Teenagers and depression: how to talk with a depressed teenager

I have given an overview of treatments for depression in teenagers. Usually, several treatments are combined to cure different aspects of depression.

A treatment based on drugs may be necessary if a teenager shows important symptoms and finds managing their feelings difficult.

At the same time there could be a treatment intended to change the way depressed teenagers think about themselves and reality.

Additional treatment could be based on artistic expression.

These treatments could be complemented by physical activity. However, depressed teenagers shouldn’t be encouraged to be socially active because they could find it stressful. Certainly, a depressed teenager doesn’t need any further stress.

During treatment, parents, as well as anyone in a relationship with a depressed teenager, could ask themselves how they should talk with them.

How to convince a depressed teenager to follow the prescribed treatment

A problem that might appear is convincing depressed teenagers to follow the treatment prescribed by their therapist.

As a parent, I have many times used a well-known tactic. Threaten your children with punishments or promise rewards. I stopped doing this when I realized that it was more damaging than useful.

Punishments and rewards are violence and bribery, and I’m used, now, to assessing whether this tactic is useful or harmful before using it.

With depressed teenagers, this tactic is even more dangerous. Punishing and rewarding, we implicitly transmit the message that our teenager doesn’t deserve to be trusted, but has, instead, to be controlled, punishments and rewards being the means of control.

Depressed teenagers don’t need such a depressive thought. We have to spare them, at least when they are depressed.

If we, the adults, realize that we are suffering depressive thoughts just as our teenagers are, we should follow a treatment intended to change our way of thinking. Maybe even the same prescribed for our teenagers, or something similar.

In this way, the depressed teenagers will see their parents becoming less worried and more confident, and they will therefore be encouraged to follow their own treatment.

How not to make the problem worse

Well-intentioned people can make things worse for a depressed teenager.

Let’s consider a worried parent. For example, a worried mother. There may be very worried mothers and mildly worried ones. There are also the sunny, ever-smiling, never-worried ones.

Unfortunately, fear is the main ingredient of depression. Nothing worse for a depressed teenager than to have worried people around. Don’t feel offended in the slightest if your depressed teen can’t stand your presence if you are a super-worried parent.

Simply, your depressed teen doesn’t want more fear added to theirs, already at a high level.

I know that our modern way of life makes us insecure and anxious. We are safer than ever, but this is far from making us more confident. We tend to depend on society’s approval, and to be afraid of losing it. This makes us psychologically vulnerable.

Let’s suspend judgment for a while

One more heavy psychological burden depressed teenagers have to bear is the one of judgment.

Many parents think that it’s their duty to judge and correct their children, and to mould their characters.

They teach their children which feeling is the right one to have. Their children are scared by the simple idea of admitting some of their feelings in case their parents think them improper. Unfortunately, the habit of judging emotions makes it difficult for children to express them without constantly fearing a negative judgment.

If the parents of a depressed teenager are used to judging, correcting and moulding their children, it’s very important that they suspend this habit because a depressed teenager needs acceptance much more than judgments.

What not to say


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