Outreach: Depression in Adolescents

Caroline* was a high school junior, and often felt the pressures associated with this time: home, school, extracurricular activities and college stressors. Caroline had always been a good student and active socially. However, her parents began to notice a change. Caroline began to stay at home frequently, and when she was home, she often stayed in her room. When asked what she was doing, she would snap, “Can’t I have any privacy around here?” She was no longer interested in her college search, unwilling to do her chores and became increasingly irritable. Her parents sought professional help because of their concerns about their daughter’s noncompliance and behavioral changes.

At Outreach Teen & Family Services, Caroline met with a caring, professional counselor.  Caroline’s parents stressed the importance of her complying with rules and expectations at home and at school, while Caroline shared concerns about her parents “always being on my back about everything.” At the end of the session, Caroline and her parents were surprised at the counselor’s conclusion: Caroline was experiencing depression.

The counselor helped Caroline and her parents understand that depression can look different in adolescents than adults. In teens, irritability, agitation and anger, which may appear to be behavioral issues, can also be symptoms of depression. Other symptoms of depression in adolescents are: tearfulness, frequent crying, changes in sleep and appetite, withdrawal from friends, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest and motivation, physical pain and thoughts of suicide. Using cognitive behavioral techniques to help Caroline feel less depressed, the counselor explained that “our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all interconnected. When we wake up and expect to experience a bad day, chances are we’re going to have a bad day. Changes in even one of these areas can help us feel less depressed.”

Caroline began to examine and document her thoughts, feelings and actions. She and her counselor looked for areas where she could make slight changes, and over time, Caroline began to feel less depressed. Caroline’s parents learned what signs to look for to identify when Caroline was feeling more depressed. In family sessions, Caroline and her parents explored communication techniques to help them become more open about their emotions. Caroline’s parents also learned that even though she was experiencing depression, she still greatly needed structure and routine at home. Caroline and her parents collaboratively developed a list of household rules and subsequent consequences to be applied to everyone in the household.  Caroline and her parents also learned about what signs and symptoms might present themselves when Caroline’s depression returns, and they were equipped with techniques to use in the event that these emotional and behavioral changes reoccur.

* Caroline represents a typical Outreach client. Details do not correspond with any specific case in order to protect client anonymity.

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer counseling and educational programs to teens and parents that are affordable, accessible, and discreet; all within a welcoming, supportive environment.


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