Everyone kept telling me that high school was supposed to be some of the best years of my life. I was named captain of the soccer team, president of the student body and had a very active social life. I was named prom queen at the Senior Prom and I had a boyfriend throughout most of high school.
I am outgoing, usually very happy and always willing to lend a hand or a shoulder to cry on to my friends. I keep myself very busy, rarely taking the time to take care of myself properly. It would seem from the outside that my high school years were, in fact, the best time of my life. I had everything that a “normal” teenager would want. But I had a dark secret which I hid from everyone around me . . . I was suffering from depression.
My parents thought that my moodiness and erratic temper flare-ups were part of what all of their friends talked about as “normal” teen behavior.
It seemed that this topic of conversation came up at every football game or local gathering. “
How does your teen behave? Is she moody and irritable? Maybe we are placing too much pressure on him?”
Yes, it was normal for my friends to act out occasionally or lose their minds on their parents once in a while. We were all tired, over-stimulated, stressed out by the inevitable decisions that we had to make.
Yet somehow my mood swings and sadness were different. I was sad and felt hopeless but I did not want anyone to know. I was terrified that if I let on that I was having negative thoughts or couldn’t sleep at night, my parents might worry or even worse, think that there was something wrong with me.
Little did I know then that I was not alone but rather one of more than 3 million teens who suffer from depression and that is only the number of those young people who seek help.
But I was not one of those depressed teens who was going to get help. No, it was better if I hid the symptoms of depression from those who cared about me. Who was it better for? Did it spare me any painful feelings or emotions? Did it curb the thoughts running through my head that it would be better to end it all now than to have to go through the pain of another day?
In reality, looking back at those days in high school when I could not get out of bed, I didn’t even realize at the time what it was that I was feeling. I didn’t know that I was suffering from depression; I just thought that life was hard and that it would always be painful, I would always be misunderstood and that nothing could bring joy to my life.
I attributed my lack of interest in soccer and hanging out with friends to being overwhelmed with school work and pressure to excel as decisions about college and life loomed overhead. I also did not want anyone to think that I was weak, incapable of handling it all or simply emotional if I shared how I was really feeling.
What if I had told someone that I just wanted to stay under the covers all day because the thought of taking a shower and getting dressed overwhelmed me?
How would people have treated me if I had shared that I thought about taking my life several times per day?
What would my parents think about me if I had told them that I was extremely sad, unhappy with my life and felt alone?
How would sharing my feelings help me at all?
The above is a very familiar scenario with millions of teens.
Either they are not aware of the cause of their outbursts, headaches and desire to seclude themselves, or they are worried about the repercussions of sharing with friends or loved ones that they have had negative thoughts or contemplated suicide. What they also do not realize at this very fragile point in their life is that there is help. Although the number of millions of teens diagnosed as suffering from depression may seem like a high number, it is the number of those who are suffering in silence which is more astounding.
Just like this young woman, many teens look back on this time in their life with regret, wondering how things could have been different if they had spoken up rather than hiding their symptoms or negative emotions. For those who may be currently dealing with depression, it is imperative that they understand that there is help for them. They do not have to simply get by, day in and day out, trying to understand their emotions, attempting to slug through the day the best that they can.
With help from a trained medical professional like those at Beachside Treatment Center, teens who are suffering from depression can enjoy all that their teenage years have to offer.
It is safe to say that the high school years can be and should be an amazing time filled with fun and friendships.
But for those teens suffering from depression, it can be very difficult to manage their symptoms while living in denial that they are in fact feeling depressed. The added stress of trying to hide their challenges causes many teens to not only suffer from depression but to become stressed and anxious, pushing them further into depression.
How do you know if your seemingly “normal” teenager is simply riding the waves of adolescence or if there is something more stressful lurking beneath the surface? Let’s look at several ways in which teens may hide their symptoms or try to minimize the effects that their depression may be having on their life.
Your teen is experiencing headaches and/or other physical aches and pains. Yet, they may be explaining it away as too much exercise, sleeping in the wrong position or having strained it at practice.
They are sleeping more often than usual and for longer and longer periods of time. Although it is normal for teenagers to require more sleep and their sleep patterns and habits may be erratic because of their social life, school work and sports schedules, excessive amounts of sleep may be hiding a sense of sadness.
