This article was written with the help of a Clinical Psychologist to ensure accurate information in understanding the signs of depression in teenage girls.
Certain changes occur naturally as a child transitions from one defined growth stage to the next and often we look back at our adolescence as a period of excitement and enchantment. However, sometimes these changes can be extreme and they can be influenced by external factors, to become toxic and not healthy.
Although teenage girls can feel moody, sad or have a low mood occasionally, for some girls these feelings can be more intense than usual and continue for extended periods of time- ranging from months to perhaps years.
Depression is a commonly used word in society today and it may be difficult to detect when it begins in a teenage girl. Depression is more than just having a low mood- it is a medical condition that affects mental as well as physical health.
Are teenage girls more prone to depression than their male counterparts?
The events that prompt depression seem to differ in boys and girls that are beginning to come of age. In males, more external symptoms are seen, while in females, it tends to be internalising. The prevalence of the 2 to 1 ratio, women to men of depression, can be due to many complex factors.
It is unknown what the precise causes of depression are, and very often several factors are often linked to its development. Hormones, seen specifically in menstrual related changes and ovarian adjustments make women seem more predisposed and increase the prevalence of depression in women.
Bullying can lead to depression
Abuse and maltreatment is known to occur more frequently in females compared with males. Bullying is a common form of abuse that teenage girls can be exposed to which may lead to depression. For example, cyber-bullying through social media can put teenage girls under enormous levels of pressure, that were unimaginable in previous generations.
Bullying can occur in various different forms in today’s world. It is important to spot the signs so that you can support your daughter and end the bullying as quickly as possible. Bullying can be:
Physical: hitting, punching, kicking or any other form of physical harm. This also includes physically intimidating another person.
Verbal bullying: saying nasty or rude remarks in order to make another person feel bad about themselves. This could also be teasing or taunting another person.
Psychological: This involves things such as leaving someone out of an activity so they feel isolated, unpopular and helpless. It can also involve verbal bullying in order to make another person feel less good about themselves and this can cause others to think less of them, compounding the effects of the bully.
Cyber-bullying: This involves any form of activity using the internet to harm another person emotionally and socially.
What to look out for with depression
Behavioural changes are expected of a new teen but the limits of these changes are usually crossed at some point with depression. This is when excessive withdrawal signs are shown that reflects in their mood, sleep pattern, appetite and physical activities.
Every teenage girl is different and the events leading up to their depression can also be very different. It’s important to recognise key signs and know when to get help when needed. Here are some things to note:
- It is not difficult to notice the effect on a teenage girl’s academic functioning but this sign comes much later and can have a positive feedback effect leading to increased depression as the young girl’s confidence is attacked by poor performance.
- A teenage girl may also experience anxiety either alongside, prior to, or after depression. This may be seen with excessive worry about school work, for example assignment deadlines or grades.
- Early signs include low energy level and lack of concentration. Subsequently, she gradually withdraws from things she does and shows a high level of apathy and low self-esteem.
- A feeling of hopelessness or guilt, irritability sets in and appetite may regress, sleep and eating pattern fluctuates and she may begin to have periodic headaches for no clear reasons.
- The more obvious signs are long episodes of unhappiness and moodiness, she may become easily frightened, secretive and may even try to harm herself.
- If not long ago, she was exposed to some sort of violence, maybe a victim or just a witness of an abuse- sexual or physical- she may tend to withdraw and prolonged sadness may be seen.
- Parents falling apart, a stressful environment and medical conditions- all these can have a traumatic consequence. Parents and those close to her should watch out for these and act fast to prevent or end depression and its long term psychological effect on teenage girls.
Useful questions to ask if you suspect depression
- How often does she feel like everything is a great effort to get things done?
- How often does she feel depressed?
- How often does she feel worthless?
- How often does she feel hopeless?
- How often does she seem tired, without a good reason?
- How often does she feel like there is nothing to cheer her up?
- How often does she seem restless or be fidgety?
- How often does she feel so restless that she is unable to sit still?
- How often does she seem nervous?
- How often does she feel so nervous that nothing could calm her down?
If after thinking about these questions she seems to be ‘most of the time’ or ‘all of the time’ for quite a few of these questions, it could be time to consider looking for where you can get help. Think about whether your responses to these questions apply to at least the last month.
Following your ‘gut instinct’ is often a good guide, so if you suspect something is not quite right, you should always follow this up by speaking to the many different sources of help and information that are available. Youth Beyond Blue is a great source of information and can give advice, tips and further sources of information for many different questions you may have.
What parents and those close to her can do to help
Try to talk to her about it, try as much as you can to let her open up to you. This is the parental first aid.
Speak to your school to ask if your daughter can see a school counsellor. School counsellors are well-trained in supporting teenage girls with a wide range of issues that they face, including depression. They can be a great source of support and advice for teenage girls and their families.
Keep an eye on her symptoms and ensure you get help- do not think you can solve the problem alone. Depression is a mental condition and can be treated both medically and psychologically. Most people suffering from depression will require treatment to get better.
Family members and friends that mean well, but do not understand the condition, may see depression as an indication of weakness or a flaw in character and encourage them to be more positive or try to be happier. Seeking professional help while playing your part as a parent is the wise thing to do, consulting both a doctor and a psychiatrist is usually required.
If depression signs are prolonged, such that it affects the young girl’s health, then a doctor is needed. Don’t expect the situation to get better with time. Request your school to recommend a mental health professional for your daughter, if you don’t know anyone yourself. Having suicidal thoughts is common among people with depression, it shouldn’t be taken lightly, do not leave her side and take the situation as an emergency.
I hope that you found this article useful and informative and you have an idea of what to do next if you suspect something isn’t quite right. Remember if you’re unsure of what to do, make sure you seek professional help so that they can give you guidance. Know that you and your teenage girl are not alone. Depression in teenagers is common, and it can be overcome when the right help is sought.
If you would like some more parental advice for teenagers, please click here. If you are also interested in reading one of my articles on increasing confidence in teenage girls, please click here. If you have any comments or questions I would love it if you could leave them in the comments box below 🙂