Parenting Teenage Depression: Understanding & How To Help

Parenting Teenage Depression: Understanding & How To Help

Depression is a common mental health disorder that affects people of all ages, including teenagers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it affects an estimated 300 million people of all ages. In the United States, it is estimated that around 3 million teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced at least one major depressive episode.

The symptoms of depression in teenagers can vary, but they often include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, as well as changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and energy levels. Teens with depression may also have trouble concentrating, experience low self-esteem, and withdraw from friends and activities they used to enjoy.

Depression in teenagers can be caused by a variety of factors, including biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Biological factors 

One major biological factor that can contribute to depression in teenagers is changes in brain chemistry. The brain is made up of various chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are responsible for regulating mood, emotions, and behavior. When the levels of these neurotransmitters are imbalanced, it can lead to symptoms of depression.

Another biological factor that can contribute to depression in teenagers is genetics. Studies have shown that depression can run in families, suggesting that there may be a genetic component to the disorder. Certain genes have been identified as being associated with an increased risk of developing depression.

Hormonal imbalances can also contribute to depression in teenagers. The teenage years are a time of significant hormonal changes as the body prepares for adulthood. Hormonal imbalances can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including depression.

Other potential biological factors that can contribute to depression in teenagers include poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and exposure to toxins or other harmful substances (e.g., lead, mercury, and cadmiumheavy alcohol and drug useelevated levels of pesticides .)

Environmental factors

One major environmental factor that can contribute to depression in teenagers is stress. Stress can come from a variety of sources, including school, relationships, and family issues. When stress becomes chronic, it can take a toll on a teenager’s mental and emotional well-being, leading to symptoms of depression.

Trauma is another environmental factor that can contribute to depression in teenagers. Trauma can come in many forms, such as physical or emotional abuse, the loss of a loved one, or exposure to violence. Trauma can have a lasting impact on a teenager’s mental and emotional well-being, leading to symptoms of depression.

Social isolation is another environmental factor that can contribute to depression in teenagers. Teens who feel disconnected from their peers or family may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can contribute to depression.

Other potential environmental factors that can contribute to depression in teenagers include poverty, living in a dangerous or unstable neighborhood, and exposure to toxins or other harmful substances.

Psychological factors

One major psychological factor that can contribute to depression in teenagers is low self-esteem. Teens who have a negative view of themselves may experience feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, which can contribute to depression.

Negative thinking patterns is another psychological factor that can contribute to depression in teenagers. Teens who engage in negative self-talk, or who have a pessimistic outlook on life may be more likely to develop depression.

A lack of coping skills is another psychological factor that can contribute to depression in teenagers. Teens who do not have the tools to effectively manage stress and negative emotions may be more likely to develop depression.

Other potential psychological factors that can contribute to depression in teenagers include a history of mental health disorders, personality traits such as impulsivity or perfectionism, and a history of substance abuse.

Important Note About Technology & Depression In Teenagers

The constant use of technology, including smartphones, tablets, and social media platforms, has led to significant changes in the way teenagers interact with the world and with each other.

One way technology can contribute to depression in teenagers is through constant comparison to others on social media. Social media platforms have made it easy for teenagers to compare themselves to their peers, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Social media can also promote unrealistic ideals, such as the “perfect” body image, which can lead to body dissatisfaction and negative thoughts.

Another way technology can contribute to depression in teenagers is through a lack of face-to-face interaction. The constant use of technology can lead to social isolation and disconnection from friends and family. Studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness can increase the risk of depression.

Technology can also contribute to sleep disruption in teenagers, which can lead to depression. The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle, making it harder for teenagers to fall asleep and stay asleep. This can lead to feelings of fatigue and irritability, which can contribute to depression.

On the other hand, technology can also be used as a tool to support mental health and well-being. Many mental health apps are available that can provide support and resources for those dealing with depression. Online therapy sessions are also an option for teenagers who may feel more comfortable communicating through technology.

It is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the potential impact of technology on their teenager’s mental health and to establish healthy boundaries around technology use. Encouraging face-to-face interaction, physical activity, and a good sleep routine can also help to mitigate the negative effects of technology on teenagers’ mental health.

