When it comes to teen depression, most of the attention about this serious mental health disorder has been directed towards girls. While true that girl teens struggle with depression in greater numbers than boys, boys are more inclined to choose an impulsive solution for the disorder, including suicide. Among teens that do complete suicide, the majority are boys.
While young men struggle with issues that can manifest in a depressive disorder, societal expectations continue to encourage males to suck it up and hide their feelings. Nothing could be more dangerous, as depression can have far-reaching consequences in a male teen’s life. By having a better understanding of what depression in teen boys looks like, parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, and other authority figures will be better equipped to provide more timely intervention.
About Depression in Teen Boys
Teen boys who struggle with depression may exhibit different types of symptoms than girls who battle depression. Males may not readily identify their symptoms as those of depression. Instead teen boys may exhibit signs of aggression, irritability, open hostility, and anger as an outlet for the depressive disorder. In addition, boys tend to distract themselves from uncomfortable emotions through activities, such as playing video games, watching TV, or listening to music.
Culturally, young men are much less willing to turn to another person to seek support for the feelings they are experiencing, versus young women, who are comfortable seeking solace from others. However, the distraction strategies teen boys might employ only set them to remain in denial. Eventually, if the depression is prolonged or worsens, these young men may get to a place where they feel completely out of control. The teen may begin to pull away from friends or lose interest in the activities or sports they usually enjoy. This may lead the teen to begin abusing alcohol or drugs, or to suicidal ideation.
Causes of Depression
The teen years offer ample opportunities to develop depression. Academic competition may lead to feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. Social struggles are a common problem among teens, with social media shaming, bullying, or difficulty fitting in leading to feelings of despair. Family problems, such as a divorce, relocation, a parent losing their job, a family member battling a serious illness, or the sudden death of a loved one can stoke depression in teens.
In addition to these environmental factors, biology also plays a part in a teen developing depression. When a close family member has a history of depression there is a higher likelihood of other family members also struggling with depression. Other factors might include gender identity issues, physical or sexual abuse, or bipolar disorder.
Signs of Depression in Teen Boys
Teen boys struggling with depression will exhibit a cluster of the following symptoms:
- Hostility or angry outbursts
- Violent behavior
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Loss of interest in the extracurricular activities once enjoyed
- Poor academic performance, skipping school
- Increasing risk-taking behaviors
- Substance abuse
- Self-harming behaviors, although more common in girls
- Listless, lethargic
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Minor physical complaints, such as stomachaches or headaches
- Sleep disturbances
- Inappropriate feelings of guilt or shame
- Talking about death or suicide
Getting Help for Teen Boys Who Struggle With Depression
When signs of depression in teen boys become sustained for more than two weeks it is prudent to schedule a physical exam. A primary care physician will evaluate the teens general health status to determine if there is a medical cause for the depression symptoms. If not, the doctor will likely prescribe the teen psychotherapy with a referred mental health practitioner.
The psychotherapist will first assess the teen to arrive at a diagnosis using the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. In most cases the appropriate therapy for a teen with depression is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT offers a type of therapy that helps teens identify their thought distortions and subsequent maladaptive behaviors. Once the teen is aware of how his thought and behavior patterns are self-sabotaging and destructive, he can learn new ways to shape self-messaging that will lead to productive and positive behaviors.
In some cases, the teen may be referred to a psychiatrist who will prescribe antidepressants to help manage the depression by adjusting neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. The combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants may be sufficient to help diminish the symptoms of depression. However, if the teen has developed a co-occurring substance use disorder, the doctor may prescribe addiction treatment as well.
Residential Treatment for Treating Depression in Teen Boys
Residential treatment is an appropriate level of care for teens who have not managed the depression adequately through their outpatient providers. These teens may be experiencing declining mental health that is causing significant impairment in daily functioning. The more intensive treatment structure of a residential mental health program can allow the teen to delve more deeply into treatment and focus solely on getting better.
A residential treatment program will create a highly individualized plan for treating the depressive disorder. Days are tightly scheduled with various therapeutic activities, including:
- Group therapy
- Family-focused therapy
- Experiential activities
- Holistic therapies
- Medication management
- Medical detox, if applicable
Teen males struggling with depression will find a residential setting to be an opportunity to remove themselves from various stressors and spend their time and energy on reclaiming an enhanced quality of life.
BNI Treatment Centers Provides Effective Treatment for Teens With Depression
BNI Treatment Centers is a Los Angeles-based residential teen treatment center for adolescent aged 12-17. BNI Treatment Centers are owned and operated by psychiatrists with decades of experience treating teens with depression, in addition to a wide range of mental health disorders. They have designed a residential program to resonate with the teen, providing experiential therapies and holistic activities that are relevant to this age bracket. These include surf therapy, equine therapy, art, music, or drama therapy, mindfulness training, yoga, and more. Combining these with traditional evidence-based therapies allows all aspects of the teen’s psycho/social/behavioral self to be addressed and treated using an integrated approach. For more information about depression in teen boys, please connect with BNI Treatment Centers today at (888) 522-1504.