Is Depression Becoming a Trend Among Teenagers?

Is Depression Becoming a Trend Among Teenagers?

The adolescent period of a person’s life has its ups and downs. The teenager’s body is not that of a child anymore but is not yet that of an adult either and issues such as peer pressure, academic expectations and finding one’s self bring with it, its own share of trials. But for some teens, the lows are more than just temporary feelings — they are a symptom of depression.

Depression is a mental illness and should not be confused with feelings of sadness or a low mood. Sadness is a normal reaction to disappointment, loss, problems, or other difficult situations. Feeling sad from time to time is just another part of being human. In these cases, feelings of sadness go away quickly, and you can go about your daily life.

Depression on the other hand is a mental illness that affects a person’s mood, the way he understands himself, and the way he understands and relates to things around him. People who experience depression may feel hopeless or worthless. They may feel unreasonable guilt and some people may experience depression as anger or irritability making it quite hard to concentrate or make decisions. Most patients lose interest in things that they used to enjoy and may isolate themselves from other people including loved ones.

There are also physical signs of depression, such as problems with appetite, sleep, energy and unexplainable aches or pains, and in extreme cases some may experience difficult thoughts about death or ending their life (suicide). Depression symptoms usually last longer than two weeks, and usually they don’t go away on their own, and impacts life immensely.

Although depression can occur at any time in a person’s life, symptoms may be different between teens and adults. Teen depression isn’t a weakness or something that can be overcome with willpower — it can have serious consequences and requires long-term treatment. It’s a real illness and obviously not a good thing.

So the question is why is a condition as serious as depression becoming ‘trendy’ among today’s teens? Well there isn’t one answer to this question as there are many possible reasons for this, some of which we would be looking at;

Mental illnesses are more widely accepted by society

Attitudes to mental illnesses are changing for the better but with some alarming repercussions. We have seen some real improvements in recent years in the tolerance and empathy that people have towards mental health issues. Some years ago, there was a huge stigma against people suffering with mental illnesses and the stigma still exists today but it is nothing compared to the one that existed ten years ago. Because mental illnesses are now more widely accepted, more people have come forward to address how they feel, what they suffer from and what their suffering is like.

Many celebrities have come out to talk about suffering from various mental illnesses like depression, anxiety and even multiple personality disorder. The danger with this is the fact that celebrities have a lot of influence and command a following that could consist millions of fans around the world. Fans who love them and who also consist of impressionable teenagers. These teenagers believe that anything a celebrity does or says or wears is cool or in vogue and would want to be exactly like their celebrity idols. And so in the same way that a teenage fan of say, a renowned actor like Johnny Depp would want to dress, talk and even style his hair like the American idol, Johnny Depp also coming out to address having a mental illness like depression would also seem like a cool thing to have. They then pretend to have that illness when in reality the majority of them do not.

The wrong use of the word

Most teenagers especially on social media erroneously substitute the word ‘sad’ or ‘unhappy’ for the word ‘depressed’. These days it isn’t strange to hear teenagers make statements like; ‘I’m so depressed; my favorite TV show is cancelled’, or ‘I’m going through a massive depression because my football team didn’t make the knock-out stages’. Teenagers use ‘depression’ instead of the right terminology in their day to day interaction with one another and this is not advisable because as stated earlier, being ‘sad’ or ‘upset’ is not the same as being depressed; while the former are words used to describe temporary feelings of unhappiness or loss, depression is a more prolonged mental illness that affects a person’s mood, the way he understands himself, and the way he understands and relates to things around him.

Attention seeking

It’s human nature to feel important and seek attention and validation from other human beings. Teenagers have noticed that other teenagers suffering from mental illnesses get more attention, but the thing they fail to realize is that these patients are getting more attention because they need help to get through that difficult period in their lives. But they just see the attention and they want it for themselves, thinking this attention makes them special and completely ignoring the reason behind it. It is important to note that not everyone that claims to have depression or other mental illness is making it up for attention and is why the new trend is dangerous as it adds more stigma to the topic.

The effect of social media

Whether we like it or not, social media is here and is going nowhere and, for many young people, opting out of social media would mean losing access to their network of friends. The good thing is that those who suffer from depression are more inclined to use social media as a way of reaching out but then if someone is feeling down or dissatisfied with their life then, instead of being a bit of a distraction, social media use can give the impression that everyone else is having way more fun than they are.

It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes comparison can be a way to inspire us to improve in some way, but, more often than not – especially when someone is prone to depression – the comparisons become negative and erode self-esteem. One problem with social media is that the image people portray of themselves tends to be positive, interesting and exciting and that even when individuals are aware of this nature of many online platforms, they can’t help comparing them to their own lives.

These constant “upward social comparisons” can even happen hundreds of times each day, depending on how frequently a person checks their social media feeds. Social media also exposes teenagers to cyber bullying and constant feelings of approval seeking. There’s an addictive quality to social media platforms that allow audiences to show their approval of a post by clicking on an icon. The pleasure one experiences seeing others like something they’ve shared online triggers the brain to release dopamine- a reward hormone, and this creates the desire to repeat the behavior continuously.

Among other things, mobile phone screens emit a type of light that tricks the brain into thinking it is morning. Research has also shown a connection between using a Smartphone at bedtime and inadequate sleep — a typical characteristic of depression.

The rise of Emo rap

Soundcloud rap; a once underground scene with its roots in southern U.S trap music is fast becoming one of the most popular musical genres for teenagers and young adults. It takes its name from Soundcloud – a streaming music service – and its most successful sub-genre is Emo rap; characterized by hypnotic beats, dreamy atmospheres and lyrics displaying emotional vulnerability and topics of sadness, depression, or self-harm which were mostly regulated to the “emo” alternative rock sub-genre.

Emo rap songs usually touch on using drugs and suicide to deal with depression and heartbreak. There is an immense value in artists sharing their own experiences with mental illness, talking openly about their experiences with depression and anxiety and about suicidal thoughts could lead others unto a better path. But instead of this, current Emo rappers encourage destructive behavior, and encourage drugs and suicide as a way to avoid how a person really feels.

The recent heavy consumption of this genre of music has led a lot of teenagers and young adults going through various mental illnesses; especially depression, to ‘self-medicate’ using the treatment prescribed in the lyrics of this songs and is quite a scary development.

Depression symptoms likely won’t get better on their own — and they may get worse or lead to other problems if untreated. Depressed teenagers may be at risk of suicide, even if signs and symptoms don’t appear to be severe.

If you’re a teen and you think you may be depressed — or you have a friend who may be depressed — don’t wait to get help. Talk to a health care provider such as your doctor or school nurse. Share your concerns with a parent, a close friend, a spiritual leader, a teacher or someone else you trust.