10 Signs Your Teenager is Depressed

by Melissa Skinner, M.A., LCPC

Teenage depression has been steadily increasing over the years and the research indicates that one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. There are certain risk factors that are more strongly associated with the development of depression among teens. Some of these include a family history of mood disorders, having a learning disability, difficulty being social, poor relationships with parents or a stressful life event such as a death, divorce or bullying. Since teens do not always express or even understand their own feelings very well, it can be very difficult for parents to spot when their child is depressed. A moody teenager, to some extent, is very normal but there are signs to watch for in order to recognize a clinically depressed teen. The following list are some of the signs parents may notice. If these signs or symptoms last for at least two weeks, your teen may have depression:

  1. Withdrawing from family and friends
  2. Discontinuing activities they had once enjoyed
  3. Sleeping more or having trouble sleeping
  4. Acting irritable or having angry outbursts
  5. Having problems concentrating
  6. Having problems in school
  7. Complaining of headaches, stomach aches or other illnesses
  8. Eating much less or much more
  9. Feeling tired most of the time
  10. Using drugs or alcohol

If you notice some of these signs, talk with your child about how he or she is feeling and try to understand what is going on in their world. Often teenagers, especially depressed ones, have a difficult time opening up about their feelings but it’s still important to let them know we are here for them at any point in time. If you suspect your teen may be depressed, gently say something along these lines, “I’ve noticed you’ve been a little down recently and I want you to know I’m always here”or “I love you, feeling depressed is so hard, please know I’m here to help you get through this”. Be patient and do not take it personally if your teen shuts you out despite your efforts.

Some teenagers may be open to the idea of therapy, while many may need a lot of convincing and time to get used to the idea. Keep in mind too, that not every therapist is going to be the right match for your teen. Therapy is not a one size fits all, so you may need to try a few before finding a therapist that your child feels comfortable with. A good teen therapist should be able to establish a good connection with your child. If your teen agrees to therapy that’s a win. If they continue to attend, that’s an indication that they are aware it’s helping them, even if they can’t  articulate this. With teenagers, their actions often speak louder then their words.

Melissa Skinner is the founder of Northwest Counseling & Wellness and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been working with adolescents and their families for 15 years. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 872-222-3132


Working Through Anger & Resentment

By Melissa Skinner, M.A., LCPC

5 Ways to Practice Self Love

by Melissa Skinner, M.A., LCPC

In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8th, a political holiday which emphasizes women’s struggles, contributions, accomplishments and continued need for gender equality.

(1) Silence your inner critic. We all have gifts to offer the world that are fueled by our deepest passions and it is really OK to share these gifts with the world. In fact it’s great to share these gifts with the world! Often times women will downplay their strengths to appear less threatening to others. This is not self love. Maximize your strengths. When you express your interests and what you’re good at, it’s not bragging, it’s telling the world who you are and what makes you tick.

(2) Get to know yourself. What do you really like or dislike? What are your core values? What are your dreams and hopes for the future?  What types of people do you want to surround yourself with and how do you want to be treated? Where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years? If you contemplate these types of important questions, you will be more likely to make choices in your life which align with the answers.

(3) Set healthy boundaries. Having good boundaries helps you develop a positive self concept, as well as develop and maintain strong relationships.

(4) Have compassion for yourself. Self compassion is an important part of self love. Cut yourself some slack when you need a break. If you’re tired, overworked or had enough, take a time out. Talk to yourself in a kind, gentle way, as you would to a close friend or your own child and be willing to forgive yourself when you’ve made a mistake. Letting go of perfectionism is a huge part of self care and self compassion.

(5) Practice regular mindfulness. Try to let go of anything that feels toxic. This may include self destructive habits, bad relationships, a tendency to compare yourself to others and obsessive worry or resentment. Develop your own personal source of spiritual guidance and faith.

