches

Teens may complain about lightheadedness or dizziness, being nauseated, and back pain. Other common complaints include headaches, stomachaches, vomiting, and menstrual problems.


Frequent absences from school or poor performance in school

Children and teens who cause trouble at home or at school may actually be depressed but not know it.  Because the child may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that the behavior problem is a sign of depression.


Poor concentration

Teens may have trouble concentrating on schoolwork, following a conversation, or even watching television.


A major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns

Sleep disturbance may show up as all-night television watching, difficulty in getting up for school, or sleeping during the day.  Loss of appetite may become anorexia or bulimia.  Eating too much may result in weight gain and obesity.


Talk of or efforts to run away from home  

Running away is usually a cry for help.  This may be the first time the parents realize that their child has a problem and needs help.


Thoughts or expressions of suicide or self-destructive behavior

Teens who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide.  Depressed children and teens are at increased risk for committing suicide.  If a child or teen says, "I want to kill myself," or "I'm going to commit suicide," always take the statement seriously and seek evaluation from a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional.  People often feel uncomfortable talking about death.  However, asking whether he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful.  Rather than "putting thoughts in the child's head," such a question will provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the young person the chance to talk about problems.


Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Depressed teens may abuse alcohol or other drugs as a way to feel better.



Teens who have difficulty talking about their feelings may show their emotional tension, physical discomfort, emotional pain, and low self-esteem with self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting.


Early diagnosis and medical treatment are essential


Depression requires professional help, self-help, and support from family and friends.  Comprehensive treatment often includes both individual and family therapy.


There are several ways to get referrals of qualified mental health professionals, including the following:

  • First, check with your insurance company for any limitations.

  • Talk to family members and friends for their recommendations.  If you participate in a parent support group, ask other members for their recommendations.

  • Ask your child's primary care physician or your family doctor for a referral.  Tell the doctor what is important to you in choosing a therapist so he or she can make appropriate recommendations.

  • Inquire at your church, synagogue, or place of worship.

  • Call professional organizations for referrals.

  • Network the resources listed on your state's Family Help page.

  • Look in the phone book for the listing of a local mental health association or community mental health center and call these sources for referrals.

Ideally, you will end up with more than one therapist to interview.  Call each one and request to ask the therapist some questions, either by phone or in person.  You may want to inquire about his or her licensing, level of training, expertise, approach to therapy and medication, and participation in insurance plans and fees.  Such a discussion should help you sort through your options and choose someone with whom you believe you and your teen might interact well.




Practical Help, Real Answers

for Adoptive & Foster Parents

The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide: Help Your Child Heal From Trauma & Loss

Learn more >>




Read All The Books


Hiding from Love:  How To Change the Withdrawal Patterns That Isolate and Imprison You

by John Townsend


Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

by Robert Whitaker




More Information


Depression and Nutrition ~ Serotonin, whether created in the gut or in the brain, begins on the end of your fork.


Emotional Choices ~ What story you choose to believe about antidepressants reveals a deeper truth about who you are.


Emotional Distress Leads Children to Doubt Their Competence ~ Children who experience emotional distress from depression and anxiety are prone to viewing themselves and their world in a negative light - and this thinking leads them to underestimate their abilities.


He Never Said Goodbye (pdf) ~ The tragic story of Matthew Miller and Zoloft.


How was Prozac ever approved? ~ Information on the story of Prozac's approval by the FDA from material provided through the Freedom of Information Act.


Job on Prozac: The Pharmaceutical Option ~ Suppose that Job had had a prescription for Prozac to help lessen his pain.  Would it have been cheating to take a couple of tablets a day while God was tossing all manner of pestilence at him?


Making It Safe to Grieve ~ To risk feeling the pain is a sign of immense strength of character, not weakness.  And it is an act of courage, for it means facing not only pain and a lot of work, but also fear.  When the pain and anger of grief are allowed to take their course, they will eventually join with the gamut of other feelings of grief, including joy and hope as well as sorrow, to focus on the true enemy, death, and the true goal, life. 


The Medicalization of Unhappiness ~ Medical science "helps" unhappy people by clouding their thoughts, by making them less aware of the world, and by sapping their urge to see themselves in a true light.


Parents Guide to College Depression ~ Because a growing number of college-aged kids are reporting that they're dealing with depression, parents should think about how these kids will handle the sometimes overwhelming transition to being on their own -- and, should it bring about depression, what they can do.


Release from the Bondage of Rejection (pdf) ~ Self-rejection can have devastating effects on your life.  When you internalize the cruel words and rejection of certain people and believe their lies about you, it can wound you deeply.  You begin to think that everyone view you the way that they do -- even God.  Yet, it is bondage and you must break free of it.


Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect Between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature ~ SSRI antidepressants are advertised directly to consumers in the United States.  These highly successful direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns have largely revolved around the claim that SSRIs correct a chemical imbalance caused by a lack of serotonin - a theory for which there is  no clear or convincing evidence.


Serontonin Syndrome ~ Serotonin syndrome is a potentially serious drug-related condition characterized by a number of mental, autonomic and neuromuscular changes.


Shedding Light on the Darkness of Depression ~ The most agonizing fact of depression is that pall of darkness laid upon the mind.  Life and light seem beyond reach.  Something intervenes: a gray mist of separation, the inability to feel loved and needed, a feeling of being locked away from everything and everyone -- including God.


Study looks at loss, its role in depression ~ The events that send people into major depression are not merely losses, but humiliating ones that drive at a person's identity and self-esteem -- most typically, being abandoned by a romantic partner.


Teen Screen ~ A front group for the psycho-pharmaceutical industrial complex.


Why Anxiety And Depression Are Over-Diagnosed And Over-Treated ~ Understanding the underlying problems may lead to a non-pharmacological cure which will work far more effectively than drugs (and last longer) because it offers a fundamental solution which strikes at the very root of the problem instead of merely papering over the cracks.



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