Being a teenager is often a stressful and confusing time, which brings numerous academic, emotional and social challenges and pressures. Unfortunately, many teenagers also find themselves battling mental health conditions like depression and all too often they are undiagnosed. Sometimes this is because their mood and behavior are assumed to be ‘normal’ teenage mood swings, but often teenagers will be reluctant to seek help and will try to hide their issues. This is why it’s vitally important that parents are aware of the potential symptoms. This guide outlines some of the most common symptoms of depression in teenagers, how it might be affecting a teenager’s life and how parents can support them.
Symptoms of Teenage Depression
Symptoms of depression in teenagers vary between individuals, and they may also exhibit different behavior depending on whether they are at home or at school. One of the most important symptoms to look out for in both environments, however, is a significant change in the teenager’s normal behavior and personality. This may be in relation to how they interact with family and their friends, particularly if they are isolating themselves from their peers. You may want to speak to staff at their school about your concerns to find out if their behavior has changed at school. Here are some of the most common symptoms of depression in teenagers:
- Increased anger, irritability or aggression
- Low mood which lasts for weeks
- Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
- Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
- Avoiding conversations about their future
- Negative self-image and increased sensitivity to comments from others
- Comfort eating or loss of appetite
- Neglecting their personal hygiene and/or taking less pride in their appearance
- Self-harm or thoughts/comments about self-harm/suicide
- Deteriorating academic performance
- Choosing to spend time alone/avoiding social events with friends
Treatment Options for Teenagers with Depression
It’s important that the teenager and parents understand that depression is a treatable condition, and without treatment, it can spiral out of control and become very dangerous and destructive for everyone involved. There are several treatment options, and the right treatment plan will differ depending on each individual’s condition and circumstances.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), experiential therapy, and medication are often used to treat depression. Some facilities, such as Ignite Teen Treatment, specialize in treating teenagers who are suffering from a range of mental health issues and/or addiction. The treatment may be delivered on an outpatient, inpatient, or day care basis.
How to Support a Teenager with Symptoms of Depression
If you are concerned that your teenager is showing symptoms of depression, it’s best to approach the subject with compassion and in a calm manner. Tell them that you have noticed changes in their behavior and are worried about them. If they do not want to talk about it, it’s often best not to force them. Instead, try to plan activities you can do together which they would enjoy and which maximize their opportunities to speak to you when they feel ready. If you are concerned that they may harm themselves, it may be better to speak to a mental health professional about the best way to proceed.