Medically reviewed by Maria, Clinical Psychologist

How to Deal With Adolescent Depression

Adolescence is a spring. At the same time it is the hardest period of human development. In terms of psychological growth, the fundamental questions are related to identity and sexuality. Today puberty, physical growth in adolescence, starts at 10-12 years for boys and girls. The child becomes an adult and unexpected sexuality is dominated by physical needs, desires, new thoughts and fantasies.

The experience of changes in the body can be felt as traumatic, violent. The teenager flusters, feels awkward and finds it difficult to put into words so many stimuli and feelings. He is not ready to give up on the peace of childhood. In this sense adolescence can be thought as a process of mourning; something is lost while something new has not yet been conquered.
There is depressiveness in all major changes of life, as a loss and resignation; besides, in order to take a position in life we have to first abandon another. The teenager often acts selfishly, overestimates himself and his powers trying to cover the loss. He is too active or, instead, he gives the impression of boredom, laziness. The discovery that his parents are not perfect, omnipotent, as he thought when he was a child causes contradictory feelings. He feels uncertain and unsatisfied and is looking for new ideals for identification.
This situation differs from depression as a disorder. In depression we can’t be happy, we lose all interest; we can’t love ourselves and others. Sometimes we experience depression in the body, with unexplained pain or in our life with self-destructive behaviors.
Adolescents sometimes act extreme but are rarely driven in to serious disorders. Boys usually do impressive acts such as playing with speed, with danger or by using substances. Girls are more likely to involve the body, which they mark or submit at grueling diets. They sometimes leave their home protesting how their parents do not understand them; they consider them very old or not authentic enough.
For their part, parents often worry, also discovering that their child is not what they thought it was. There follows a second separation and the family is called to manage it. Parents need to wonder of their own feelings, to estimate the situation and discuss it with their child. They should negotiate with the teenager, giving opportunities for autonomy, independence, along with limits, conditions of security and love. A family’s failure such as alienation or immaturity often makes the evolution of things more difficult.
Our era seems to idealize adolescents and expect their successes. Furthermore, current ideology turned them into consumers, while challenging social conditions and the generalized anxiety affects them. Finally they face critical questions such as climate change, showing them that their future is probably mortgaged. This is a different, indirect type of violence exerted on the whole family which affects mostly the adolescents, who operate as ‘barometers of society’.

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