Unmasking Hidden Depression in Adolescent Boys

Adolescent boys are learning how to be men. They receive many clues as to how this should look from television, movies, books, friends and, hopefully, from their dads. One clear message boys get is that men need to be strong. Adolescent boys struggling with depression are particularly hesitant to confront their problem because for many it represents a failure to live up to the expectation of manhood. This can make detecting depression in a teenage boy a bit of game of hide and seek. Rather than frequent crying, depression in adolescent boys will probably be expressed through angry outbursts. Depression can lead to sleep issues, feelings of sadness and an inability to concentrate. Not infrequently, depressed boys will see their school grades slip. And while moodiness is common enough among healthy teen boys, if it persists for more than two weeks it could well be a symptom of depression. While it’s true that girls tend to deal with depression more often, boys do still succumb but it’s harder to recognize. Young men are faced with a great deal of cultural pressure to ignore feelings and steel themselves against anything that smacks of sentimentality. So when adolescent boys are feeling sad or depressed their common reaction is to stuff it or ignore it. Boys ignore depression by zoning out in TV or video games. They ignore it by spending hour upon hour in their room listening to music. Rarely will adolescent boys verbalize their struggles. Instead he adopts a mask to cover the pain he is feeling. In some cases boys may not even realize they’re depressed. They may see themselves as weak or in some way inadequate. Many times these boys will try to appear tough in order to hide their sense of weakness. Parents and caring adults should not be fooled by the façade. Keep in mind that some faces teenage boys present are nothing more than masks to hide behind. A study in the Journal of Psychology linked teen depression to several factors, including low family support, low self-image and loneliness by following 156 kids whose mean age was 14 years. The study found that without a positive belief in themselves, adolescents tended toward low self-worth, loneliness and insecurity about their ability to form friendships. Happily, the surest way to build adolescent self-worth, according to the study, was as simple as increasing positive family communication. Adolescent boys do become depressed. Parents may need to do a bit of detective work and dig beneath the surface, but the clues will be there for an informed eye.

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