When we are dealing with a mental health disorder, we are better equipped to handle it on our own. When we have a child who is going through something like teen depression, however, it can be more difficult to identify their depressive symptoms and get them the support that they need.
That said, being able to identify the symptoms of depression begins with a better understanding of the disorder. If you are a parent of a child who you believe may have depression, here is a parent’s guide to teen depression that will help you navigate this difficult time with your adolescent.
Far too often, teen depression is confused with hormonal and behavioral changes that young adults may experience as they are navigating puberty and life. For example, withdrawing from family and irritable behavior is often expected in adolescents. The important thing to remember, however, is that some of these behaviors can also be indicative of mental illness. The key to identifying the difference between negative feelings and emotions and true mental health problems begins with knowing the signs and symptoms of depression. What does depression look like? Certain symptoms to look out for include:
- Changes in academic performance and having trouble with behavioral issues at school
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Increased anxiety, irritability, and anger
- A lack of interest and engagement in activities that they previously enjoyed
- Depressed mood, which may lead them to spend more time on their own doing little to nothing
For parents, it can be hard to see depression because they are not experiencing it themselves and may trust that their teen is simply going through a momentary period of difficulty. The first line of defense is to identify some of the more serious signs like those listed above. But what are parents to do when depression goes under the radar?
When it comes to severe depression, the symptoms are often debilitating and quite clear. However, some adolescents with a mood disorder may be able to hide it quite successfully, only showing signs when the symptoms have progressed significantly. For example, if they are dealing with dysthymia, which is a type of low-grade depression that lasts for a period of two years or longer, their symptoms may not be as prominent. In these cases, it is important to look for more subtle symptoms like:
- Changes in eating patterns, either eating more or less than they usually do
- Changes in sleeping patterns, either sleeping less or more than they usually do
- Difficulty concentrating and signs of exhaustion and fatigue
- Markedly slow movements and speech
- Negative thoughts and statements about themselves and the world around them
- Self-harm behaviors
- Reckless behaviors
- Talk about death and obsession with death (If you believe that your teen may be having suicidal thoughts or are at risk of hurting themselves, it is important that you seek out emergency help as soon as possible.)
Because we can’t experience the emotions that our teens are feeling, it is important that we pay close attention to changes in behavior that could indicate potential problems. For many parents, however, the next question is, what do I do if I believe that my teen is depressed.
The severity of depression in young people will vary on a case-by-case basis. Some may only need to go to a nearby therapist for talk therapy in order to experience relief. For those who have severe teenage depression, however, it is best to enlist the help of teenage depression treatment centers. Through a residential treatment center, young adults will have access to the level of care they need to treat the symptoms medically and will be able to receive the therapeutic support from a dedicated team of doctors who will show them how to cope with their depression both now and in the future. Whether your child is dealing with major depression or a milder form, help is available. If there is reason to be concerned, do what is best for yourself and your teen and seek out help today!