Successful Treatment Options for Your Teen’s Depression Symptoms
Depression or major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States (and across the world). Unfortunately, despite its prevalence in people of all ages, depressive disorders are also some of the most misdiagnosed and underdiagnosed conditions. The signs, symptoms, and causes of depression vary widely, and depression will not look or appear the same from one person to another. This is part of what makes diagnosing and adequately treating depression so challenging for medical providers. Unlike a broken bone or a deep cut, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment or cure for depressive disorders. What works for one person may only have a minimal effect for another or even no effect at all.
When your teen is experiencing the symptoms associated with a depressive disorder, it can feel as though they are dealing with a dark cloud that never seems to ease or go away. Their symptoms can inhibit their ability to live the lives they want to and can increase isolation and other mental health symptoms. As mentioned in a previous blog post, major depressive disorder is unlikely to go away on its own, but depression can eventually go away with the proper treatment.
A few things to know about treatment
- For your teen’s treatment to be the most successful, fit is vital to determine if their depressive symptoms are due to an underlying medical condition. Various medical conditions can contribute to or mimic the symptoms of major depressive disorder and other mental health conditions. To accomplish this, it is suggested a visit be scheduled for your teen with their primary care provider. At this appointment, their physician will talk to them about their symptoms (mental health and physical health) and, through a complete evaluation, determine if there could be a co-occurring medical condition. If there is, this condition should be treated before treatment is sought for their depression symptoms.
- Another thing to consider is the severity of your teen’s depression. The length of time your teen has struggled with depression, and the intensity of their depressive symptoms will play a contributing role in how intensive their treatment will need to be. Here at Hillcrest, we design our treatment plans based on your teen’s individual needs, which helps to increase their chances of success as they complete their treatment program.
- Finding the proper treatment is not a quick process. It often takes time to find the right treatment, and a certain amount of trial and error will likely be necessary before your teen finds the proper treatment and level of support that works best for them. For example, if your teen decides to start with therapy as an option, it may take a few different sessions before they find the therapist or the type of treatment that they prefer. When it comes to depression treatment, experimentation is often required before the right puzzle pieces are found.
- Do not rely on medications alone as a treatment for depression. Although medication can help to relieve depressive symptoms, these medications are often not suitable for long term use. There are a variety of other treatments that can be just as successful and beneficial as medications without the unwanted side effects.
Treatment for depression takes time and commitment, but it is possible to see depressive symptoms ease and eventually, in many cases, entirely resolve. But again, symptoms will not disappear without work and commitment to treatment and lifestyle change. The process is likely to feel overwhelming (and annoyingly) slow for your teen, as it is not a quick fix. Recovery will have its good days and its bad days.
Types of depression treatments
Below is a list of treatments that are often used for depressive disorders. Again, what works for one person may not work for another. It is also important to note that relapse can and does occur. It takes time to find the proper mix of lifestyle changes and coping mechanisms required to help with triggering events, which may cause a relapse of depressive symptoms.
Psychotherapy is also commonly called talk therapy. If your teen is not suffering from an underlying medical cause that contributes to depressive symptoms, then talk therapy can be an extraordinarily effective and successful treatment for depressive symptoms. Talk therapy will help your teen to learn skills and gain the insight necessary to feel better and help prevent future relapse.
Many different types of psychotherapy are commonly successful in the treatment of depression in teens. Three of the most common are cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. It is not uncommon for a blended approach to be used as opposed to just one specific treatment model. We discussed how these treatments work in detail in a previous post. As this post is related to successful depression treatments, we will not explain them in depth at this time, but you can go back and check out the previous blog for more details.
The goal of these therapies is to teach your teen practical techniques and skills they can use to reframe negative thinking. It also teaches valuable behavioral skills that are necessary for combating depressive symptoms.
Individual or group therapy
At Hillcrest, we offer a variety of different therapy settings. Commonly, when people hear the word therapy, they think of a one on one session with a therapist sitting in one chair and the patient sitting in another. While individual therapy can indeed be beneficial for treating depression, group therapy can be very successful too. Individual therapy is useful as your teen is building a strong, trusting relationship with their provider. In these one on one settings, there is often a significant level of trust, and it is possible your teen will feel more comfortable sharing sensitive and emotional information with one person as opposed to a group of people.
In group therapy, your teen is afforded the opportunity to hear and see that there are other peers of the same age, going through the same struggles. This can help to validate their experiences and build much-needed self-esteem. Often, in a group setting, there are people who are at different stages in their treatment, which offers the opportunity to garner insight from people at all stages of recovery.
Depression medication is the most advertised treatment for depression. However, that does not mean it is the most effective cure. Medication helps treat some of the symptoms of moderate to severe depression; however, it does not cure the underlying problems and causes of your teen’s depression. Medications, although indeed helpful, are also not a preferred long-term treatment solution.
Lifestyle changes are an essential part of depression treatment, relapse prevention, and long-term recovery. Sometimes, lifestyle changes may be the key factor in helping alleviate the depressive symptoms your teen may be experiencing. Lifestyle changes such as those described below have been shown to lift symptoms faster and prevent them from returning.
- Exercise-Regular exercise can be as effective in the treatment of depression as medication. Exercise helps boost serotonin levels, endorphins, and other “feel good” brain chemicals in the body. Additionally, exercise helps to trigger the growth of new brain cells and connections just as antidepressant medications would. Best of all, exercise does not come with the same undesirable side effects often common with antidepressant medications. For exercise to be a successful depression treatment, your teen needs only to move for about half an hour each day.
- Getting proper nutrition-Eating well is important for all aspects of your health. Eating small and well-balanced meals throughout the day can help regulate the chemical balance within and body and prevent mood and energy swings.
- Sleep- Sleep has a very powerful effect on mood. When your teen does not get enough sleep, their depressive symptoms will be elevated. Sleep deprivation can cause or enhance irritability, moodiness, sadness, and fatigue. It is vital that your teen get enough sleep each night. They should aim for no less than seven hours with a goal of at least seven to nine hours each night.
- Reduce stress- Stress is prevalent among teens. There are so many changes occurring at this point in their lives that it is natural to feel stress and anxiety about meeting all of their goals and dreams. However, to successfully prevent relapse after treatment for depression, it is essential your teen does all they can to reduce the level of stress they are experiencing. This will help to reduce the impact stress has on their day to day lives and help to prevent future triggering events that could lead to relapse.
Alternative and complementary treatment options
Alternative and complementary treatment options for depression include things such as vitamin and herbal supplements, acupuncture, and relaxation techniques, including mindfulness meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
There is still a lot of question surrounding how well herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements work in treating depression. If you and your teen are discussing integrating these into your teen’s treatment plan, it is essential that you communicate with their medical provider to determine if supplements are a safe addition to their current treatment plan. This is especially true if they are taking a prescription medication as part of their treatment or for any other reason.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga or mindfulness meditation are not only a benefit to depression symptom relief but may also help to reduce stress and boost feelings of overall well-being.
Depression is a challenging and often debilitating illness; however, with the proper treatment, it can “go away.” Curing depression does require treatment, time, and dedication to treatment on the part of your teen and your family. This is especially true in the days, weeks, and months after your teen returns home from an inpatient setting such as Hillcrest or stops attending regular therapy sessions with their mental health provider. The skills they learn during treatment will be tested, and the coping strategies they learned from their providers and peers will help them continue on the road to depression-free living. If your teen is struggling with depressive symptoms, reach out to us at Hillcrest today to see if our individualized teen treatment programs may be the right match for your family.