When a Teen Needs Help

Depression in adopted teens can be linked to possible issues in their past. Learn how to recognize the signs and when to seek help.

Depression in adopted teens can be combatted with therapy

Lindsay glared at her mom and stifled the words, “You idiot!” She knew she had nothing in common with this woman. Did that mean she had everything in common with her birth mother? Or were there two idiots in her life? Depressed, Lindsay skipped school — again. And her mother realized it was time for therapy.

Adopted teens have extra work to do in forming their identity. They have to figure out, at the very least, how they are similar and dissimilar to two sets of parents. Depression in adopted teens is possible during these years, even in teens who have enjoyed healthy development.

Often youngsters fear hurting their parents’ feelings by voicing dissatisfaction. They feel they should be grateful, but instead they’re angry. A therapist trained in adoption issues, who does not have the potential for hurt feelings, can help teens explore these emotions without guilt.

When teens have had trauma or neglect in their past, giving them the opportunity to talk, even if everything seems fine at the moment, can help prevent crises. Working with a good therapist, they can avoid taking the shame of early abuse into their identities.

Subtle Signs

“Surreal…” was 17-year-old Jackson’s response to news of his birth mother’s sudden, drug-related death. He had not lived with her since he was five. “It’s not like she’s part of my life,” he said. But within a few days, Jackson was laying his head on his school desk, unable to pay attention. A therapist determined that he was remembering childhood neglect and violence.

“I didn’t even love her.” Jackson griped in his therapy session. “Why do I have to do emotional work because of her?” Nevertheless, he stayed in therapy and worked through his emotions.

As a population, teens are at risk for depression and suicide. Sometimes the signs are subtle. Listen closely when they say things like: “Everyone would be better off without me. I’m bothering everyone with my troubles.” Often, without a parent in the room, teens will admit to a professional, that they have been considering suicide.

Whether or not a child has reached this crisis point, having someone with whom he can talk freely and lighten some of his burden is vital to helping him find his way to a better place.


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