Pull Your Child From Depression
by Carla Atherton, Director of the Healthy Family Formula
We all know what it feels like to be down in the dumps, to feel as if nothing is right or fun or interesting. We all know what it is like to be afraid or anxious or that life has no luster. We know what it is like to be sad. We are human, and human beings have a range of emotions that we feel in response to simply living life.
Imagine, however, feeling this way most of the time. Imagine feeling apathetic or sad when you wake and again when you go to sleep. Imagine spending much of your time in your room, closing yourself off from people, people that love you but you don’t want to see or engage with. Imagine feeling angry or even violent and hurting those around you without knowing why you want to behave this way. Imagine feeling this way and not having any hope that there will be anything different for you. Ever.
Imagine being 15 and feeling this way. Or 12…or even 8.
The prevalence of depression in our youth is abysmal, at best. I cannot express how utterly sad this makes me: to see young people struggle through it when their inherent human right as a child is to grow and explore life and, well, be happy, at least most of the time. Having had 2 children struggle with this, I can safely say that sad is not the word. At all. It is more like despair. We feel everything our children go through, and each and every family member is affected in their own way, so depression is undoubtedly a family affair.
But guess what we can do with those lemons?
Is It Really That Bad?
Here is the situation we have right now reported in the 2001 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, published by the US Department of Health and Human Services:
Approximately 20 percent of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood.
Between 10 to 15 percent of teenagers have some symptoms of depression at any one time.
Depression increases a teen’s risk for attempting suicide by 12 times.
30 percent of teens with depression also develop a substance abuse problem.
Depressed teens usually have a smaller social circle and take advantage of fewer career and educational opportunities.
Depressed teens are more likely to have trouble at school and in jobs, and to struggle with relationships.
These are stats, right? And they are high, yes. But even if they weren’t so alarming, as any parent of a depressed child knows, even one depressed child is enough. One suicide is enough. One teenhood spent holed up in a bedroom is enough.
I have seen and had enough, and I think it is high-time we had a good look at this so that parents know that there is a LOT they can do. And some of these things may not be what you would expect. Some of these things go outside of the current western standard of treatment. Some of these things employ simple practices that are largely ignored in conventional treatment.
What Is Clinical Depression? How Is It Diagnosed?
Clinical depression is more than being in the dumps or having an appropriate response to a difficult life event. It is an inability to pull out of those feelings of sadness or despair, feeling as if you are in a black hole. It is diagnosed in many ways, but essentially, a healthcare professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist will assess your child’s behavior and how they feel by talking to them and conducting written or verbal tests.
What is very interesting and how this method of diagnosis falls short (way short) is that psychiatry is the only medical profession that does not tend to look at the organ that it treats. Why is this important? If the behavior is apparent, then why do we need scans and nutritional assessments? This will become crystal clear in a moment.
Psychiatrists and psychologists use observation, which is extremely important, but is not a complete method of assessment to reach any diagnosis. In addition, observation is highly subjective and leaves a LOT of room for interpretation. For instance, if you are battling severe fatigue and have a high sensitivity to cold, an MD will not use these symptoms alone to diagnose hypothyroidism. They will also do a suite of blood tests to confirm their suspicions, and conversely, they will not test unless the symptoms are present. In other words, to properly diagnose depression, you need to fully assess the whole person.
Let’s think about depression radically here: depression is not a disease in and of itself but is a symptom of a complex set of circumstances that has caused an imbalance in your child’s chemistry. And what is very empowering for parents to know is that, instead of coping or riding out the teen years or using ineffective conventional methods, these imbalances can most often be corrected.
Is Your Child Depressed?
We often view the “growing up” years as a time of brooding reflection, rebellion, and pulling away from the tribe that raised you in favor of the tribes created from your social circles of peers. We see some of what we might define as depression as “normal,” so it can be easy to explain away changes in your child or teen’s mood or behavior as “normal.” That is just the way teenagers are, right?
Our children are stressed out like never before due to over-scheduling, lack of down-time, increase in isolating screen-time, and social pressures that go viral through vehicles such as social media. But parents, be cautious of this tendency to normalize struggle that may be detrimentally affecting your child’s quality of life.
I Need a Lighthouse, a non-profit organization that educates people about depression and suicide prevention asserts that depression in teens can look very different from depression in adults. Therefore, take note if your child or teen is exhibiting any of these signs of depression:
Irritable or angry mood – Irritability, rather than sadness, is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
Unexplained aches and pains – Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If a thorough physical exam does not reveal a medical cause, these aches and pains may indicate depression.
