“Every time someone asks me if I’m OK, its just a reminder that I’m not. I’m crying inside and no one knows it but me…” ~ Laura
Teenage depression is common, but sometimes it is hard to differentiate between moods that are common to all adolescents, and real depression. The issue is further complicated by the fact that teens may know they feel terrible, but may not realize they are depressed. Parents may mistake depression for “attitude” or moodiness, and teens often do not share with parents about what is really going on.
Often parents think the teen should just “snap out of it,” or would feel better with more sleep, studying, time with family, proper nutrition or different friends. While all of these may be contributing factors, depression affects all of these areas, so it is hard to tell which comes first.
Signs to watch for include: sad or irritable mood, tearfulness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, social isolation, extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, difficulty with relationships, large changes in appetite or weight, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, slow or agitated movement, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, or frequent thoughts of death or suicide. If these symptoms last more than two weeks, it is advisable to seek the help of a professional: either a family physician or a psychologist.
Other indications that a teen may be at risk include: anger, becoming belligerent when not getting his/her own way, being secretive or having an unusually high desire for privacy, use of abusive language towards family members, getting in trouble at school, slipping grades, frequently coming home late, having friends who are in trouble, hanging out with older teens or adults, defiance, running away, abrupt changes in personality or behavior, drug or alcohol use, stealing money, or destructive or violent behavior.
Often these behaviors frustrate parents, resulting in anger and conflict with the teen. This can create more stress and tension in the relationship, ultimately only making things worse. It is important not to blame everything on the teen.
For teen depression, early intervention is important, not only to eliminate the risk of suicide, but also to reduce the chance of recurrence. Also, depression can also alter the brain chemistry, affecting those areas related to thinking and learning. Therapy can be very helpful, as can medication. The combination of the two together often works better than either one alone.
If your teen is depressed, the main thing is to be supportive and understanding, while seeking help.
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