When people look back to their teen years with nostalgic wanting, they often conveniently forget all the struggles. Things are happening that you can feel but not fully understand. Hormonal changes collide with social expectations and academic challenges. In this digital age, the pressures never seem to let up. It should come as no surprise that depression is increasingly common among adolescents and teens.
At least one in five will be diagnosed with clinical depression. That number could be much higher because symptoms are not identified. It’s tricky to discern teenage angst from signs of depression. Parents must learn how to do so in order to get their children the help they need and deserve.
5 Signs of Depression In Teens
Teenagers have mood swings. There is a feeling of normalcy related to this fact. But if you notice them, for example, losing interest in activities they once enjoyed, you should take a closer look. Talk to your teen. Ask them what makes them feel excited or hopeful. Inquire about their future goals. If they have trouble thinking of anything positive, this could be the beginning of a depressive episode.
2. Major Changes in Daily Behavior
Depression has a way of uprooting your way of living. While teens are unpredictable, we’re talking about counterproductive changes. They may slide into some strange sleeping habits or start to neglect important duties like hygiene and homework. Are they displaying changes in appetite and weight? As touched on in #1 above, rejecting what once made them happy is a red flag.
3. Academic Struggles
This is relative, of course. Keep up with your child’s grades to be able to identify if changes are happening. Depression can negatively impact cognitive skills and this may be most obvious via academic struggles. Concurrently, as their grades drop, their behavior at school may shift. It could be acting out. It could be truancy. Whatever form it takes, this must be addressed.
Sure, teens can change friend groups but teens with depression may step away from all of them. They may feel shame about this and thus get defensive or even fabricate stories about social interactions. In addition, they may not participate in school, engage in extracurricular activities, or play sports. None of this is considered typical.
5. Low Self-Esteem
If your teen is concerned about fitting in, this is not unusual. When they add to that by dwelling on perceived failures and flaws, it could be related to a poor self-image. Low self-esteem is a hallmark of depression at any age. Left unchecked, it has the potential to escalate into self-harm.
What’s a Parent to Do?
It begins with educating yourself about depression and how it manifests in teenagers. Without prying or being overbearing, you’ll also want to keep tabs on your child’s daily life. It can be useful to talk with teachers and school administrators. In addition:
- Make it clear to your child that you are present and available to offer non-judgmental support
- If they’ll accept it, help them create and stick to a daily schedule — including a sleep routine
- Exercise is a great mood boost so suggest you workout or play sports together
- Actively supply them with healthy meals to enhance their physical and mental well-being
- Urge them to keep a journal in which they can express and name their emotions
Perhaps most important of all, you can work with your teen to find a compatible therapist. That private time with an adult who is not a parent or teacher can be so valuable to a young person. It could be the safe space they need to understand what they’re going through.