severe clinical depression in teens

Treating Severe Clinical Depression in Teens

As most parents are aware, their teen’s blue moods are usually transitory. Often, the bouts of sadness are directly connected to a slight, a rumor, a criticism, or unrequited love. Teens are emotionally sensitive by nature, so social issues or academic challenges can easily whipsaw their moods. Moodiness is indeed part and parcel of typical teenage behavior.

On the contrary, severe clinical depression in teens is a completely different story. This mental health disorder is not to be ignored or minimized, as teen suicides have spiked 30% in recent years. Depending on the severity of the depression, a psychiatrist can recommend a treatment plan that will hopefully alleviate the intensity of the symptoms as well as help the teen shift the negative thought patterns toward healthier, more constructive thoughts and subsequent behaviors.

In the event that the teen’s depression is so severe that they are not improving adequately with outpatient interventions, it indicates a more intensive treatment approach is appropriate. This higher level of care can be obtained through a residential teen mental health program. Residential programs allow the teen a period of time away from possible triggering factors where they can focus primarily on getting better.

Signs of Severe Clinical Depression in Teens

When a teen shows signs of depression, the first step to take is to schedule a physical exam and blood work. This is because some health conditions can cause symptoms of depression, so a medical condition is the first thing to rule out. If no health issue is identified, the teen will be referred to a mental health practitioner who will evaluate the teen’s symptoms. When a cluster of the following symptoms is present for most of the time over a two-week period, a diagnosis of depression will be made.

  • Loss of interest in the activities they usually enjoy
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns, over-sleeping or insomnia
  • Changes in eating habits, weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue, listlessness
  • Relationship problems
  • Withdrawing socially, isolating behavior
  • Low self-esteem, feeling inadequate, inferior to peers
  • Sensitive to peer rejection or criticism
  • Difficulty concentrating in school
  • Frequent physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches
  • Irritability, aggression
  • Talks about death, wanting to die, suicidal thoughts or attempts

Severe depression is indicated when the teen is so despondent and suicidal he or she will require residential care or hospitalization for acute stabilization.

What Causes Teen Depression?

Depression is still being studied to determine the cause of the debilitating mental health disorder. It appears to be a complex disorder with some identified causes and risk factors, although nothing that is definitive. Genetics, where there is a family history of depression, seems to play a pivotal role. Environmental factors are also noted to be causal, such as the environment one grows up in, whether there is physical or sexual abuse, neglect, violence in the home, or general dysfunction. Other risk factors for teen depression include:

  • Developmental, learning, or conduct disorders
  • Being bullied
  • Excessive stress, including academic stress and social stress
  • Family disruptions, such as divorce, relocating, illness
  • Death of a loved one
  • Gender identity issues
  • Chronic illness, such as diabetes

Treatment Solutions for Severe Clinical Depression in Teens

When a teen’s depression spirals, leading to self-harming behaviors, suicide ideation or attempts, and serious impairment in daily functioning, they will need a high level of care. These services can be provided in a residential treatment environment or a hospital setting. The main priority initially will be to stabilize the teen, monitoring them closely, recalibrating medications, and providing psychiatric support. Once the teen is stabilized, an intensive treatment program will be indicated.

Residential treatment for severe clinical depression in teens will encompass a comprehensive mix of evidence-based therapies, family therapy, medication, and experiential activities. Depending on the severity of the depression, the teen may reside at the treatment center for a month or longer, during which staff tutors will assist them in keeping up with schoolwork.

Therapy is the cornerstone of a residential program for teens. Psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy can benefit teens who struggle with severe and debilitating depression. Some of the therapy objectives might include:

  • Exploring underlying emotional pain or past traumas
  • Examine relationships with parents, siblings, friends, romantic relationships
  • Learn how to identify unhealthy thought and behavior patterns, and make changes
  • Regain a sense of control in one’s life
  • Learn coping skills, conflict resolution skills, communication skills

Psychotherapy is offered in both individual settings and group sessions, and is provided daily.

In addition to psychotherapy and antidepressant drug therapy, teens with severe depression may respond well to a variety of experiential activities that are both soothing and leave them feeling more positive about themselves. These might include such activities as equine therapy, art or music therapy, surf therapy, journaling, meditation, and mindfulness training.

Family-centered therapy is also a staple during a residential treatment stay. Family counseling allows family members to open up lines of communication, to share feelings or vent frustration, and to learn how to be supportive and compassionate while the teen is healing. Family therapists will provide the family members with certain tools or practices to use that will help the loved one transition successfully back to the home setting after treatment is completed.

BNI Treatment Centers Is a Leading Residential Mental Health Center for Teens

BNI Treatment Centers provides comprehensive residential treatment for teens in Los Angeles, California. Severe clinical depression in teens can have many different features and origins, making the need for individualized treatment intervention a must. At BNI Treatment, our expert clinical team works diligently to provide each teen with a customized treatment plan that is tailored to their own unique needs. Our long history of helping teens in distress has helped BNI Treatment design a relevant, modern, and highly effective depression treatment program that speaks to teens where they are. Each teen is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, and accommodations are made for continuing with schoolwork while residing at BNI Treatment. For more information about our program, please reach out to BNI Treatment Centers today at (888) 522-1504.

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