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What are the Psychological Effects of Teen Depression?

written by: Carma Haley Shoemaker • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 12/17/2010

Depression is not just an adult mental illness. Many teens suffer in silence every day, being dismissed as a normal moody teen. Being undiagnosed, the psychological effects of teen depression often last longer than necessary.

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    Teenagers express mood swings and unhappy feeling quite frequently. Whether from hormone changes, life changes, conflict with parents, or trying to fit in at school, there are plenty of things that affect a teen’s mood. When the unhappiness doesn’t go away, it may not be regular teen moods. It may be depression. On average, one out of every eight teens has teen depression.

    Teen depression touches every part of a teen’s life: physical, emotional, social, and psychological. The psychological effects of teen depression are many, but the most common are listed below.

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    Low Self Esteem

    One of the most common problems associated with teen depression is low self-esteem. Depressed teens may assume blame for negative circumstances, occurrences, or events, even when they are not at fault. They may view themselves negatively, as well as feel they are not worthy, competent, or good enough. This can result in the teen quitting sports or other teams, failing classes, or giving up on working toward a long-term goal, such as college.

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    Unfriendly Friendships

    Friendships can be jeopardized when a teen suffers from depression. Depressed teens may lose interest in their friends, may stop visiting, calling, or seeing friends when they come over. Their low-self esteem makes it difficult for them to feel worthy of friendship or love. They may feel it’s safer to end the relationship before the other person does.

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    May Cause Others Pain

    Some teens who suffer from depression may experience an increased feeling of irritability, anger, or hostility toward their family, friends, or others. They may act out, taking their anger or hostility out on others in the form of verbal or physical abuse, extreme criticism, or instigating confrontations or arguments. A depressed teen may feel they need to reject their family and friends before they become rejected.

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    Increased Illnesses

    One of the most frequent complaints by depressed teens is that of physical illnesses. Complaints of headaches, body aches, nausea or vomiting, muscle pain, back pain, menstrual issues (in girls) and stomachaches were very common, occurring several times a week. Complaining of frequent ailments when one doesn’t exist could label the teen as a “hypochondriac." In addition, feeling ill all the time can worsen depression, which in turn, can lead to more complaints of illness.

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    Depression is not only a illness of adulthood. Every day, many teens suffer in silence after being dismissed as simply a normal, moody teen. Being overlooked and undiagnosed, the psychological effects of teen depression often last longer than necessary.
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    Poor Attendance

    Whether school or a part-time job, a depressed teen will often be absent from school, or call off work due to poor energy levels, complaints of physical illness or pain, or sadness. The psychological effects of teen depression when speaking of poor attendance are evident when a teen fails a class, loses a job, or doesn’t get into college due to poor grades, increasing the feelings of failure and low-self esteem.

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    Teen Diet

    Think of the teen diet and images of fast food, soda, and bags of snack chips flood the mind. However, as teens who suffer from depression often exhibit major changes in eating patterns, long lasting effects are inevitable. A loss of appetite or using food in an attempt to comfort when experience over time – as when a teen is depressed – may develop into an eating disorder. Compiling an eating disorder on the psychological effects of teen depression may result in medical issues (such as diabetes, potassium deficiency, and dehydration) in addition the existing mental and emotional.

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    Alcohol and Drug Abuse

    It is not uncommon for a teen suffering from depression to attempt to use illegal drugs, prescription drugs obtained illegally, or alcohol to make them feel better, or “normal." Using drugs or alcohol over any period of time can lead to a dependency or addiction. In addition, obtaining drugs or alcohol is illegal, and the teen runs the risk of being arrested, and having a juvenile record, which may risk any future plans or goals they may have had.

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    Self-Injury

    Similar to drugs and alcohol, many depressed teens will harm themselves in the form of cutting or burning. In an attempt to numb their emotional pain, they will induce physical pain. In There are psychological effects of teen depression when the teen uses self-injury to cope as well. Self-injury causes permanent scars on the body. In addition, the feelings of shame, embarrassment, and a low self-esteem from feeling they are ugly can lead to problems with relationships. There is also a risk of infection, risk of serious injury, and even the risk of death if a cut is too deep, or if a teen cuts too many times in one session.

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    Suicide

    According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young adults age 15 to 24. When teens are depressed, they may begin to express feelings of not wanting to live, wishing they were dead, or wanting to die. These statements should always be taken seriously, even if said in jest. Ignoring it, thinking that the teen wasn’t serious, or feeling that they will “get over it," doesn’t work, and doing so can lead the teen to believe that no one cares if they live or die.

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    Resources:

    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Staff. (2008). Teen suicide. Retrieved December 6, 2010, from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website: http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/teen_suicide.