9 Warning Signs of Teenage Depression - Parent's Guide to Learning & Protecting

It’s undeniable that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on social and economic conditions has been universal, including Thai people. Not only do we have to deal with all the work, finance, and health care issues but our whole state of mind which is more fragile than usual these days. It’s hard not to get stressed out and when that happens, we may unconsciously develop the condition known as depression. So let’s do a quick survey of ourselves and see if we, too, have caught the depression bug. Don’t worry if it turns out you are indeed a little depressed; you’ll be in very good company with heaps of your fellow Thais and many other people. Moreover, depression is widely accepted in Thai society so it’s quite easy to find someone to help and advise you such as a psychological specialist. Just be open to getting treatment and you’ll quickly be on the road to recovery.

The question of depression

Clinical depression is a psychiatric brain disorder that negatively affects thoughts, emotions, feelings, behaviors, and physical health. Most people tend to think it goes away on its own but in fact it requires appropriate psychiatric treatment. There are essentially three types of depression:

  1. Major Depression – Those with this type of depression have the symptoms of not being happy and lacking motivation to do things for upwards of two weeks.
  2. Dysthymia Depression – This type of depression is less severe than major depression but it’s quite common for people to suffer from the symptoms for a couple of years and more.
  3. Bipolar Disorder – This type of depression is characterized by wild mood swings alternating between being really happy and terribly sad, sometimes in the space of minutes. The condition can many other problems by upsetting decision-making capacity and clarity.

Why depression?

Depression can raise its head for a whole host of reasons. One factor that is often present in those prone to depression, especially those suffering from recurring symptoms, is heredity. Another factor is chemical imbalances in the brain. Say your levels of serotonin and/or norepinephrine are low or certain receptor cells aren’t functioning as they should. You’re bound to feel down. Then there’s traits, a factor in depression that lots of people are experiencing these days. You can characterize it as a tendency to negativity when faced with situations perceived as stressful. A prime example is the advent and spread of Covid-19 and how it has forced us to stay at home and taken away our liberty to pursue activities we habitually relied on to keep stress in check. Having to make more effort to run your life, and all the upheaval of working under new conditions, also count as common stress triggers.

Signs and symptoms

Depression manifests in many ways. To find out if you’re afflicted, check this list. If you tick yes to five or more of these symptoms, and they persist for a couple of weeks or longer, you most likely do have depression of one form or another:

  1. Depressive mood with lack of freshness, sadness, and sensitivity. Children and teenagers may also be irritable and/or angry.
  2. Boredom and loss of interest and pleasure in activities, even if it’s something you enjoyed before.
  3. Sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, insomnia and fitful sleep. Some depressed people also find themselves sleeping longer than usual.
  4. Feeling weak, lacking energy, tiring easily.
  5. Loss of appetite, weight loss, flatulence and/or constipation.
  6. Feeling worthless. Feeling bad about oneself. Seeing the world in a negative light. Thinking everything in life is bad and nothing turns out right. Some depressed people beat themselves up to the point of harming themselves and, in extreme cases, not wanting to live.
  7. Can’t concentrate. Procrastinating. Insufficient attention paid to work and life matters leading to making mistakes. Feeling stressed and under pressure leading to inefficiency.
  8. Speaking slowly. Moving slowly. Or being anxious and restless.
  9. Addicted to shopping because it makes you feel good for a while. What with all the online shopping possibilities these days, those veering towards depression can easily become addicted to so-called retail therapy.

If you’ve checked through early warning symptoms but you’re not sure about your responses, you can take an online depression test by following the links below. A psychiatrist will help you work out your depression level.

• Depression test of the Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University
• Depression assessment from 9 questions of the Department of Mental Health

Treatment tips

If depression does come calling, the first thing to do is get an accurate diagnosis from a psychiatrist. The treatments they prescribe range from counseling and psychotherapy to antidepressant medication. Depression is treatable. Most sufferers recover and can resume normal life. The sooner it is treated, the sooner the depression lifts. If left too long, however, treatment and recovery can be much more difficult.

Being mindful of mental and physical health

Patients who recover from depression are just regular people who have learned how to safeguard their mental and physical health better. Once their mental and physical health are restored to balance, they naturally become happier, more lively and less susceptible to depression.

Here are some pointers along the road to recovery:

  • Take control of your diet. Focus on consuming all five food groups. Deficiency in certain nutrients increases the risk of depression. For example, vitamin D stimulates synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine that play important roles in reducing stress and depression. Moreover, the theobromine in chocolate, a substance similar to caffeine, helps perk up our body metabolism.
  • Exercise at least four days a week for 30-40 minutes. When you exercise the body releases endorphins in the brain that reduce stress levels.
  • Get enough relaxation and all the sleep your body needs – 6-8 hours a day. Sleep affects mood and stress level. If you don't get enough sleep, your mood can easily flip and you’ll drag all day. Don’t oversleep, though. That will only prompt your body to secrete less serotonin and endorphins that play vital roles in how happy we feel on any given day.
  • Meditate to relax your mind. Much distinguished research highlights that meditation helps the brain relax and reduces stress.
  • Practice positive thinking and try to only feed positive thoughts to yourself. Choose to spend time with positive people who talk constructively and, when faced with problems, get through them with good solution. Being around their energy will train your mind to be strong and enable you to overcome obstacles too.

• Department of Mental Health
• Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University
• Bumrungrad Hospital
• Bangkok Hospital
• Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University
• Multimedia, Department of Health
• Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital
• Corporate Communication, Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital
• Paolo Hospital