With permission, I pass on words of wisdom from a client. This person wants all of you to know that she wasn’t attentive in how she stored her medication, which led to it being ineffective. She said she kept it in her car so she could conveniently take it each morning as she left the house. She said she wants everyone to know that it got too hot in the car, which wasn’t good for her meds. For those of you taking meds, she encourages you to pay attention to the temperatures suggested on the label. She says once she began storing it properly, it worked better.
Now onto comments from two different teenagers dealing with extreme loneliness at school. There are many, many of you reading this who suffer from loneliness. Not having one or two good friends in your life is devastating at any age. For a teen it’s even harder because it’s so noticeable. You walk around your school campus and have nobody to sit with at lunch. You don’t know where to go at break. Even if you have a place to sit at lunch, you’re not included in activities outside of school hours. You might be “okay,” but without friends you’re probably not thriving.
My heart aches for you. We are wired to belong to someone. There are a few of us who genuinely don’t need people, but that is not most of us. Most of us need someone to belong to and we need someone to belong to us. This innate need is deeply ingrained. If you don’t belong to anyone at school and nobody belongs to you, please tell your parents. I know that discussion might be awkward, but your outlook on your entire life can change if you are given some tools to rectify the loneliness.
Sometimes loneliness is really hard to fix. Sometimes you have no insight into why you aren’t building connections with others. We always work on that in therapy because I have come to see it as a basic human need. Not having someone underlies at least half of the cases I see when a teen is refusing to go to school. It is also present in a high percentage of those I see who come in for depression and anxiety.
One of the first things to consider is going where you’re wanted. Some of you who are lonely do have people who like you, they just aren’t the people you have your heart set on. Usually these people are kind but maybe not as “fun.” Trust me when I tell you that these people are worth putting time into. Being in the popular crowd is far less important than having a place where someone is glad to see you each day.
Some of you don’t really have anyone you can identify as a place you can go. This is trickier, but not impossible. It becomes important to start looking around for who else needs a friend instead of who can meet your needs. It’s a change in mindset, but it does start the process of resolving the loneliness.
Finally, there are some of you who have enough social anxiety that you cannot bring yourself to do or say the friendly things necessary to get close to others. Give us a call in that case; counseling and/or group therapy can be of temendous benefit in those cases.
I have a brief update to give on the last blog, which talked about the website/app Hims. It was reported to me that a person doesn’t even see a doctor on that site and can get antidepressant medication. The update that was given this week is that there is a texting conversation with the doctor before the prescription is written. No at all ideal, but slightly better than just a self-survey.
I’ve learned something new in the past few months. It’s now come up twice. A friend of mine is a psychiatrist (for those who don’t know the distinction, a psychiatrist has attended medical school and has received extra training in mental disorders and medication) explained to me that many people suffering with Bipolar Disorder cannot tolerate marijuana AT ALL. He said it causes a higher incidence of paranoid psychosis for this group than for the general population. He told me to pass along to all of you that if you have Bipolar Disorder, you should NEVER use marijuana.
Let me give a short clarification on what Bipolar Disorder is. Many people have a misunderstanding because the term “bipolar” is used as slang for mood swings. Bipolar Disorder is a difficult mental illness for someone to live with. It causes times of mania or hypomania, which means periods of little to no needed sleep with some combination of euphoria, anger/agitation, impulsive decision-making, sexually irresponsible behavior, rapid speech and/or thoughts, and grandiose ideas. These periods are followed by a marked and profound period of depression. The depression is intense and miserable. One client described it to me as “mashed potatoes. It’s as though everything has the color of mashed potatoes and the flavor of mashed potatoes. The world is devoid of life.” The depression can last for years on and off without any interruping mania for some. The pattern and timing of depression and mania varies from person to person.
I’m sure you can understand that someone dealing with the unpredictability of Bipolar Disorder might be drawn to marijuana. However, it is understood to be something that will destabilize the Bipolar Disorder over time and can even add in psychosis. The bottom line: It’s not worth the risk. By the way, I’m not a fan of it for others either. I know that alienates some of you, but the long-term effects of cannabis just don’t justify the short-term pleasures.
