Guest Author - Beverly Patchell
dolescents are known for having periods of labile mood swings, irritability and withdrawal from family connections. This process can be part of normal growth and development and passes as a phase or it can be the first inklings of depression. The key to determining whether to consider this possibility is the duration of these symptoms, other symptoms like sleeping too much or too little; change in appetite, grades and friends and lack of pleasure in activities that they formerly enjoyed.
Winter months, with the lack of sunshine and the weather forcing more time indoors, can be a time when these symptoms might be more noticeable to family members. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is thought to run in families, so family history can play a role in whether this is to be considered. Lack of family history should not rule it out, however. It is found most often in northern climates where there is likely to be longer and darker winters. Natural sunlight is always best, but things light using full-spectrum light bulbs and light boxes can help. Vitamin D supplements are also helpful, since this is the vitamin most likely to be deficient due to lack of sunshine.
Another disorder with depression as a symptom is bipolar disorder, which has been diagnosed in adolescence with increasing frequency over the past few years. Bipolar disorder differs from major depression because in addition to the symptoms listed, there may also be unusual high or euphoric moods, characterized by lack of sleep and grandiose ideas. These disorders require professional assistance to differentiate, so this information is not meant to be diagnostic, only to pay attention to what might be a developing issue.
It is important to note that increasing stress at home or school or in relationships can also lead to these kinds of symptoms, so look at all aspects of the situation before deciding a course of action. The school or church counselor can also be a resource for adolescents and making sure that your adolescents know all of their options is important in helping them take charge of their health, whether mental, emotional, spiritual or physical.