Family Dinners

by Melissa Skinner, M.A., LCPC

Having dinner together as a family is not as common as it was in the past, but is one of the best tips for engaging your apathetic teenager and encouraging them to learn important social skills. In today’s age of technology, our youth are relying heavily on their cellphones or tablets as a means to communicate and are losing their ability to develop and strengthen their social skills. If we want our children to grow up having empathy and knowing how to initiate and hold conversations, we need to provide the space for them to practice these skills and to interact with people instead of with screens. What better place then at the family dinner table?

Statistics show there are many benefits of families carving out time to share meals together each week. The US Department of Health & Human Services, found that children who do not eat dinner with their families, are 61% more likely to use alcohol, tobacco or drugs and by contrast, youth that do eat dinner with their families, are 20% less likely to drink, smoke or use illegal drugs. Additionally teens that share dinner time with their families, are less likely to have sex at young ages or get suspended from school. They are also at a lower risk for suicidal thoughts.

As we all know, getting everyone together at the same time to eat a meal can be a challenge. There are varying schedules and activities to consider, such as the numerous sports practices, clubs, work meetings etc. Keep in mind though, the goal does not have to be to eat dinner together every night of the week. Start small and shoot for one or two nights a week. Pick a night that everyone in the family can commit to and make this commitment non-negotiable. For instance, everyone is expected to be at the dinner table on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 pm. If you bring home Subway for dinner, that works. Don’t make this something that adds more stress to your lives, but rather something that everyone can enjoy and look forward to. This is a time to come together and to spend some quality time together, without any TV’s on or any screens or phones nearby.

The research shows that the more meals together, the better. One is better then none and three is better then two. If both parents live together and can be present for the dinner, that is ideal, however since we do not live in an ideal world, we do the best we can under the circumstances. The point here is to spend quality time together and to engage in a meaningful and fun way with your kids. You may want to come up with a few creative open ended questions beforehand, to get the conversation rolling. Some examples of these types of questions are “Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had and why?”, “What do you think is the coolest thing we’ve ever done together as a family ?”.

Eating together regularly, even one or two times a week, will  help to build a stronger family identity. The routine will provide your children with a sense of security and stability which will last a lifetime. Most importantly, it’s time that you’ve all set aside to celebrate your family, to laugh, to have fun and to love.

For more information on the research associated with the benefits of family dinners, see the following studies and articles.

Treating Depression

by, Melissa Skinner, M.A., LCPC

It’s very normal for a persons mood to fluctuate, but in some cases these changes can become debilitating. There are different grades of depression from a mild depression, that most people feel from time to time, to a clinical depression or major depression. As many as 8% of the US population has experienced major depression (clinical depression).

Major depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a mental disorder characterized by at least 2 weeks of an overwhelming feeling of sadness, isolation and despair. Symptoms include feeling sad most of the day, distressed, unmotivated and tired. There is a loss of interest in activities and often a change in sleeping and eating habits. Many people with depression also experience anxiety; almost half of all people with major depression suffer from severe anxiety. Women are twice as likely as men to experience major depression.

The mainstay of treatment for MDD is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a Licensed Clinical Therapist. In some cases the combination of CBT with an antidepressant medication may be necessary. Using a Cognitive Behavioral approach, a Licensed Therapist will help the patient identify negative or false thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic ones. The premise of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is that our thought patterns and the way in which we interpret events in our lives, influence how we behave and feel. The therapist together with the patient, will work to set treatment goals and rather then focusing on the past, the focus will be on the present and on how to change patterns of behavior that contribute to the depression. The therapist will teach strategies that help counteract negative thinking associated with depression.

There are some simple techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that are helpful for anyone suffering from depression. These include identifying the problem and brainstorming potential solutions, writing down statements which counteract negative thoughts, practicing finding the silver lining in trying situations and visualizing positive outcomes. In addition to these practices, it’s always important to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, get sunlight, talk about how your feeling and seek professional help if needed.

Melissa Skinner is the founder of Northwest Counseling & Wellness and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselorspecializing in an evidence-based treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 872/222/3132

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