Learn the Signs of Depression in Teens and How You Can Help
Teenagers face a host of pressures, from the changes of puberty to questions about who they are and where they fit in. With all this turmoil and uncertainty, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between depression and normal teenage growing pains. But teen depression goes beyond moodiness. It’s a serious health problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Fortunately, it’s treatable and parents can help. Your support can go a long way toward getting your teenager back on track.
Signs and symptoms of teen depression
Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the help they need. So if you have an adolescent in your life, it’s important to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.
While it might seem that recognizing depression is easy, the signs aren’t always obvious. For one, teens with depression don’t necessarily appear sad. Irritability, anger, and agitation may be the most prominent symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of depression in teens
- 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
Is it depression or teenage “growing pains”?
A certain amount of moodiness and acting out is par for the course with teens. But persistent changes in personality, mood, or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem.
If you’re unsure if your child is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been going on, how severe they are, and how different your child is acting from his or her usual self. Hormones and stress can explain the occasional bout of teenage angst—but not continuous and unrelenting unhappiness lethargy, or irritability.
Suicide warning signs in teenagers
Seriously depressed teens often think about, speak of, or make “attention-getting” attempts at suicide. But an alarming and increasing number of teenage suicide attempts are successful, so suicidal thoughts or behaviors should always be taken very seriously.
For the overwhelming majority of suicidal teens, depression or another psychological disorder plays a primary role. In depressed teens who also abuse alcohol or drugs, the risk of suicide is even greater. Because of the very real danger of suicide, teenagers who are depressed should be watched closely for any signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Suicide warning signs in depressed teens
- Talking or joking about committing suicide
- Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”
- Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”)
- Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide
- Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
- Giving away prized possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
- Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves
If you or someone you know is at risk please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or if in immediate danger call Emergency Services on 000.
(Article courtesy of HelpGuide.org, reposted September 3, 2016)