Extreme sensitivity to criticism – Depressed teens are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection and failure. This is a particular problem for “over-achievers.”
Withdrawing from some, but not all people – While adults tend to isolate themselves when depressed, teenagers usually maintain some friendships. However, teens with depression may socialize less than before, pull away from their parents, or start hanging out with a different crowd.
In Need a Lighthouse also reports that “untreated depression can lead to problems at school, running away, substance abuse, low self-esteem, eating disorders, internet addiction, self-injury, reckless behavior, violence, suicide,” and I would add family trouble, disconnect with self, joylessness, missing out on life and their own life potential…
Is There a Cure for Depression?
There sure as hell is!
Before you find what may lift your child’s depression, you must find the cause. Find the leak and plug the hole. Put out the fire, and whatever you do, do not turn off the fire alarm.
Your child’s symptoms are telling you that something is wrong. And depression is not a deficiency of SSRI medications. Depression, as are many illnesses, diseases, or conditions, is caused by either the lack of something your child’s body needs or a toxicity of substances that is wreaking havoc in your child’s body and brain. These deficiencies or toxicities then cause imbalance and stress on your child’s body that can manifest as depression.
What we have been taught is that depression is genetic. Yet, scientists have found that genetics only play a small role in the onset of disease, on whether or not your child will become depressed. Genetics dictate potentiality as opposed to destiny, and it is, in fact, what we are exposed to and how we live every day that will turn these genes on or off. Therefore, you have the power to address and correct most imbalances and pull your teen out of a life-altering depressive state. Parents, there is more than hope. There is healing.
With what we are learning through the study of epigenetics (meaning: above the gene), it can be asserted that depression is not an inevitable, precluded condition written in your child’s genes. It is not their destiny. So, what else is there, then?
Conventional medicine has overlooked a myriad of direct and indirect causes of depression that include:
Overstimulation through blue lights, video games, and excessive screentime
Lack of sleep and rest and repair
Food sensitivities, allergies, and bad mood food
Poor nutrition (not enough healthy fats and protein, key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and too many chemicals, additives, and unhealthy fats)
Blood sugar imbalance
Heavy metal or chemical toxicity
Assimilation and absorption problems
Detoxification or elimination inefficiency
Lack of exercise or over-exercise
Other chronic illness
The conventional methods of treatment also ignore that:
It is important to view the organ that you are treating.
It is important to know genetic potentiality to ascertain possible treatment and correct supplementation.
All of your child’s body systems affect each other (the brain does not work in isolation).
Mood and physiology are tightly linked.
Frequent situational depression (inability to cope with life’s ups and downs) can be as bad as clinical depression.
Lifestyle choices can trigger frequent bouts of situational depression.
Something as simple as eating a food you are allergic to can cause a week-long bout of depression!
How Do You Treat Depression?
First, find the cause. Address all of the main pillars of good health before you do anything else. If your child is eating, sleeping, drinking, exercising, and resting well, you may find that, just by doing those things, your child’s depressive state can drastically improve. Address the possible causes I have listed above. Look for the most likely suspects and remove the offending trigger. For instance, if your 14-year-old becomes withdrawn after a supper of ketchup and fries, suspect possible food sensitivities or blood sugar dysregulation as a possible trigger. There are many causes such as the ones I have listed above that can be explored and addressed, but once you are aware, it becomes easier to identify which ones may be an issue for your child.
As I said above, eradicate the cause or trigger. This is sometimes easier said than done, but the difference it will make to your child’s mood, both in what you observe and in how your child begins to feel when the depression begins to lift, will fuel your fire to stay the course.
Third, heal any damage that has been caused by whatever imbalance that was causing the depression. Correct deficiencies and detoxify. This is a process and specific to every individual child and family, but it can be easily integrated into your everyday life and is much simpler than you might anticipate.
Is It All In Her Head?
Often depression causes relationship problems and psychological issues, the extent of which depends on how long your child has been depressed and what has transpired while they were in that depressive state. They may identify with their depression or think that their emotional state defines their personality. Lynn is just a moody person. Brian is a brooding boy. Jill and Francis just don’t get along, or it is mom’s fault that I am sad because she didn’t make things better. When a family is dealing with depression, conflict arises, feelings get hurt, people say things they don’t mean or do things that hurt each other.
