Is Your Teen Depressed? What to Lookout For

By Dominica

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Last Updated: May 26, 2021

It’s not easy breezy going through the teen years. Remember back to when you were a teen. Do you remember feeling confused about self-identity? Did you struggle with trying to fit in? Or feeling confident? Was peer pressure an issue?

Teens face various challenges as they go through the teen years. Significant changes are occurring in their internal and external worlds. As parents, or adults we tend to see their mood or personality changes easier than they do.

How can a parent tell if their child’s behavior is just part of being a teenager or if there is something more going on – like depression?

Take a look at these tips to identify whether your teen could be struggling with more than just a bout of sadness.

Extended Sadness

Depression is more than just a mood. If you notice your teenager being sad for multiple weeks or months, this could be a sign of depression. They may or may not know the reason for their intense sadness. Typically, as a sign of depression, the sadness and feeling quite sad is persistent. If it continues for two weeks or more, you should consider the possibility of depression.

Your teen might not be open with you or be willing to talk about their feelings with you. If that is the case, you might try talking to one of their teachers or friends in confidence. They might be able to tell you if something is going on or if your child is displaying symptoms that could be cause for concern.

Understand that your teen could have some feelings of shame around feeling depressed. This may be why they don’t want to talk about it, or admit it. As best as you can, let them know that you’re concerned and can listen to them without judgment when they are ready to talk.

Changes In Eating Habits or Weight

Something else that could be related to depression could be changes in the way your teenager is eating. This is particularly true if your child struggles with weight. Girls who are overweight are actually more likely to suffer from depression, according to the American Journal of Epidemiology.

This is a more challenging depression symptom to come to terms with. Look for signs that their weight bothers them or extreme changes in eating habits that are directly related to their weight. If your teenager suddenly starts eating a lot more or a lot less than usual, this could be a sign of depression.

Lack of Self-Esteem

Being a teenager can be challenging. They are at a time in their lives where everything is changing. They face pressures, there are cliques at school to contend with, and new experiences that can provoke anxiety.

If you notice signs of poor self-esteem from your teenager that seem more than just minor lack of confidence, this could be a sign of depression. If your teen seeks ongoing reassurance from you or other adults around them, this may be related to symptoms of depression.

In addition, if your teen speaks poorly about themselves regularly or perhaps exhibits traits of feeling that they are unlovable, these negative emotions could point to depression.

Socially Withdrawn

Another common sign of teen depression is a teen that has always been social or outgoing in some way suddenly becoming very withdrawn. If you are noticing your teen sticking to themselves, avoiding friends, families, and activities, this could point to depression.

What you’re looking for here is a change from their normal behavior. If your teen has always been shy and introverted, there may not be anything going on. However, if you are noticing them staying home and isolating when they usually love to mingle with their friends, understand this could be a symptom of depression.

Sleeping and Activity Changes

Depression can cause changes in sleep patterns. This particular symptom could go both ways. Your teen might suddenly never sleep or perhaps suffer from insomnia and struggle with sleep. On the other hand, some teens start sleeping excessively.

Most of the time, it is an extreme change in their sleeping pattern that will be noticed here. It’s not just a couple of nights here and there of restlessness or wanting to sleep in on the weekends. It’s behavioral changes that extend beyond that.

Behavioral Issues

Regarding behavioral issues, it may be harder to discern if it is a sign of depression. Your teen may display some behavioral issues related to their age, such as losing their cool and yelling at someone.

However, if the issues seem out of the ordinary or excessive, then you may need to consider that they could be dealing with some depression.

Some signs that you might be able to look for here are signs of drug and alcohol abuse, constant trouble at school or at work, a highly negative and discouraged attitude that is ongoing, feelings of guilt, and hopelessness.

Your signs of behavioral issues will extend beyond average teen moodiness.

Conclusion

If your teen is exhibiting signs that you feel could be indicative of depression, don’t wait to try to get them help. Sit down and have a calm, loving conversation with them. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions, but let them know that you simply want to better understand how they're feeling.

It's not uncommon for teens to want to hide the fact that they’re feeling depressed from their parents. They may feel shame or they may fear that the parent will send them off to a counselor. The reality is that many teens don't want to go to counseling because they may feel like it's a sign of weakness or they may fear being vulnerable. There has definitely been a stigma attached to mental health issues like depression.

As a parent, it's likely that you have this sense of what's going on in your children's lives. If you feel like your teen is struggling with depression, chances are they are to a degree. Know that you have options as a parent. You may want to talk to the counselor at their school, as they may be able to spend some time with your team to see if they can get them talking about what's going on. Or you can arrange for your teen to see a therapist for an assessment.

It’s ok for you to address it.

Dealing with depression and managing or overcoming depressive symptoms is possible. It may take some time and perhaps even a therapist to help, but it's certainly plausible.

One last thing I want to mention is that if your teen is struggling with depression, try not to take it personal. Some parents think that maybe it's their fault, but that may not be the case at all. There are plenty of factors that can be involved, but regardless of the underlying causes, be encouraged that managing symptoms or overcoming depression is possible. 

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