Teen Depression Treated In The Wilderness

Teen Depression Treated In The Wilderness

Teen Depression Treated In The Wilderness

Teen depression is characterized by consistent low moods and the avoidance of social interaction and activities. Admittedly, diagnosing depression in teens can be difficult as all teens will experience changing moods and other symptoms of depression as a natural part of adolescence. Generally, depression is split into two distinct subtypes, distinguished by the presence of manic or hypomanic periods. Bipolarity, which is further split into subtypes distinguished by duration and intensity, involves periods of mania or hypomania whereas unipolarity refers to various subtypes such as major depressive disorder and dysthymic depression.

The subtle variances in subtypes of depression are what makes a proper diagnosis so crucial - especially after considering that specific treatments for each subtype can also differ.

Generally speaking, however, treatments such as wilderness therapy that engage the teen and encourage social interaction are proven to strengthen the benefits of traditional therapy models in treating depression.

Subtypes of Depression Most Commonly Found in Troubled Teens: 

  • Recurrent depressive disorder - A recurrent depressive disorder is just like it sounds: a recurring depressive episode. This particular subtype usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood. Young people who suffer from recurrent depressive disorder will typically suffer from its symptoms anywhere from several months to several years. This type of depression is generally referred to as 'classical' or 'clinical' depression. 
  • Dysthymia - Dysthymia is essentially a more mild version of recurrent depression. However, while dysthymia may be less intense than recurrent depression, its depressive symptoms last much longer, anywhere between a couple years to decades long. 
  • Bipolar I depression - As the name suggests, bipolar I depression affects those who suffer from bipolar I disorder. Formally known as manic-depressive disorder, this type of depression is characterized as a disorder that causes mood swings from depressive phases, normal moods, and the so-called bipolar characteristics of "manic phases." Manic phases involve the affected person's moods changing from one extreme to the next, often times without provocation. 
  • Bipolar II depression - In spite of its name, bipolar II depression is actually much more similar to recurrent depressive disorder than it is to a bipolar I  depressive disorder. Rather than an affected individual's moods swinging from one extreme to the next, affected individuals suffer from a more constant feeling of sadness. 
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Other Depressive Sub-types Commonly Found in Troubled Teens Include: 

  • Mixed Depression and Anxiety - Although it's true to say that depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand so to speak, this type of disorder is characterized by having an equally balanced mixture of the two. 
  • Depressive Psychotic Episode - Also referred to as a psychotic or delusional depression, this sub-type involves seeing or hearing things that are not there. Additionally, this psychotic form of depression also involves those affected having false ideas of paranoia and/or other feelings. These delusions include delusion of guilt, a delusion of poverty, having an incurable disease (hypochondriac delusion) even when the affected person is faced with all evidence that points to the contrary. 
  • Atypical Depression - This type of depression is characterized by hyper sensitive and changeable mood, overeating and oversleeping and panic attacks may occur. This type of depression is mild and can be bipolar in nature.
  • Seasonal depressive disorder - This type of depression is said to be similar to atypical depression and occurs seasonally during climate changes such as fall or winter. Usually, when the depression season phase ends, people get well and regain normal functioning again.
  • Brief recurrent depressive disorder -  This is a mild and minor form of depression that can compromise functioning, affects mostly young people and is characterized by short periods of depressed or mixed mood, typically lasting less than 2 weeks.

What Causes Teen Depression?

As with many mental disorders, it is a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors that can cause depression in teens. A history of depression in the family is a common indicator, as also is a traumatic experience, such as the death of a loved one, a break-up, being bullied, child abuse, poor parenting, and even poor academic success. There are some emotional factors that also tend to predispose a teen to depression. These include low self-esteem, being self-critical, and feeling a lack of control in their lives.

WinGate Wilderness is a highly respected and sought after wilderness program that has helped countless troubled teens regain their once limitless potential. For immediate assistance, call us now at 1-800-560-1599!
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Signs Of Depression In Teens

As mentioned above, some of the signs of depression in teens are common to adolescence. However, it is the duration, intensity, and compound nature of the symptoms, as well as the possible presence of other emotional disorders, that is key.

1 - Anxiety

Teens suffering from depression will often have a difficult time managing stress or anxiety in an appropriate manner. If a teen seems to be overly stressed or mishandling their anxiety, then depression is a possible culprit.

2 - Frequent headaches

Since depression makes it difficult to handle anxiety, stress levels in a depressed teen may be intense. Headaches are often a side effect in depressed adolescents who cannot handle their stress.

