Depression in high achieving teens: What parents need to know!

Teen depression and how parents can helpSimple teen angst… or something more serious? It’s a question most parents of teens have asked themselves at one time or another. And, with good reason! According to WebMD, “…findings show that one out of every eight adolescents has experienced teen depression.”

The link between stress and depression

According to Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Coach Melissa Cohen, “Stress is the body’s reaction to a challenge. Although the right kind of stress can sharpen the mind and reflexes, not all stress is created equally. The American Psychological Association identifies three distinct types of stress which include:

1.      Acute stress: the most common form and is the result of recent or anticipated stressors.

2.      Episodic stress: acute stress that occurs frequently. This is the kind of stress that continuously pops up, sometimes in a pattern.

3.      Chronic acute: a never-ending stress that relentlessly wears away at you.

“Stress produces a physiological reaction in your body. Hormones are released, which results in physical manifestations of stress. These can include slowed digestion, shaking, tunnel vision, accelerated breathing and heart rate, dilation of pupils and flushed skin. This process is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. That is just what it sounds like: Our bodies are poised to either run away from the stressor or stick around and fight against it,” explains Cohen.

Unfortunately, stress – especially chronic stress — often leads to depression.

Why high achieving teens are at risk for depression 

High achieving teens are often the most stress — from college applications, competitive sports, a rigorous academic schedule, a part-time job. This means that these superstars are at an even greater risk for depression.

But, parents can help!

  • Stop over scheduling. Kids are expected to pay attention in school for seven hours, excel at extracurricular activities and sports, come home, finish homework, and go to bed, then do it all again the next day with no downtime.
  • Play! Younger kids will do this naturally, but older kids may forget how to simply play. Some ideas include: riding your bikes, throwing around the baseball, wrestling and hiking.
  • Catch up on the ZZZs. Sleep is vital for everyone, regardless of age. Proper rest helps minimize stress, boost moods, and even improve school performance. Creating a restful bedroom environment (no electronics!) is crucial.
  • Stress really is “contagious!” Start the morning off right. Disorganization is a major contributor to stress levels for everyone in the house. Prepare the night before for the next day. Lay out clothes and shoes, pack backpacks, prepare lunch and pop in the fridge, sign all papers, notes, and permission slips, and make sure there is a healthy breakfast available.
  • Be proactive. If your student is struggling academically, get tutoring help right away, before the situation becomes unmanageable.

Resources that can help parents and teens deal with stress and depression in Delaware

StrengthofUs.org is an online social community for teens and young adults living with mental illness (including depression) where they can connect while learning about services, supports and handling the unique challenges and opportunities of transition-age years.

The NAMI Helpline receives more than 8,000 requests each month from individuals needing support, referral and information. More than 60 fact sheets on a variety of topics are available along with referrals to NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates in communities across the country. (800) 950-NAMI (6264)

For more tips on helping teens deal with stress, visit the American Psychological Association.

About Back to Basics Learning Dynamics

Educating Delaware since 1985! Back to Basics Learning Dynamics is the undisputed leader in 1-on-1 tutoring in Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania for over 60 subjects, as well as SAT, ACT and Test Prep, translating and interpreting, educational testing and more. For more information about Back to Basics’ educational services, please call us at 302-594-0754.

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