One thing I would definitively say is that some support work by way of a counselor or support group is very helpful when your family is going through the healing process, but it is by no means the only place to start. Some help may be needed for your child, and maybe more importantly, for you, especially if your child is not cooperative or exhibiting oppositional, defiant behaviors. Just don’t get too deep into talk therapy until you have begun to deal with the root causes and the physiological issues such as neurotransmitter and hormonal imbalances. By dealing with some of the physiological issues first, you may find that many of the issues that will arise in talk therapy sessions, such as hurt and resentment and anger, disappear once your child’s body chemistry has been restored to its balanced state.
Counseling would best serve you and your child if it is focused on coping with the process that is going on while you move toward healing, rather than focusing on undoing some kind of inherent psychological problem. I would even go as far as to say that depression is not at all psychological but physical at its roots. It is not your child’s psychology or mind or behavior that is broken or problematic, and depression can be lifted to reveal the true child that is in there somewhere if their physiological deficiencies and toxicities are addressed. In other words, wouldn’t you behave the way your child is behaving if you felt the way they do and if your thoughts were altered the way theirs is?
The root of depression is not behavioral: it is not something that can be overcome through will alone or even a shift in perspective. Dealing with the physiological issues that contribute to the onset of depression will then change how your child feels and help both you and your child to gain the mental clarity and emotional stability that can and will accelerate your healing from the psychological and relationship fallout that living with depression may have caused. Once the physiological imbalances are corrected then the final stages of healing can begin.
Depression does not need to be life-long and often does not require medications.
Depressed teens may not be suffering from a condition called depression but may experience depression as a symptom or a result of underlying causes.
Two more quick facts that may be of interest to you:
Did you know that neurotransmitters can be rebalanced by using amino acid therapy and/or simply by eating more quality protein? Amino acids are components of protein that are used by your body to make brain chemicals such as serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter), dopamine (an excess will cause anger), and GABA (deficiencies in GABA causes anxiety).
Medications don’t address the underlying causes of depression and often cause other psychological and physiological side effects. Medications can make your child’s symptoms worse, can cause other physical conditions, serve to cover up symptoms, symptoms that are your child’s body’s way of reveling problems such as food sensitivities. When you ignore these symptoms, other physical problems occur such as intestinal damage or brain degeneration. No medication comes without a cost, and dealing with the myriad of side effects such as psychosis, feeling dull, learning disabilities, or brain fog are a whole other ballgame and can make your child’s challenges even worse and more complicated.
Please note that if your child is already taking medication and you are interested in ceasing these medications, getting your child off of them will require you to work with a healthcare professional.
So parents, why not try looking at the basics, first, the safe and more effective things you can do that improve and build health?
Forget What You Know About Depression
I have seen depression first hand, experienced depression and addiction with my own family, witnessed the anguish these kids can go through and how it changes everything for a family. And I have also seen child after child recover and have witnessed how taking a functional/holistic approach to overcoming depression can completely change that child’s life. Completely.
Witnessing a child or teen who is struggling with depression is beyond words. Depression is an unnecessary burden that erases your teen’s excitement of growing into themselves. Depression robs them of the joys of youth and their own brilliant, individual human potential. Depression is often a needless struggle that can most times be addressed by finding out what is causing it and eradicating those causes. Something as simple as controlling blood sugar regulation, addressing infection, getting more sleep at the right times, getting outside in the sun, or removing an allergen like eggs or red food dye can release your child from a lifetime of medications, closed doors, and apathy.
I have created a series of thorough presentations about each of the above topics relating to depression. This series explains the causes of depression in more detail and outlines safe treatments that you can work on as a family with your own children at home as well as more advanced methods that you can work on with your healthcare team. You just need to know what to address and what you can do. To access this presentation and many more like it, become an HFF “Walk” Member.
Parents, your child does not have to go through this, anymore. And neither do you.
Become a Walk member to get the full series of Healthy Family Formula video presentations: release date of the Youth Depression Series: July 25th.
Here are just a few of the Children’s Health Summit talks we have done that shed some light on teen depression, as well as its ugly cousin, addictions:
Dr. Dan Siegel
Dr. Victoria Dunckley
Dr. Tom O’Bryan
Mira and Jayson Calton
Dr. Bruce Lipton
Head over to Instagram where we are releasing some of these materials and regularly posting quick strategies and tips on all things related to this topic.
Please like, share, post this article in facebook to get the word out to other families!
I truly hope this information empowers you and your children.
Mental Health for the Whole Child by Scott M. Shannon, MD.
Reset Your Child’s Brain by Dr. Victoria Dunckley
The Mood Cure by Julia Ross
A Mind of Your Own by Dr. Kelly Brogan
Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Addictions: The Hidden Epidemic by Pam Killeen