Teenage Depression: An Evolutionary Advantage?

Teenager with hat standing in the fog in front of water. Teenage Depression: An Evolutionary Advantage? Family First Adolescent Services.

While depression may feel like an unbearable burden for those who struggle with it, recent scientific research indicates that there is a silver lining. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at the struggles that parents face when confronted with a depressed teenager.


What You Need To Know About Teenage Depression

If you are a parent of a depressed teen, know that you are not alone. Depression among adolescents is a serious mental health epidemic – and more common than any of us would like to admit. In fact, a 2015 study indicated that over 3 million adolescents between the ages of 12-17 have suffered at least one major depressive episode in the United States. That represents 12.5% of the sample population. Furthermore, teens who suffer a major depressive episode are 70% more likely to have a future episode before adulthood.

The first step in successfully treating a depressed teenager is to recognize that it’s there in the first place. There are many emotional and behavioral signals that indicate your teenager may be battling depression, such as:


Emotional Symptoms of Depression
  • Frequent sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Extreme Anger
  • Loss of pleasure in everyday activities
  • Loss of interest with family and friends
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Self-blame
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection
  • Emptiness
  • Suicidal thoughts


Behavioral Symptoms of Depression
  • Loss of energy
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed thinking and movements
  • Aches, pains, and headaches
  • Isolation
  • Poor performance in school
  • Neglected physical appearance
  • Risky behavior
  • Self-inflicted harm
  • Attempted suicide


Teenage Depression: Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Mental health disorders tend to travel with company. It is not uncommon for teenagers suffering from depression to simultaneously be dealing with a co-occurring condition, such as anxiety disorder. These types of disorders often go untreated for great lengths of time. When this happens, those afflicted will often take matters into their own hands.

Research suggests that adolescents suffering from mental health disorders are far more likely to self-medicate by abusing drugs and alcohol. Introducing drugs and alcohol into the system of a depressed teen not only makes matters more difficult for them – with the potential of health and legal risks – but for the entire family as a well. Adolescent alcohol consumption can be detrimental to development.  

In this scenario, it is important to not let problems with substance use get out of hand. Seek the help of qualified professionals. Family First Adolescent Services specializes in treating teens who suffer from drug addiction, alcohol addiction, mood disorders, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Our treatment plans offer solutions for the whole family.


Teenage Depression: A Family Affair

If you are reading this, you have likely recognized that your teenager may be depressed and are in the process of dealing with the pain it is causing. Depression doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It creates a chain reaction of cause and effect that spills over into all relationships and all aspects of life. It is important to educate yourself and your teen about the condition. It is equally important to learn about the causes, risks, and treatments for depression.

Encourage your teen to get involved in extracurricular activities. Getting involved is a great way to get out of your own head.


Causes of Adolescent Depression
  • Biological Makeup
  • Hormonal Balance
  • Hereditary
  • Childhood Trauma
  • Learned Thinking Patterns


Know that when dealing with adolescent depression, regardless of the cause, that it’s a family affair. That is to say that it will require the love and support of each family member to participate in the healing process.

Family First Adolescent Services offers a comprehensive Family Program to help the afflicted individual and their family members move beyond the condition together – in the healthiest way possible.


Conclusion: The Evolutionary Advantage of Depression

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned that there is a silver lining to depression. According to this article in the Scientific American, depression is an evolutionary advantage rather than a malfunction. This is not to say that depression is not a problem for those affected. However, the same narrowly focused ruminating that leads to depression can also be highly advantageous when applied to problem-solving.

In fact, many people coming out of a depressive state are able to resolve the issue that led to the depression in the first place.

The Scientific American article goes on to say that rather than discouraging depressive rumination, it should be encouraged, but in a productive way. Studies indicate that when a person in the midst of a depressive rumination writes down their thought process they are far more likely to pinpoint the trigger that led to depression. In doing so, they begin to revert back to a more stabilized state of mind.

Depression is far more understandable when treated as a function rather than an illness. If you are the parent of a teenager who is battling with depression be patient, loving, understanding – and if necessary, seek the help of qualified mental health professionals.

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