3 - Withdrawing from normal activities

Adolescents who are depressed may show a lack of interest in activities they would enjoy participating in otherwise. If your child has quit activities they regularly show interest in, then depression may be to blame. 

4 - Anger or irritability

Anger, like headaches, usually ties into the anxiety that comes along with depression. As stress levels build in a depressed teen, they will often lash out at those around them. If your child shows a sudden lack of restraint in dealing with anger, it is crucial to ask why. 

5 - Difficulty in school

Depression can affect a teen’s ability to concentrate in school, regardless of their intellect. A sudden drop in academic performance may correlate to a teen’s state of depression.

6 - Extreme fatigue

The high-stress levels that come along with depression can leave an adolescent completely drained causing them to appear exhausted.

7 - Poor eating habits

If your child is truly suffering from depression, it may effect their diet substantially. A teen may use food as a coping mechanism, causing them to gain weight. Contrariwise, other depressed teens may lose their appetite, causing them to lose weight very abruptly. Whether it is an increase or decrease, weight fluctuations should be a warning sign to parents.

8 - Sleeping disorder

Depressed adolescents tend to develop some kind of sleeping disorder. For some, getting to sleep may be seemingly impossible due to overwhelming stresses. However, an increased appetite for sleep is also prevalent in depressed teens. Pay close attention to their sleep patterns to get a gauge on whether or not they may be depressed.

9 - Loss of interest in social interactions with friends/family

Teens who are seriously depressed will lose social benefits. If you are a parent of a teen who was once a social butterfly, but now would rather isolate than socialize, they are more than likely showing signs of depression.

10 - Self-harm

Teens who suffer from being depressed may choose to be self-destructive and opt to harm themselves. If your child displays any type of self- harm, it is most likely due extreme sadness they are feeling inside.

Other Signs Of Teen Depression:

• Frequent low moods or sudden mood swings
• Memory loss
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Sudden drop in grades
• Alcohol and/or substance abuse

Symptoms of Depression

A teen suffering from depression is left unable to properly function day to day. The symptoms that they experience directly affect their ability to navigate the obligations of academics and family life. This can worsen their depression and necessitate more rigorous treatment.

Most common depressive symptoms that affect teens:

• Lack of energy
• Feeling worthless and that life is hopeless
• Constantly tired despite excessive sleeping
• Feeling irritable, on edge, as if everyone is against them
• Inability to find pleasure in hobbies and other previously enjoyed activities
• Frequent thoughts about death and/or suicidal ideation

Depression in teens can have lasting effects on the quality of their lives. This is because the effects of depression affect all areas of their lives, including crucial developing areas such as family functioning, academic, cognitive, and social. Without intervention and treatment, teens can be left unequipped for adulthood and more prone to developing more severe episodes of depression.

Treating Teen Depression 

Treatment for depression has been well documented and examined, making for highly effective psychotherapies that work as well as medication in most cases. For this reason, treatment that is based upon three primary therapy models is recommended prior to attempting to treat teen depression with medication[3]. Treating depression early is essential in preventing more severe episodes and to stymie the negative effects that teen depression can have on all aspects of that teen’s life.

Cognitive Therapy; This model helps teens to recognize the connection between their thoughts and emotions, allowing them to learn positive coping measures for stressful situations. It also helps with deconstructing maladaptive thought patterns and replacing them with healthy and more realistic thoughts. This therapy involves talking and assignments, such as monitoring moods and journaling. Social interaction and communication are strongly encouraged.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy; This therapy model helps teens to strengthen and repair their relationships by recognizing the way that their depression effects the people around them, as well as how their relationships effect their moods. In focusing on relationships, teen autonomy is strengthened, allowing for more successful transition into adulthood. This is primarily a “talk therapy.” Communication and problem solving are strongly encouraged.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy; This therapy is primarily used to treat the chronically suicidal. It teaches coping and regulating skills necessary to manage high stress situations and make suicide an illogical solution based upon the very achievable and exciting life they are focused on obtaining as part of this therapy. Focus is upon principles, not protocol, and life enhancement. It builds off of other therapy models and encourages greater social interaction and trying new experiences.

These three therapy models are exemplified in the wilderness therapy provided by Wingate Wilderness Therapy. This adventure based therapy encourages teens to step outside of their comfort zone, while interacting with licensed therapists and other struggling teens. The wilderness provides a unique environment for healing, one that supports internally based changes as sought through traditional therapy models. Alliance based therapies where therapists and councilors approach every resident with dignity and respect further motivates teens to look within, discover their strengths, and understand their depression so they can move forward. To learn how we can help call us today at: 1-800-560-1599