Teenagers will inevitably experience mood swings, emotional outbursts, and poor behavior as their minds and bodies grow and develop. However, many teens struggle with serious depression that is long lasting, and can impact their health and happiness if it is not recognized, diagnosed, and treated early in their formative teenage years.
As the parent of a teen, here are four things you should know about teen depression, so you can more confidently recognize the signs, and help your teen if they are suffering:
What is teen depression?
Teen depression is not just occasional bad moods, sadness, or emotional struggles. Every teen is likely to experience such changes as their hormone levels change or as they experience more academic or peer pressures as a part of their natural maturing process.
According to the Mayo Clinic, teen depression is a very serious issue that affects mental health by causing consistent and constant feelings of sadness in teens. Depression can have a negative impact on mental health, physical well-being, and quickly overshadow all areas of a teen’s life.
What are the symptoms or indicators of teen depression?
Teen depression can often go unnoticed due to the somewhat erratic, yet normal behaviors that teens exhibit. However, if you notice any of these symptoms in your teen, on a regular basis, then then it is likely they could be suffering from depression.
According to Mental Health America, any combination of the following symptoms lasting more than two weeks, can signal you that your teen is struggling with depression:
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Performing poorly in school
- Expressing extreme sadness or hopelessness
- Lacking energy and motivation
- Exhibiting anger and rage
- Overreacting to criticism
- Showing poor self-esteem or feelings of guilt
- Acting restless or agitated
- Changing their eating or sleeping habits
- Engaging in alcohol or drug abuse
- Expressing suicidal thoughts
Is teen depression different than adult depression?
Yes, very much so. Depression in teens is not evident in the same ways you can recognize depression in adults, so it is important to understand how teens will show their struggles with depression differently.
Help Guide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mental health and well-being, outlines the following behaviors that are specific to teen depression:
Irritability or Anger
Teens are more likely than adults to express their depression through irritable moods and angry outbursts, rather than sadness. Sustained grumpiness or frequent rage are some of the most common behaviors of depressed teens.
Unexplainable aches and body pains
Depressed teens will often complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If these pains occur often, for no medical reason, they could be side effects of depression.
Extreme sensitivity to criticism
Teens who suffer from depression are usually struggling with feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy, so any criticism or failure will cause an extreme reaction.
Selectively withdrawing from some people, but not others
While depressed adults will typically withdraw from everyone in their life, teens tend to be more selective. Depressed teens may keep a few friendships kindled, withdraw from parents, or change friends often.
How can I help my teenager if I suspect they are depressed?
If your teenager is demonstrating ongoing signs and symptoms of depression, then it is important for you to intervene. Teens experiencing depression won’t usually come forward with their problem, so you will most likely need to bring up the topic. Remember to listen attentively and validate all of their feelings while being open, gentle, and persistent in your discussions.
If you still see signs of depression in your teen after you’ve tried to talk to them and help them, then it is a good idea to seek out professional help from a counselor or therapist who specializes in teen depression. A specialist in this field can help you and your teen resolve issues and identify stressors causing your teen to be depressed, and help you both find your way back to a happy, healthy life.