Parent’s Guide to Depression in Teens
Understanding Teen Depression
When it comes to teen depression, it can be hard to decipher all of the different mood changes of your teen. Are they just full of angst or are they truly upset? Are they angry or are they just upset? Is this a one-time ordeal, or is this truly a mental health issue?
Symptoms of Depression in Teens
For teenagers, symptoms of depression might be hard to pinpoint. Here are a few common signs:
- Withdrawal. If your teen is suddenly lacking interest or refusing to attend events or meetings that they once looked forward to, think about if there are other factors besides the possibility of your teen being depressed. Has your teen had a fight with a friend who they would hang out with at these places or in these clubs? Are they trying to better figure out who they are? This could also be part of it, but gently try to have these conversations to encourage your teen and let them know that you are there for them.
- Oversensitivity to criticism. While you might believe that your teen is overly sensitive in general, look for signs of extreme sensitivity to criticism. How does your teen react when you talk about grades? What about when you talk about social status or athletic abilities? How about their plans for the future? In your teen’s eyes, criticism from you could be a sign of failure. You might also not know that your teen might be even more critical over their actions and success than you are of them. This could look like perfectionism, but it could be a sign of depression. If they seem disappointed, that could be normal. If they react with outbursts of crying, screaming, or silence, follow up.
- Consistent illness, fatigue or pain. If your teen is dealing with depression, it could be internalized. In some cases, this could look like headaches, oversleeping or stomach aches. In more severe cases, this can look like seizures. When mental health issues goes untreated, it can have a real impact on physical health.
- Suicidal thoughts or actions of self-harm. If your teen even jokes about never having lived or killing themselves, do not let that go unnoticed. Look for signs of self harm including constantly wearing long sleeves to cover cuts or turtlenecks to cover bruising.
- Addiction to social media or cellphones. Today, it is hard to see the difference between technology abuse and technology use. Many teens use social media religiously, but if you notice your teen becoming obsessed with comparing themselves with their peers, it could be a sign of depression.
- Reckless behavior or attitude. Teens can definitely make decisions that are not necessarily intelligent, but if your teen appears to be doing things that are dangerous or have major consequences, take that as a warning. This could be drug use, driving excessively fast, acting like they are invincible, or other actions, this could be a sign of mental health problems. Your teen might be doing these things because they are so depressed that they do not care about their future.
Depression in Teens Versus Depression in Adults
In adults, depression might look like total withdrawal from all people and events. In teens, depression could be doing all of their daily duties and shutting down at the end of the day in a particularly hostile mood. They usually keep some friendships and some sense of success, but on the inside, feel hopeless.
It is important to understand that your teen is still developing in many ways in both their physical and mental health, so their actions are not the same as that of a depressed adult.
How to Provide Support for a Teen with Depression
- Listen instead of lecture. Your teen does not want to be told how they feel or what they should do about these feelings. Your teen might not open up, but if they do, acknowledge their feelings.
- Support them in what they want to do. Encourage them in the things that they are still interested in. Tell them that you are proud of them. Take interest in what they are interested in.
Treatment Options for Teen Depression
For a lot of teens, they do not want to miss school or have others know about their depression. Mental health is a priority and can be treated in an after school program. That is why we offer psychological evaluations, family programs and aftercare that can be conducted in a time that does not conflict with your teen’s routine.