Chronic Illness and Depression: Helping Your Teen Cope


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The teen years are naturally difficult to deal with, whether you’re a first-time parent or an experienced one. A teenager’s mood swings might become unbearable, and their loss of interest in things they used to love might start to worry you. It’s all about those hormones, right? 

It could be, but your teen’s unusual gloomy or irritable mood could arise from an underlying condition—teenage depression, to be more specific. Depression causes a chemical imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters, which can be the result of a chronic condition or be the condition itself. 

Is my teen’s depression a result of chronic illness? 

It can be tough to tell natural teenage crises apart from serious mood disorders, as well as it can be hard to tell which specific factors are responsible for the onset of depression. For this reason, it’s critical that your teen is up-to-date with his or her medical checkups; people with chronic conditions like Chron’s disease, asthma, endometriosis, and chronic pain, for instance, can show symptoms of depression.

If their physical health is all-clear, then it might be time to consider depression as a single illness. As a parent, there are a few steps you should take to detect depression and help your child through this hard time. 

First things first: Evaluate risk factors.

Is your child at risk for depression? You can find out by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Consider your family history. Do you have any family members who are suffering/have suffered from depression? 
  • Have any stressful life events such as a divorce, an unexpected death, or a house move taken place recently? 
  • Does your child have a past of physical or sexual abuse? 

Before ruling out the possibility of depression, consider all risk factors and learn more about the condition, if possible. 

Keep track of your teen’s behavior.

At the first inkling that your teen isn’t feeling well, you should be all eyes and all ears. 

Some parents make the mistake of only considering depression when dealing with more noticeable signs—namely drinking excessively and doing drugs—and ignore subtle warnings like loss of appetite, atypical sadness, and doing poorly in school as indicatives of something more serious. 

Of course, there are several other symptoms that can show up in disrupted sleep cycles (sleeping too much or too little) or excessive crying, for example. As stated above, helping your child will be easier if you learn about the initial signs of depression. 

The bottom line is this: Don’t disregard seemingly “minor” signs. The earlier you notice them, the better.

There’s a right way (and time) to communicate.

It’s a fact: Inactivity makes depression worse. You know that, but your depressed teen couldn’t care less when all he or she wants to do is stay in bed. Instead of stating facts, how about encouraging them to go for a jog or go to the gym with you? This way, you won’t be making them feel guilty for something that isn’t their fault. 

During tough times, being a more present parent is essential. However, you should avoid being the kind of parent who sees mental health problems as attention-seeking behavior. You should listen to your teen, respond non-judgmentally, and assure them you’ll be there whenever they need you. 

Talk to your teen about treatment options.

When it comes to treating depression, psychotherapy is usually a great starting point. A psychologist will be able to recognize which type of depression your teen could be suffering from, and decide whether antidepressant medications are needed. 

For milder cases, and especially if your teen’s depression involves chronic pain or inflammation, you’d be interested in Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF), a safe treatment that emits waves to regenerate the body’s cells. For the best options, search for “best PEMF devices 2020.” 

On the other hand, severe cases warrant professional attention. Depression treatment centers for teenagers can offer an array of evidence-based treatment modalities from admission to aftercare.  

Living with an ill child can be upsetting to the whole family. To avoid worst-case scenarios, your best choice is to help your teen cope with depressive symptoms the moment they show up.