Michael Costigan is a 17 – year-old from Orange County, CA. He is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, and truly enjoys helping other’s better understand teen related issues. You can follow him at www.SpeakingofMichael.com
There is a youth sub-culture, defined not only by its systematic hostility to dominant culture, but also by its emotional manifestation of seldom expression. Today’s culture and social environments are riddled with countless negative agents. Amongst these agents are things like bullying, school stress, sex, peer pressure, family issues — the list goes on. Psychological disorders, environmental stressors, and genetic predispositions all contribute negatively to the development of many adolescent minds. The above agents are merely that of the environmental stressors. If we assume most students endure them at times or during an on and off basis, the combinatory factors of even just psychological disorders or genetic predispositions, let alone both, often easily culminates to manifest itself in the forms of teen depression, anxiety, and other various social problems.
Clinicians and self-help book offer a particular insight and way of addressing these issues. However, as well all know, the best medicine is not treatment, but prevention. Teens are their own best weapon against falling victim to depression and social anxiety. And while particular atmospheres can be either destructive or conducive to different mental states, teens have a great deal of control over their own perception of the world they live in. This might just be their most vital weapon in battling adolescence, because what teens cannot control nearly as well, is their perception as others see it.
1. There is a psychological spectrum within teens that is not openly discussed.
This spectrum is where a particular line of thinking exists. It consists of the “Why are things like this?” questions. Why can’t things be a certain way? Why does my dad hit my mom? Why doesn’t she like me? Why can’t I make friends? Why am I so terrible at everything I do?
Speaking as a teen, we have, in our mind, a series of almost constant thoughts that are a projection, or a rather representation, of how we wish things could be. Whether it be wishing we scored higher on a particular test, or that someone we really like text us back. We’re still learning the fundamentals of social interaction, we haven’t yet really learned the value or the consequences of certain types of speech and interactions. For all of these reasons and more, it isn’t that teens don’t think before they act, it’s that they don’t construct well, contingency in social disputes, relationships, or the weight of certain responsibilities. To say that teens are simply care-free and disinterested in bettering themselves or the world they live in is naivety at its worst. Teens are often misunderstood by their parents, family, and other loved ones, but more so they’re categorized as “just being teenagers”. A dangerous assumption on the part of adults when a teen could be suffering internally from something worse than unrequited love.
It has been proven through numerous studies that depression is less severe and less frequently endured by those who have a higher quality relationship with even one individual versus a number of “acquaintances”. Thus, the severity and frequency of depressive episodes amongst teenagers is directly correlated to the quality of friendships, not necessarily the number of friends themselves. Often it isn’t that a particular teen is “weird” or un-relatable to other teens when it comes to making a keeping friendships, but rather a number of communication barriers that we all are burdened by are more pronounced in some teens. These barriers include things like: Insecurities, worrying about ruining a friendship, talking one’s self out of it, fear of awkwardness, inability to convey meaningful feelings, not being in the right environment, emotionally closing oneself off, not hearing people out, and arguing.
2. Why does it work so well in movies but not in life?
I’ve asked myself this question countless times, until recently asking myself this question has finally prompted me to attempt answering this question. I’ve decided the reasoning for the absence of movie ending life stories in our own lives are based on a few key factors and many other smaller ones. I will address the key factors accordingly; People lack the ability to choose the right words at pivotal moments; people often lack a distinct drive to make their feelings be known to other parties; People often fail to pick up on non-verbal cues missing important needs for physical affection or emotional reassurance.
You would be very hard pressed to find a teen who doesn’t wish they had someone who truly understood them on the deepest of levels and was also romantically interested in them. In fact, this is probably one of the most dwelled over thoughts by teens. It’s a paradox of sorts, because for teens, and understanding this is important, a romantic connection signifies an empathic enjoinment between two people. Amongst other things, it functions as a social construct and often as a
This understanding sheds an important light on depression, in particular severe depression with side-affects consisting of self-harm, suicidal thought, and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. You see, to really understand depression, you have to come from not the level that is manifested as positive symptoms on the surface, but rather the negative symptoms in the individuals inner thought. (Positive symptoms are those which are outwardly displayed, signs of sadness, withdrawal from social settings etc. Negative symptoms are those that are unpronounced and are confined within psychological levels.) People love pain, but even more they have a need to share that desire for pain with others. In fact, often the most intimately connect people share depressive tendencies, and in some severe cases are only closely united because of a “illusory system of support” that they provide for each other. When in actuality, this can often bring both individuals down to lower points and to more severe levels of depression and anxiety that becomes dangerous to both parties health.
3. What the professionals say and concluding remarks.
It has been estimated that there are over 400 approaches to mental health treatment (Kazdin, 1994). With so many different opinions, there are some common and reoccurring themes. Aaron Burke established that in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, “maladaptive behavior us assume to result from individuals belief systems and ways of thinking rather than from objective conditions”, of course this has a certain element of truth in many cases of depression. Likewise, “the social support that members [in groups] can provide each other is one of the most beneficial aspects of group therapy, and attendance at group therapy is often used to augment individual psychotherapy.” (Gazzaniga & Heatherton 2003). While antidepressants, (most often selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors today) offer a certain guarantee of relief, but can be accompanied with dependency and a gradual disaffection. Of course there are many other methods for treating depression, and many teens experience bouts of depression without ever undergoing treatment for them.
It is my hope that parents and adults begin to see the seriousness of teen depression, including the warning signs listed below, and vow to help the teens in their lives.
Recognizing Adolescent / Teenage Depression:
These symptoms may indicate depression, particularly when they last for more than two weeks:
-Poor performance in school
-Withdrawal from friends and activities
-Sadness and hopelessness
-Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
-Anger and rage
-Overreaction to criticism
-Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
-Poor self-esteem or guilt
-Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
-Restlessness and agitation
-Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
-Problems with authority
-Suicidal thoughts or actions
There is so much to be said on this topic, and this article merely provides an outline of some of my current thoughts. I would encourage you to reach out and contact me if you wish to discuss any of what I said in a more conclusive or in depth matter. Teen depression and severe anxiety is not a passing mood. It’s of the utmost concern for myself, and should be considered as something very real and detrimental by all who care about the physical and mental well-being of teens.