Very often teenage depression and anxiety tends to go unrecognized. The teen years are complex and can be difficult to maneuver, for both parent and teen alike. Symptoms of depression or anxiety in a teen can be highly varied and tend to overlap with other issues. One in eight teenagers struggle with depression. When we have a teen who acts out, talks back to us or does not confide in parents or adults around him, we often tend to dismiss these behaviors as normal teenage behavior.
However, this era of high technology also creates a dynamic where teens no longer have to have face-to-face communication. Studies have shown that technology and newer patterns of communication can serve to inhibit social bonding and foster miscommunication, particularly among young people. This in turn can lead to more social isolation or a feeling that they don’t belong.
Teens who tend to be more depressed or anxious may have a more difficult time feeling connected to their peers. They tend to act out or often inflict harm on themselves such as cutting for various reasons. They may not be as forthcoming with their friends if they feel they want to hurt themselves or their communication may be misunderstood. They sometimes look for like minded individuals and have friends who may encourage these unhealthy behaviors. Sometimes they turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with their feelings.
Talk to your teen about some of the pitfalls of high tech issues and you are sure to get an eye roller or sigh. Similarly, it is frustrating for a parent to ask a teen how he is handling the stress of life or school only to be dismissed with a shrug. The goal isn’t to get them off the hashtag or tweet, but to encourage real communication with appropriate problem solving skills that are pertinent to their life as it is now. I have found that therapy works well with teens as they usually are at a place where they want their lives to be better. Usually, they, just like their parents, are highly motivated to work together to create close family bonding. In addition to helping adolescents cope better with their mood, I also find ways to encourage communication between parent and teen that also gives the teen the level of respect and autonomy that they desire.