Is Depression Normal In Teenagers?

The short answer is no!

It’s important to note that depression in teenagers is not a normal part of growing up and should be taken seriously. If left untreated, depression can lead to other serious problems such as poor academic performance, substance abuse, and even suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, and it is estimated that 1 in 12 teenagers have made a suicide attempt.

Recognizing Depression In Your Teenager

Recognizing depression in a teenager can be difficult, as the symptoms may be subtle or easily mistaken for typical adolescent behavior. However, there are some signs that parents can look out for. Here is an example of a dialogue between a parent and child that may help to identify depression:

Parent: “Hey, how’s it going? You’ve seemed a little down lately.”

Child: “I’ve just been feeling really tired and unmotivated. I don’t want to do anything.”

Parent: “Have you been having trouble sleeping or eating?”

Child: “Yeah, I’ve been having trouble sleeping and I’ve lost a lot of weight.”

Parent: “Have you been experiencing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness?”

Child: “Yeah, I feel like nothing I do is good enough and that things will never get better.”

Parent: “I’m here for you and I want to help. I think it’s important that we talk to a doctor or therapist about what you’re going through.”

If a teenager is experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, lack of motivation, trouble sleeping, weight loss, feelings of hopelessness, and worthlessness, they need to see a healthcare professional. Parents need to be supportive and patient with their children and seek help as soon as possible.

A Dialogue With A Willing Teenager About Seeking Professional Help

“Mom, I think I might be depressed,” said Tim as he sat at the kitchen table, staring blankly at his cereal.

“What makes you say that sweetie?” asked his mother, concern etched on her face.

“I just don’t feel like doing anything anymore. I don’t want to go to school, I don’t want to hang out with my friends, I don’t even want to play video games,” Tim replied, his voice barely above a whisper.

“I see. That does sound like depression,” his mother said gently. “I think it would be a good idea for you to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. A counselor or therapist can help you understand and manage your feelings.”

Tim looked up at his mother, a hint of hope in his eyes. “Really? You think that will help?”

“I do, honey. And I’ll be here to support you every step of the way,” she said, reaching out to give his hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Okay,” Tim said, a small smile creeping across his face. “I’ll do it. I’ll talk to a counselor.”

“That’s my boy,” his mother said, smiling back at him. “I’ll help you find a good one and we can make an appointment together.”

Tim nodded, and for the first time in a long time, he felt a glimmer of hope that things could get better.

The mother and son work together to find a counselor who Tim feels comfortable talking to. Tim learns how to identify and manage his feelings of depression and slowly starts to feel better. The mother also found a support group and some tips on how to support her child.

A Dialogue With A Unwilling Teenager About Seeking Professional Help

“Tim, I made an appointment for you to see a counselor next week,” Tim’s mother said as she placed a brochure on the table in front of him.

“What? No way, I’m not going to see some shrink,” Tim said, pushing the brochure away.

“Tim, I know you’re not thrilled about this, but I’m worried about you. You’ve been so down lately and I want to help you,” his mother said, trying to keep her voice calm.

“I don’t need help, I’m fine,” Tim replied, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Tim, depression is a sign that something isn’t going right just like a fever tells us that we have caught a virus. It’s not something you can just shake off or ignore. I care about you and I want to help you feel better,” his mother said, her voice filled with concern.

“I don’t have depression. I’m just going through a tough time, that’s all,” Tim argued.

“Tim, it’s okay to not be okay. And it’s okay to ask for help. Going to counseling doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, it means you’re strong enough to face your feelings and take steps to improve your mental well-being,” she said.

Tim looked at his mother, considering her words. He knew she was only trying to help, but the thought of opening up to a stranger about his innermost thoughts and feelings was overwhelming.

“Fine,” he said reluctantly. “I’ll go to the appointment, but I’m not making any promises.”

“That’s all I ask, Tim. Just give it a chance,” his mother said, a small smile of relief on her face.

As the appointment date approached, Tim was filled with a mix of emotions. He was still resistant to the idea of counseling, but a small part of him was curious about what it could do for him.

