What It Is: It’s important to understand that depressive-like symptoms can arise from a number of different causes. While in a great majority of cases depression is the underlying cause, it isn’t always. There are cases in which teens can suffer from severe, consistent depressive symptoms that actually are rooted in other causes, such as trauma, neglect, and other forms of shame. In these unique contexts, treatment and medication aimed at treating depression will usually not help the teens to recover and progress, and in some cases, can even discourage teens further. Instead, treatment needs to be carefully and precisely designed, so that these teens receive the correct diagnosis, which can then afford them successful treatment.
What It Looks Like: One of the challenges of treating symptoms of shame is that they look very similar, if not identical to, symptoms of depression. Teens may often withdraw from loved ones, feel apathetic toward activities that were once enjoyable, isolate themselves, and experience feelings of being overwhelmed but have difficulty expressing any of these feelings. Teens suffering from shame might also lose their appetites, fall behind in school, and have trouble in relationships. By many measures, they appear depressed.
Because so many symptoms can overlap, the success of treatment is greatly determined by the diagnosis, as well as the ongoing insistence of therapists to be meticulously present in their ongoing observation of the teens. At Paradigm, the first step in ensuring the best possible treatment is by our diagnostic process, which pays special attention to Co-Occurring disorders and includes but isn’t limited to, symptoms from shame. Even once a diagnosis takes place and treatment begins, our therapists are constantly looking for additional sources of stress that may be contributing to the teens’ overarching symptoms. Beyond this, they’re constantly looking to find an approach that allows the particular teen to find a way to relax and engage. This essentially means providing a different kind of treatment to every teenager that comes to Paradigm, depending on his or her unique experiences, and that’s what we’re committed to providing. This approach doesn’t make treatment easier but we believe it does make it better, and is only possible because of our insistency upon a low staff-to-teen ratio and individual therapy sessions, every day.
Symptoms: In particular, some of the symptoms that teens suffering from shame might have include, but are not limited to: inability to concentrate, trouble engaging in prolonged conversation, low self-confidence, constant feelings of inadequacy and/or needing to be punished, anxiety, and racing thoughts. Some teens that have attempted treatment, such as therapy and medication, and have not seen positive results might additionally feel discouraged, hopeless, and as if they are a burden to others. Lastly, teens suffering from shame might also have Co-Occurring Disorders, such as symptoms related to an Eating Disorder, OCD, or an Anxiety Disorder.
If symptoms can look so similar, how do I know my teen is receiving proper treatment?
For parents with teens struggling with depressive-like symptoms, the number of questions and concerns can be overwhelming. While many parents hope that there is a single, clear-cut solution to their teen’s struggle, more often it is a process that will help teens gradually recover, heal, and grow. If one strategy hasn’t yielded positive results in the therapist’s expected amount of time, then parents should be open to considering new possibilities and implementing new techniques. While sometimes unforeseen changes in treatment can feel like setbacks, very often they are actually victories, as the therapists continue to help teens get closer to the underlying causes at work. In our experience, the more directly the treatment can address these deeper, underlying causes, the more empowered teens will be to recover and move forward.