Stress is tough on teens. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Teenagers these days are stressed out! So are we all. We’re short on sleep, overscheduled, and overstimulated. Here are the top 5 stressors my teen clients talk about:
1. Looking good: Teens don’t yet know what makes them unique and special. They haven’t established a career or any specific knowledge that gives them an identity. They’re receiving a general education in middle and high school, so there is very little that distinguishes them from their peers. As a result, many teenagers spend an extraordinary about of emotional energy on wanting to be the best looking of their peer group. Girls try to be thinner, and boys try to look stronger. Pimples are akin to a nuclear crisis. This is a regular source of stress for your teenager.
2. College: There is an incredible amount of pressure on Orange County teenagers to achieve in high school so they can get into a great university. The problem is, they really don’t have a concept of what makes a university great. They tend to just assume schools with prestige and difficult admission requirements are what defines their entire adult future. Please help your teenager avoid buying into this lie. Different colleges excel at different things. Your adolescent’s success in college has more to do with matching the right kind of school to their personality and values than anything else. For example, I have one client who is achieving very high grades in high school, but his personality is such that he flourishes in an environment where he is one of the top students. He would really struggle at a UCLA type school even though he could get in there. He’s intentionally choosing a much smaller private school for this very reason.
3. Sports: Playing sports is very good for teenagers. It’s really beneficial for them to get exercise, be around friends, and learn discipline. But, we have many teenagers who are forced to take sports a little too seriously. They have multiple hours of practice per day, private coaches, weekends dominated by travel and tournaments, and constant pressure to play at a very elite level. What is all this for? These teens are training like professional athletes, often at great financial and emotional expense, just to make a college team? It’s one thing if your teen is truly passionate about their sport, and you couldn’t keep them from practicing if you tried. It’s completely another thing if you’re the one pushing and they only “like” the sport. This kind of pressure ends up equating to stress. In fact, many teenagers confide in me during a counseling session that they actually hate being an intense athlete.
4. Social media: Without a doubt your teenager stresses about social media (if they use it). Adolescents are truly bothered every time they logon to Instagram and see several of their friends in a photo without them. They feel compelled to check their social media multiple times per day. They are bolstered or discouraged by comments made on their posts. They use social media as a means to compare themselves to others.
5. Homework: This one won’t surprise you. It likely caused you stress as a teenager too. Teenagers are assigned a lot of homework. It is stressful to be at school all day, and then have to come home and work on it for many more hours. Now that adolescents feel they have to take harder and harder classes to stand out, their homework load has become extremely burdensome.
Stress in small doses actually motivates us. It’s good to learn to manage stress. When your teenager becomes overly stressed though, they can be irritable, frustrated and anxious. Knowing some of the things that cause them anxiety can help you help them. One of the big skills you have to teach your child before he/she flies the coop is how to keep life in balance. Help your teenager know they simply cannot participate in, or be the best in everything.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Parents and teens, one of the best things you can do to alleviate depression, anxiety, and a struggle with identity and purpose is get a job. I know it adds stress in a certain way, but in my observations, teens who work have several things: 1. Increased confidence. 2. A better understanding of money. 3. Can talk to people with good eye contact. 4. Lower anxiety. 5. More friends. 6. A place where they belong outside school and home. 7. Discipline that isn’t coming from parents or teachers. 8. More realistic ambitions and goals. 9. A better sense of marketable skills when they choose a college major. 10. More purpose, which leads to lower anxiety and depression overall.
I know this isn’t a foolproof solution to every problem. However, it has made a huge positive difference in the lives of many of my clients. I think it’s worth a try.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Teen depression can look a bit different from adult depression. In teenagers you might see more of a general irritability. Adults typically notice they feel depressed because their dominant mood is sad. Sometimes adolescent depression presents as sadness, but just as often it presents as consistent grouchy moods.