With the guidance of a compassionate and skilled therapist, Tim will begin to understand the benefits of counseling. Through a few sessions, he will learn how to identify and manage his feelings related to depression and gradually started to experience improvements in his mental well-being. He will also come to understand that seeking help was not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous step towards self-improvement. Tim’s mother’s love and support played an important role in his healing journey. He learned to appreciate the importance of seeking help when struggling with mental health issues and the support of loved ones.

Important Factors That Significantly Help Your Teenager To Overcome Depression

Parents need to understand that depression is not a sign of weakness or a lack of willpower., Instead, remember, it is a complex condition that can be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, and life events.

Don’t Focus On Fixing Or Minimizing

When dealing with a teenager experiencing depression, it is essential to avoid trying to fix the problem or downplaying the events that may have led to their depression. Instead, it is important to approach them with love and care, recognizing that they are a person who needs support and understanding.

It’s important to remember that what may seem like small issues to an adult can be significant and overwhelming for a teenager, whose brain is still developing. Your teenager may not possess the same cognitive ability as you do to view the problem in a less complex way.

It is more beneficial to be a supportive listener and provide a safe space for them to express their feelings, rather than trying to solve their problems. By providing understanding and support, you can help your teenager navigate this difficult time.

Don’t Panic

It is also important for parents to remain calm and supportive. Panicking or overreacting can make the situation worse and can make it more difficult for the teenager to seek help. Instead, parents should be there to listen and offer support and encouragement.

A key to managing and helping teenagers with depression is to provide them with an open, non-judgmental, and supportive environment. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and listen to them without judgment, and provide them with accurate information about depression and treatment options.

It is also important to remember that depression is treatable, and there are many effective treatments available, including therapy, medication, and support groups. With the right support and treatment, teenagers can learn to manage their depression and lead happy healthy lives.


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Changing The Ending Of Your Childhood Trauma Story

Changing The Ending Of Your Childhood Trauma Story

Everyone’s childhood trauma story is unique

No two individuals will have the same experiences, and the impact of those experiences will vary greatly from person to person. Some may have experienced severe physical or emotional abuse, while others may have faced more subtle forms of trauma, such as neglect or bullying.

Despite the differences in our experiences, there is one thing that we all have in common: we didn’t write our childhood trauma stories from the beginning. We were the innocent victims of circumstances beyond our control. Even though we didn’t write the beginning of our stories, we have the power to control how they end.

It’s important to recognize that healing from childhood trauma is not a linear process. It can be difficult and often involves facing difficult emotions and memories. It can be tempting to try to push these feelings aside and move on, but it’s important to confront and process them to fully heal.

One way to do this is through therapy, which can provide a safe and supportive space to explore and work through these emotions. It can also be helpful to connect with others who have similar experiences, whether through support groups or one-on-one relationships.

Another important aspect of healing is finding healthy ways to cope with and manage the effects of childhood trauma. This may involve finding activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as exercise, art, or meditation. It may also involve setting boundaries and learning to say no when necessary, as well as seeking out supportive and healthy relationships.

Ultimately, the journey toward healing from childhood trauma is a personal one. It will be different for everyone, and it may involve ups and downs. But by recognizing the power we have to shape the ending of our stories, we can find the strength and resilience to heal and move forward in a healthy way.


Here are some helpful tips for overcoming childhood trauma:

  1. Seek professional help: Therapy can provide a safe and supportive space to explore and work through difficult emotions and memories. A therapist can also help you develop coping strategies and tools for managing the effects of childhood trauma.
  2. Connect with others: Joining a support group or talking to others who have similar experiences can provide a sense of validation and belonging. It can also be helpful to have someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through.
  3. Practice self-care: Finding activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as exercise, art, or meditation, can help manage the effects of childhood trauma. It’s also important to prioritize sleep, healthy eating, and other basic self-care practices to support your overall well-being.
  4. Set boundaries: Learning to set healthy boundaries and say no when necessary can be an important step in healing from childhood trauma. It can help you take control of your life and protect yourself from further harm.
  5. Practice forgiveness: Forgiving yourself and others who have hurt you during childhood can be a challenging but important step in the healing process. It’s a way of letting go of the past, and it can be helpful in terms of self-compassion.
  6. Create a safety plan: Develop a safety plan in case you have a traumatic episode or feel unsafe. This can include identifying triggers, warning signs, and things that you can do to help yourself feel better.
  7. Seek out healthy relationships: Surrounding yourself with supportive and positive people can be an important step in healing from childhood trauma. They can provide a sense of belonging and help you feel less alone.

