When your teenager is hurting, you hurt right along with them. All parents remember the tumultuous teen years, the drama, the hormone craziness, and bouts of the blues, making it easy to empathize. When a teen is experiencing a protracted period of depression, especially if it has begun to impact their academic and social functioning, it is helpful to know that teen-specific treatment is available.
Teen depression rehab is targeted treatment specifically designed for the unique needs of adolescents experiencing a depressive event. By focusing on the age-related stressors that can bring on depression, teen depression programs devote attention to the factors that matter most at that time of life—family, social relationships, and school-related issues.
About Teen Depression Rehab
Depression is a complex mental health condition with a variety of causal factors that potentially contribute to the mood disorder. When a teenager experiences depression that lasts for more than two weeks it is a good idea to have them evaluated. A thorough medical examination and blood tests will be conducted first to rule out a physical issue, such as thyroid or hormone irregularities may be at the root of the depressive symptoms.
If a medical condition is ruled out, the psychological evaluation can provide important information about possible causal factors. The teen may have a family history of major depression, indicating a genetic component. Other factors might include:
- Family problems, divorce
- Bullying at school
- Academic pressures
- Learning disability
- Past trauma or abuse
- Gender identity issues
- Substance abuse
- Low self-esteem
Teen depression rates are rising, with the National Institute of Mental Health reporting an estimated 3.1 million adolescents having experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2016—nearly 13% of the U.S. teenage population. Sadly, suicide rates for adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 have increased 30% since 2000. Teen depression should be taken seriously.
Symptoms of Teen Depression
Major depression is distinct from a usual short-term period of low mood caused by a specific incident. For teens, the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria specify that a teen must exhibit 5 or more of the 9 symptoms for most of a two-week period to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder. These symptoms include:
- Depressed or irritable mood
- Decreased interest in activities once enjoyed, or lack of enjoyment when doing them
- Indecisiveness, decreased concentration
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Change in appetite, weight gain or loss
- Excessive fatigue
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation
Treatment of Teen Depression
Certain limitations exist for treating a teenager with depression, as antidepressants can have a variety of adverse side effects. Potential side effects include weight gain, fatigue, sleep disorders, sexual problems, nausea, and headaches. In addition, there is an FDA black box warning attached to antidepressants regarding increased risk of suicidal thinking or attempts in patients under age 24.
While prescribing antidepressants to a teen may be a necessary intervention that yields successful results, many doctors prefer to try other treatment methods first. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a first line treatment for teen depression, provided in both individual sessions and group therapy sessions. Certain types of therapy work best for teens, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and process-oriented therapy. Therapy can help the adolescent identify the issues that are causing the depression, as well as help them establish new ways of coping with psychosocial stressors so common during the teen years.
Psychotherapy for Teen Depression
Teens are often reticent to discuss their emotional issues with a parent. Sometimes a teen will feel more open to sharing about a sensitive issue with a therapist. Knowing that the topics discussed will remain confidential offers the teen a safe space to open up and talk about the problems they are having at school, in relationships, or within the family.
Psychotherapy offers an opportunity for the adolescent to gain clarity about the feelings or interpersonal conflicts they are experiencing that may be contributing to the crippling depression. The therapist can guide the teen to explore his or her feelings, providing an accepting environment where they will not be judged. This connection with the therapist gives the teen a sense they are not alone with their problems, as well as actionable steps the teen can take to make positive changes.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a short-term form of psychotherapy that can offer rapid symptoms reduction. It works by helping the teen recognize negative self-messaging that fuel the feelings of low self-worth, despair, and hopelessness. During CBT once the thought distortions are identified the teen is then guided toward replacing them with reframed thoughts that are healthy, rational, and constructive. Once the cognitive distortions are addressed, a therapist can guide the teen toward generating new solutions.
Psychodynamic therapy. Psychodynamic psychotherapy offers a more intensive exploration of past emotional issues or trauma that might be influencing the depressed mood. The teen may harbor deep emotional struggles and conflicts as a result of childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma. This longer term therapy provides the time and space for the therapist to help draw the painful issues to the surface so they can be discussed openly, processed, and eventually healed.
Family therapy. Family-focused therapy is often provided along with another form of one-on-one psychotherapy. These sessions include family members, allowing the teen to open up and discuss their struggles with them. The therapist uses various exercises for the family to engage in to help elicit honest discussion while guiding the family towards more effective communication skills.
When Antidepressants Are Indicated
When a teen is diagnosed with depression the physician will weigh the pros and cons of including antidepressants in the treatment plan. In some cases, it will be necessary for the teen to begin antidepressant drug therapy. The medication is prescribed for a defined period of time in conjunction with psychotherapy. Antidepressants may help reduce the symptoms of depression, including sadness, crying, irritability, and worry. The drugs do not work for everyone, however, and selecting the most effective option may take some trial and error initially. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants for teens are Prozac and Lexapro.
Teen Suicide Risk
An alarming report issued in May 2019 detailed the dramatic rise of suicide and suicide attempts by pre-adolescents and teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 16% of teens consider suicide each year. The reports states that in 2018, 60,000 teen girls aged 10-18 tried to poison themselves with drugs or other toxic substances, double the rate in 2008. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Americans aged 10-34.
Some have pointed a finger at the TV show called 13 Reasons Why, which centers on a teenage girl committing suicide in response to being bullied, to help explain the rise in teen suicide. Sadly, suicide is portrayed as a viable option to young impressionable minds. Teens who see their personal challenges as catastrophic or insurmountable may be susceptible to suicide attempts. Parents should be proactive when their teen is exhibiting the symptoms of depression and have them evaluated by a mental health practitioner.
What is Teen Depression Rehab?
A residential teen depression treatment program is an excellent option for a teen who has not responded to the treatment interventions and whose depression is worsening. A teen depression rehab allows the teenager to live in a safe, supportive, and stress-free environment for a period of time. During their stay, the teen will engage in more intensive, targeted therapies.
In addition to the traditional individual and group therapy that is provided, a residential rehab geared toward teens will also offer a host of adjunct therapies that have been shown to resonate with adolescents. These might include equine therapy, where the teen spends time caring for a horse, art and music therapies, yoga, meditation, and even surf therapy.
BNI Treatment Centers Provides Teen Depression Rehab Treatment
BNI Treatment Centers serves families who have a teen struggling with persistent or escalating depression. BNI depression treatment is a multi-modal approach that encompasses not only evidence-based therapies, but also features surf therapy, drama therapy, music and dance therapy, art therapy, yoga, meditation, and equine therapy to treat the teen—mind, body, and soul. For more information about our teen depression rehab, please contact BNI today at (888) 522-1504.