Your usually grounded, well-mannered teen is now acting out, speaking out of turn, trying to make jokes and be the class clown. If this type of behavior is uncharacteristic for your child’s personality, they may be trying to compensate for the dark and negative emotions that they are feeling by becoming the life of the party.
On the other hand, your teen who has always been a good sleeper, goes to bed at a decent hour and wakes up feeling refreshed, suddenly has troubling falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Anxiety and stress may be keeping their brain awake although their body is desperately in need of rest. While they may attribute this lack of sleep to too much school work or overstimulation from video games, it may also be a mask for a sign of their depression.
Although typically a strait-laced rule-follower, you suddenly notice signs that your teen may be using or abusing drugs and/or alcohol. Possibly a symptom in and of itself, your teen may be trying to hide the signs of their depression by replacing it with something else. Substance abuse may also be linked to their desire to forget their sadness, to feel “normal”, or to enjoy the euphoric sensations that drugs and alcohol can bring.
You notice that your positive, usually upbeat teen suddenly speaks negatively about themselves, projects negativity towards situations and people, and sees the world as being full of doom and gloom. By projecting their lack of self-worth and self-esteem towards others, they attempt to hide their true feelings and thoughts. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness can be masked in many ways, usually as outward threats or bullying towards others.
Weekend activities with friends and family used to be the norm for your outgoing, spontaneous teen. Now they continuously reject offers to go to parties or hang out with friends. Maybe they no longer want to play games with their siblings or watch television with their parents.
Although it is normal for teenagers to want to be more autonomous and independent, they typically want to be more social and engaged. When questioned about why they don’t want to hang out with friends, they may provide excuses about being too tired, having too much homework or even falling out of the good graces of the group.
These excuses may be nothing more than that; empty reasons covering up a more serious issue of depression.
Suddenly you notice that your teen has gained or lost a significant amount of weight. While the weight loss may be explained as a new interest in exercise or a desire to fit into next year’s swim suit, it may also imply just one more way that they may unconsciously or consciously be hiding the real issue. On the flip side, if your teen suddenly gains weight, they may be trying to mask or even replace other signs and symptoms of their disorder.
Your teen may be the epitome of composure, never showing outward emotion or distress. Suddenly you notice that your teen is extremely sensitive and emotional. While hormones play a significant role in their changing bodies at this time, being overly emotional or crying often and suddenly may be a symptom of the feelings and emotions of depression lying hidden beneath the surface.
Not every teen enjoys school or excels in it. Yet you more than likely have witnessed a pattern in their study habits and attitude toward school which has probably been consistent throughout their education. You suddenly notice that they don’t have any homework, grades begin to slip and teachers may even reach out regarding grades and/or behavior. A teen who may be suffering from depression and more importantly, may be trying to hide their symptoms, will most certainly blame the decline on the class or the teacher. It will always be someone else’s fault. “The class is too hard, the teacher doesn’t teach, I don’t understand the material.”
Any of these comments may be a red flag that school or classwork isn’t necessarily the problem. Even if they are not trying to hide the symptoms of depression, in fact, the disorder itself may make their brain too cloudy to concentrate.
It is not enough to simply look at each of these signs in and of itself to alert you that your teen may be suffering from depression. However, if by looking at all of the signs and symptoms you see a pattern, it may be time to contact your child’s pediatrician to have an evaluation conducted as to their mental state.
In many cases, teens may be relieved to finally have a label or diagnosis for these unexplained symptoms and thoughts that they have been experiencing. Although it may be uncomfortable to admit that they have been hiding or covering up the fact that they did not feel “right”, they will feel a weight lifted from their shoulders. When they know that they are not alone in their journey nor are they doomed to a life of sadness, they will be more receptive to letting you in to provide them assistance and to get them the medical attention that is needed for them to overcome.
If you suspect that your teen is suffering from depression, contact their doctor immediately to ensure that they receive the treatment that is required through trained professionals like those at Beachside Treatment Center to help them live the life that they want and deserve.
Teens no longer have to hide their symptoms or be ashamed of them.
By attacking the disorder head-on, they can learn to manage and control their thoughts and actions to help them live fulfilling and successful lives.