Remember, healing is not linear and it may take time. But, with the help of a therapist, the support of friends and family, and taking care of yourself, it is possible to overcome childhood trauma.


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Therapy As A New Year Resolution

Therapy As A New Year Resolution

Starting therapy in the new year can be a great way to kick off the year with a renewed focus on self-improvement and personal growth. Here are just a few reasons why starting therapy in the new year can be beneficial:

New year, new you: 

The start of a new year often feels like a fresh start and a chance to set new goals and make positive changes in our lives. Starting therapy can be a great way to prioritize your mental health and work towards becoming the best version of yourself.

Work through holiday stress: 

The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people, with added pressure to spend time with family, buy gifts, and attend parties. Starting therapy in the new year can provide a space to process and work through any stress or emotions that may have come up during the holiday season.

Make self-care a priority: 

Many people make resolutions to take better care of themselves in the new year, whether it’s exercising more, eating healthier, or getting more sleep. Adding therapy to your self-care routine can help you prioritize your mental health and work towards a happier and healthier overall well-being.

Get support for personal goals: 

If you have specific goals you want to achieve in the new year, therapy can provide a supportive space to work toward them. Whether you want to improve your relationships, overcome a personal challenge, or make a career change, therapy can provide the guidance and support you need to achieve your goals.

Take control of your mental health: 

Seeking therapy can be a proactive step towards taking control of your mental health and finding ways to manage stress and improve your overall well-being. By starting therapy in the new year, you can set the tone for a year focused on self-care and personal growth.

In short, starting therapy in the new year can be a great way to kick off the year with a renewed focus on self-improvement and personal growth. Whether you’re looking to work through holiday stress, make self-care a priority, or achieve specific goals, therapy can provide the support and guidance you need to make positive changes in your life.

Here at Cedar Rapids Counseling Center, we are here to help you start the new year off right. Reach out below to set up an appointment today

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7 Ways to Build And Maintain Relational Trust

7 Ways to Build And Maintain Relational Trust

One of the essential qualities a thriving couple must have is trust. Only relational commitment trumps trust in the hierarchy.

 Thriving Couples Model

An uncommitted person is challenging to trust. We tend to hold ourselves back and are suspicious of the indecisive person. 

Other essential qualities, like communication, problem-solving, friendship, and intimate sexuality all presuppose trust as a given.  

If I do not trust you, it does not matter what communication method we use. 

As one woman yelled during a session after learning a communication technique, “I do not believe a word he says!” 

Likewise, why would I want to spend time with you or be intimate with you if I cannot trust you? 

For these reasons, I advise couples to spend a considerable amount of time investing in developing and maintaining trust between each other. 

Relational trust is the wire around the electrical current that fuels the couple’s synergy. 

Unfortunately, an exposed live wire is dangerous and can cause tremendous damage. 

Furthermore, without trust, relationships tend to explode into panic mode and burn down everything in sight. 

So, before discussing 7 ways to develop and maintain trust with your spouse, let’s understand what trust means. 

Trust means you are dependable. 

Our anxiety skyrockets when uncertain looms. As children, we depend upon our parents to create a safe environment for us to explore. Too much adventure leads to trauma. 

Our spouses also depend on us to show up at the right time and in the right way. 

This creates ease of mind. 

Trust means you are responsible. 

When we get into a committed relationship, we take upon ourselves a considerable obligation. 

Part of this obligation is the ability to adult. 

Adulting means you can control yourself and have the wisdom to know how to care for yourself, your spouse, and your children. 

Trust means you are reliable. 

One of the leading causes of mistrust is inconsistency.  

If we are unpredictable in our choices and reactions, it creates tension in our spouse, making them feel like they are walking on eggshells. 

When our spouses can rely upon us, the opposite happens. They develop confidence that they can come to us with their emotions, needs, and desires. 

