Are you worried that your teenager is depressed? It is normal for a teenager to be moody and to want to shift towards independence. Teens also tend to have different sleep habits from children and adults. For most teens the weekends are often marked with staying up late and sleeping into the afternoon. A teen who can’t get up for school or is not motivated to do so is clearly exhibiting a red flag. Rather I’m pointing out a sadness that is pretty constant and effects functioning at school and home.
Here are the common symptoms of teen depression. They have to be present for at least two weeks and what is probably most noticeable is a change in their overall functioning. Your child is withdrawing from friends/ activities, or their grades are falling are some of the signs you may be noticing:
- They are irritable, sad or their mood is erratic. Their attitude is unusually negative and they say life is pretty meaningless and boring.
- Frequently there is a loss of motivation. For teens this could be a loss of interest in the sports or activities they used to enjoy and withdrawal from friends, family and socializing.
- With low motivation is loss of energy. Not just after a busy week, bouncing back from being ill or because of staying up late. This is tiredness that is constant for a period of at least two weeks.
- You might also notice changes in appetite, either significant weight gain or loss.
- Many teens like to sleep in but are they getting too much or too little sleep?
- Parents also notice that their teen is making critical comments about themselves or there are behavior problems at school or at home.
- Another sign is a drop in grades, or frequent absences from school.
- Excessive drug or alcohol use. Adolescence is a time of experimentation but frequent use is clearly a cause for concern.
- Lastly, are you hearing frequent complaints of physical complaints i.e.headaches, stomach etc? They are not pretending. Depression can be felt as a pain in your body as well as in your mind.
Depression can be biological. Have you or another family member ever experienced depression? Depression also frequently coincides with symptoms of anxiety. Depression can also occur after difficult life stressors such as a parental divorce, bereavement or bullying. Sometimes though it is difficult to know what has prompted a depressive episode.
So what should you do if you are worried about your teenager? Teen depression responds well to treatment and the first step is to get them evaluated. Tell them you are concerned and want to help. Give them options about the process. Ask if they would prefer a male or female? If the clinician has a website have your son or daughter view it and give you feedback. Offer to go with them and respect their need for privacy. Most of all know that the sooner you go for help the better. Remember to encourage them and remain positive.