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Depression in teenagers: Some warning signs signal need of intervention

All adolescents who experience stressors may not develop depressive feelings, or resort to self-harm or exhibit suicidal tendencies. Multiple factors interact together to create such a susceptibility

Samir Parikh 

depression, upset, fire, suicide, man
Photo: Shutterstock

Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. The transition from childhood to the next phase of development brings with it inherent anxieties and confusions — the formation of identities, dealing with relationships and developing our own concepts. It is not surprising, therefore, why teenagers are often susceptible to developing high stress levels.

This does not mean that all adolescents who experience stressors may develop depressive feelings, or resort to self-harm or exhibit suicidal tendencies. Multiple factors interact together to create such a susceptibility. Some of the common factors include performance related pressure, high tension tasks, responsibilities at work, and environmental and psychosocial stressors.

What is important to understand is that a suicidal mind, regardless of age, gender or any other demographic variable, tends to be filled with many despairing and negative emotions that begin to overwhelm the individual. In such circumstances, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness can cause a person to resort to suicide as they tend to feel that the circumstances are beyond their control.

Here are some of the most common warning signs, which signal the need of intervention.

Social withdrawal

A teenager becoming increasingly withdrawn, avoiding social interaction and preferring to stay alone or becoming increasingly quiet is a major red flag — a sign of depressive features, or even suicidal ideation.

Sudden changes in mood

Crying spells, irritability or anger outbursts — increased emotional reactivity is another important sign. Disproportionate emotional outbursts to trivial situations, which could be in the form of grouchy behaviour, or anger outbursts, things that make an individual’s behaviour seem unpredictable in nature must not be ignored.

Dysregulation of appetite or sleep patterns

It is also important to be vigilant for sudden, unexplained changes in a person’s sleep or appetite, including excessive or a lack of sleep.

Increase in risk-taking behaviour

Often an increase in a teenager’s risk-taking abilities, such as substance abuse, could be a manifestation of mood disturbance, which could be a potential trigger for low impulse control or suicidal intent.

Feelings of helplessness

Teenagers who are extremely distressed are likely to experience feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, with a lack of control and a sense of despair clouding their minds. Some of the signs indicating such feelings include their talking about the futility of working for the future, their disinterest in planning the next step or setting any goals and showing an interest in talking about death or suicide. Any such changes in behaviour that are contrary to a person’s usual disposition must not be ignored.

First Published: Sat, October 19 2019. 23:17 IST