Trust means you are protective. 

When I hire a babysitter, my number one expectation is that my child will be alive when I get home. 

This is so basic that it is assumed on an unspoken level. 

Part of relational trust is that we are protecting each other. 

Of course, this means physical and emotional safety, but it also means that we are protecting each others’ hearts.  

For example, I do not joke about infidelity or threaten separation when I am upset. 

Both of these tend to undermine our shared commitment. 

How, then, does a spouse build and maintain trust. Below you will find a visual guild that will work you through seven ways to do this.

How To Stay Calm During A Marital Fight: Visual Guide

How To Stay Calm During A Marital Fight: Visual Guide

One of the major problems that many couples face is lacking the ability to fight well.

The idea that couples fighting well might sound strange at first. There tends to be a false narrative in our culture that happy couples do not fight.

We imagine this couple that is always sensitive to each other needs, never gets annoyed or upset, and even if they do, they both forgive each other as quickly as the offense happens.

However, this view of marriage and relationships is simply an illusion.

Indeed, some couples do not scream and yell at each other, but this does not automatically mean they are a great couple. They could be withdrawing from each other and ignoring the underlying issues that keep them from connecting deeply.
The bottom line is all couples will face disagreements. All couples will find times when one or both of the spouses are annoyed or upset.

But what separates the champions of relationship from those domed to struggle or breakup or divorce is the way in which they are fighting or how they handle the aftermath of the fight.

Sadly, many couples repeatedly galvanize each other into cycles of defense, criticism, contempt, and stonewall, which researcher John Gottman has shown to be some of the most significant signs of divorce.

So what are you supposed to do if you find yourself in this type of situation?

Part of the problem many of us have is once our emotions flood us, we have a tough time communicating in a way that invites the other person to think about solutions and be open to any repair attempts.
Being flooded and continuing the discussion is a terrible idea.

When I’m working with couples in therapy, I have trained myself to notice when someone is being flooded. Once I observe it happening, I intervene to get that person or the couple time to calm down.

I know nothing can happen until the person or the couple is calmed down.

Being able to calm down is essential for effective communication.

To help you and your spouse achieve effective communcation, I made this visual guide giving you five things you need to do to help stay calm during a fight.

This guide will be especially essential to men, for as Gottman points out,

“Men are more likely to feel physiologically overwhelmed sooner than women during a heated exchange. And it takes less intense negativity for men to get physiologically overwhelmed. [Furthermore,] men are more likely to rehearse destructive, innocent-victim, or vengeful thoughts once they feel flooded.”

Of course, women will benefit from the guide because regardless of gender, they usually do and say things they later regret once a person is flooded.

Teens & Fathers In Therapy

Teens & Fathers In Therapy

Therapy is an art.

One of the hardest sessions is when you have a father and the so called “troubled teen” sitting in a counseling office.

Let’s just say that tension can run a bit high.

Usually, the teenager feels like the father will never listen, and the father believes the teen is just obstinate and irrational.

Now here’s where the art comes in.

If the therapist sides with the parent over against the teen, then the counselor loses the teen, and he or she will shut down.

If the therapist sides with the teen against the father, then the counselor will upset the father and the likelihood of them coming back is very slim.

So what’s a counselor to do?

You have to make sure they both feel heard and understood.

How I do it is by letting both teen and father know from the get go that I respect them both deeply and that I can’t take sides initially if this is going to work.

Then I try and “pick on” both of them throughout the session, seeking to get them to see the repetitive fighting cycle they are both stuck in, and if they want something to change, then they are going to have to do something different.

For example, the father might have to slow down a bit and acknowledge the thoughts and feeling of his teenager even if he judges them to be “irrational.”

Or, the son or daughter might need to learn that a father understanding them doesn’t necessarily mean he agrees with his or her requests.

What I have found over and over, is if I can slow the communication process down by helping the father, so love and kindness to the teen and have the teen show respect, then things typically seem to work out.

Here’s what one mother just wrote to me:

“I was pleasantly surprised! Because in the past my husband has been completely unimpressed and not supportive of therapy. But he was impressed with you. He said you are the most knowledgeable of all our therapists and he thought you did a great job.”