One thing I see in my therapy practice pretty regularly is parents struggling to believe their teenager is dealing with depression. This is because the teen has moments where they smile and laugh. They have times during the day when they come out of their depressed mood and engage with others around them. Parents tend to assume that teens are only unhappy at home, or at school. Teenagers with depression can be good at faking feeling okay. Even while they are laughing, there is a dark cloud somewhere in the background.
Other signs your teenager could be dealing with depression include a change in appetite, a change in sleep patterns, and a decrease in socializing. If you see your adolescent either stop eating or eat quite a lot and this is different from normal, it is possibly a sign of depression. It could also be a symptom of many other things though, so don’t assume they are depressed solely based on a change in eating habits. If your teenager is usually a good sleeper and now sleeps poorly or sleeps excessively, it is another possible symptom of depression (I know it sounds weird that it can be either interrupted sleep or excessive sleep since those are opposites, but people’s bodies react in different ways to depression). Finally, if your teenager is withdrawing to their room all the time and no longer has an interest in seeing friends, this is another sign of possible depression.
One sign you definitely cannot overlook is when your teenager is either cutting or expresses thoughts of suicide. These symptoms alone are often enough to diagnose depression. Please get them help immediately in these situations.
Many teens experience profound anxiety at the same time as depression. If your teenager is overwhelmed and cannot seem to get organized, this can be a sign of depression too. When a person experiences depression it is really challenging to plan and execute. What I mean by this is a person with depression might write down their homework assignments, but actually deciding which one to start first is so overwhelming that they just don’t start. Then they fall behind, and it becomes even more cumbersome.
Teen depression is more complicated than I can describe in one 450 word blog post. If you are concerned your teen is dealing with depression, please feel free to contact me. I will chat with you on the phone to try and help you decide whether an evaluation by a professional is warranted. As a parent it is always so hard to watch your kids struggle. If you’re worried about your child, my heart hurts with you.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Hi everyone, I have been receiving a lot of calls from parents worried their teenagers have depression.
Teenagers who are facing depression can show it in a variety of ways. Your teenager might be irritable. While he used to like to come hang around you, now he only stays in his room. If you ask him to come out he expresses disgust and frustration that you would dare interrupt whatever he’s doing.
Your teenager might be sleeping poorly. Poor sleep can be too much sleep or too little sleep. Some depressed teens sleep all night and then take naps as well. Other depressed teens deal with insomnia or frequent waking at night.
You might notice your teen is no longer socially active. She used to see friends a lot and was always on her phone. Now your daughter is saying things like, “Nobody goes out because of COVID,” or “There’s nothing to do now because everything is closed.” Your teenager might be feeling as thought she doesn’t fit with anyone anymore. She also could be telling you that everyone is just shallow or stupid.
Of course one of the most glaring signs of teen depression is thoughts of suicide. If your teenager is texting about it to friends, writing about it in a journal, or talking about it then it’s serious. It’s tempting to assume it’s an attention grab; it very well might be but it’s the wrong way to get attention. If your teen is talking about suicide they need a professional evaluation imminently.
Our staff here at Teen Therapy OC has seen a huge increase in depression in teens since March. We believe the shut-down has been hard on them. While they might not have loved school, most of them miss the social aspects and having a clear purpose each day. Teenagers languish without direction. We adults also speak with so much uncertainty and negativity about everything happening right now that it leaves many of our teens extremely fearful for their future. They don’t have as much perspective as we do because they haven’t been through as many ups and downs in life. They’re too young to remember the Great Recession of 2008 so this feels like the first real crisis they’ve ever faced. It’s disheartening to them.
Please reach out and ask for help if you suspect your teenager is facing depression. We can help you sort out whether it’s clinical depression and in need of professional treatment.
Hello, I’m Lauren! If you notice your teen struggling, you might be feeling helpless, hopeless, frustrated or concerned as a parent. Try to remember, there is hope. I want to help your adolescent feel better. My hope is for them to enjoy their life again. I want them to feel confident they can handle whatever situations arise.