I was 19 the first time I was put on anti depressants. I was a student and after 2 months of very little sleep the doctor prescribed them for insomnia. She explained that she didn’t want to put me on sleeping pills because they were too addictive.
Looking back the signs of anxiety and depression were there a lot earlier but it’s almost impossible to differentiate them from normal teenage behaviour.
Friends would point out my amazing knack for denial when everything was going wrong or equally my self imposed isolation for no reason. I remember one Guide camp having a fall out with the other girls because I insisted on sitting and reading a book when we went on a theme park trip. So far, so normal for a teenager. And that’s the point. It’s really difficult to tell the difference between hormonal mood swings and something that needs more attention.
Even though I was almost out of my teens by the time I was medicated, I was still young enough (and outgoing enough) for people to write it off as a ridiculous suggestion, “You just don’t seem like the type”. I have to be honest all that succeeds in doing is making you feel guilty for your feelings.
Fast forward 15 years to my time teaching at an FE college. Students ranged from age 16 to 22/23 and it was rare to find a class (average class sizes were around 18) where at least one student didn’t identify as having some form of anxiety disorder. Proof to me that we need to talk about it more with parents and teachers. Especially those who haven’t had the same experience and struggle to empathise. It’s really hard to support someone if you have no concept of what they’re going through.
I’m talking about this because I really sympathise with parents who struggle to know what to do. Mine struggled too, and that’s ok.
What you need to know:
Depression and anxiety lie.
Listing why someone has no logical reason to feel depressed or anxious only serves to make your child feel guilty for something they have no control over. Their emotions are not necessarily linked to real life at the time.
Gently helping them to get out of bed and do something fun (but not too taxing) can be really helpful. Making them feel guilty for wanting to stay in bed or not wanting to see other people isn’t.
Trying to get someone to explain how they feel when they’re in this state is often pointless (unless they initiate the conversation themselves). Either they’ll get frustrated that they can’t make you understand and / or you’ll get frustrated that they don’t make sense. Bring it up when they’re having a better day and you can have a more fruitful discussion that should help you both.
Depression is nothing to do with being introverted or shy. Anyone is susceptible, no matter your personality type.
I’m in no way a medical professional and I can only tell you my experience and the experience of the dozens of students and friends I’ve spoken to about this over the years. If you’re looking for more guidance or you suspect your teenager needs help there are some great resources here:
Also, don’t forget you can just visit your GP for a chat.
To date I’ve been on anti depressants 4 times in my life for prolonged periods of time. I prefer not to rely on them but feel it’s really important to accept it when I do need the extra support.
Anyway, hope this is useful to anyone who is unsure how to help the young person in their life who might be going through a tough time.