Depression goes beyond the normal ups and downs of life. Sufferers of depression experience days, months and years of extreme lows that include a disinterest in life. Although the exact cause of depression is unknown, genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role in the development of depression. New research suggests that teenagers who associate themselves with the gothic subculture have a higher risk of developing depression.
The findings, which were published in The Lancet, reveal 15-year-old teenagers who assimilate with Goths are more likely to suffer depression and partake in self-harm by the age of 18.
It is known that teenagers who partake in a gothic lifestyle often conduct intentional self-harm, but a relationship between families, characteristics of the teenager and circumstances were unclear.
Data from the UK Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children was used to investigate a link between being a Goth at age 15 and depression and self-harm in early adult life.
The results were derived from 3,694 teenagers who reported cases of depression and self-harm, and the extent to which they identified as Goth at the age of 15 and again at the age of 18. Teens were also asked to report about other subcultures they identified with like “sporty,” “popular,” and “loners.”
Results uncovered that the more a teen associated with the gothic subculture, the higher the likelihood was for them to partake in self-harm and experience depression at 18. Even those who somewhat assimilated as Goth, compared to those who didn’t, had a 1.6 higher risk of self-harm and depression. Those who had a strong tie to being Goth were three times more likely to self-harm and experience depression at 18.
Skaters and loners also showed association between self-harm and depression but not nearly as often as Goths. Those who claimed they were sporty were the least likely to self-harm or experience depression.
Although the research is observational, and researchers have not identified cause and effect, the research still reveals a strong association between gothic teens and self-harm and depression. Researchers suggest further study needs to be conducted within the teenage gothic community to understand it more and uncover why there is a link between being gothic and self-harm and depression.
Causes and risk factors of depression in teens
Teenage depression, like adult depression, does not have a concrete cause. Speculated causes of teenage depression include chemical changes in the brain, changes in hormones, inherited traits, early childhood trauma and learned patterns of negative thinking.
There are many contributing factors which can increase a teenagers risk of developing depression, they include:
- Low self-esteem, peer issues, long-term bullying
- Victim or witness of violence or abuse
- Having an alternative problem like ADHD, anxiety, eating disorders
- Chronic medical problems like cancer
- Have little to no friends or relationships
- Substance abuse
- Being female – females experience depression more than males
- Being of different sexual orientation – lesbian, gay, etc.
- Having a family member who suffered depression or another mood disorder
- Having a family member who committed suicide
- Having a dysfunctional family or living environment
- Stressful events – divorced parents, death of loved one, etc.
Signs and symptoms of depression in teens
To recognize if a teen has depression in order to start treatment early, these are the signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, anger, hostility
- Frequent crying
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Restlessness, easily agitated
- Lack of enthusiasm or motivation
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Although some of these signs and symptoms of teenage depression may seem like normal changes in hormones and stages of puberty, taking note of the duration of the emotions and mood changes will help uncover if it is simply puberty or depression.
Steps to deal with depression in teens
There are many different ways to treat depression. Some treatments can be done on their own, or many treatments may be combined together – this is all dependant on when the depression is diagnosed and how severe it is.
There is medical intervention which can be done to treat depression – this involves the use of antidepressants. Although effective in many cases, antidepressants do come with their own set of side effects; always speak to your doctor before beginning a medical treatment for teenage depression.
Alternative means of treating depression involve:
- Sticking to a treatment plan – whether it involves therapy, medications or other appointments, ensuring you stick with the plan will better help recovery.
- Learn all you can about depression to know how to handle it and to become a better support system for the teen
- Open up communication with your teen
- Pay close attention to warning signs – even if the teenager is recovering or recovered there can very well be a relapse
- Promote healthy lifestyles to the teen – healthy eating as well as exercise which can both work to boost mood
- Deal with any substance abuse issues – if your teen was abusing alcohol and drugs before, ensure they do not continue to do so
- Suggest techniques to improve the mind-body connection – yoga, tai chi, meditation, etc.
If your teen is partaking in the gothic culture, pay closer attention to their behavior as research shows they are more likely to self-harm or become depressed. If you’re unsure how to approach the situation you can always reach out to a therapist or doctor for guidance.
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