Teenagers today are faced with ever-increasing pressures. From the changes of puberty, the pressure to fit in, meeting academic and parental expectations, peer pressure and the media, it’s no wonder that an estimated 3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode.
Teen depression goes beyond moodiness. It’s a serious health problem that impacts every aspect of one’s life. Fortunately, it is treatable, and parents can play a valuable role in the treatment process. While it might seem that recognizing depression is easy, the signs aren’t always obvious.
Contrary to popular belief, teenagers with depression don’t necessarily appear sad.
Irritability, anger, and agitation may be the most prominent symptoms, which is why it’s important to learn what teen depression looks like:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, anger, or hostility
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor school performance
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Thoughts of death or suicide
While a certain amount of moodiness and acting out is expected and normal during the teenage years, persistent changes in personality, mood, or behavior are signs of a more serious problem. Hormones and stress can explain the occasional phase of teenage angst—but not continuous and unrelenting unhappiness lethargy, or irritability.
When considering the signs and symptoms, it’s also important to note the duration, severity, and how different this behavior seems in comparison to your child’s usual self.
If left untreated, depression can be very damaging, so don’t wait and expect that worrisome symptoms will go away. Bring up your concerns in a loving, non-judgmental way if you suspect that your child is depressed, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Invite your teenager to partner with you in pursuing options for treatment. Encourage their involvement in selecting a therapist, and don’t ignore their preferences or make decisions without their input.
Lastly, when caring for your teen, it is just as important to continue taking care of yourself and the needs of other family members. Having your own support system in place will help you stay healthy and positive.
Written By: Michelle Rathburn, LAMFT