Depression in teenagers has, sadly, been rising in recent years. The teenage years can be very stressful, which can in turn lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. While many symptoms of depression can be brushed off as moody teenage behavior, it is important to know when it is more than that and needs addressing. Depression is not the same as being a bit sad; it is a serious illness that, if ignored, can lead to serious harm. Depression can be treated, but it is important to be aware of the difference between rebellious teenage behavior, and unhealthy, depressive symptoms before they become more serious.
If your teen is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it may be beneficial to talk with them about receiving help or support with their feelings. There are also places where teens can get mental health help.
Changes in Mood
Mood changes are the most straightforward symptom of depression. However, mood changes can be more difficult to spot in teenagers, due to normal mood changes associated with adolescence. Emotions such as irritability, anger, and hostility are more common in teens with depression, although sadness, hopelessness, and tearfulness are also symptoms. Teens can also feel guilty, worthless, or more sensitive to criticism.
Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand, and if one is ignored, there is a chance of developing the other. Any symptoms of anxiety should be investigated, regardless of whether they are believed to be linked to depression.
Thoughts of death or suicide should be taken seriously, and help sought. Look out for signs such as a preoccupation with death or dying, romanticizing death, speaking of how things may be better or no-one would care if they died, or injuries which they do not wish to speak about. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people, so it is important to be aware of the possible warning signs.
Like adults, teenagers can withdraw themselves when suffering from depression. Not wanting to spend time with family, and occasionally friends can be a sign of depression. Sometimes, teenagers seemingly abandon old friends in favor of new social groups.
A loss of interest in activities they used to always enjoy is also a common withdrawal symptom. Regularly canceling plans or making excuses to not take part in things they used to should be a warning sign. Memory issues such as regularly forgetting to do things can also be a symptom of depression.
Changes at School
Feelings of depression can make it difficult to concentrate or to care about schoolwork. As a result, your teen’s teachers may notice a change in their attitude or behavior at school, and their grades may decline. They may be late to school, skip classes, or neglect to hand in homework on time, if at all.
Change of Habits
Depression can make teenagers feel a lack of enthusiasm for life in general. This can manifest itself in many ways, including a change in their usual habits. This could be eating more or less than usual or sleeping more or less than they normally do. Both can worsen symptoms of depression further, so it is important that they are addressed.
Along with a lack of enthusiasm and motivation, another possible symptom of depression is engaging in rebellious or reckless behavior. This could involve using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, associating with ‘the wrong people’, or getting involved in risky activities such as reckless driving, shoplifting, or promiscuous behavior.
If left unchecked, depression can result in physical symptoms. It can cause feelings of restlessness and agitation, which can manifest physically. Fatigue and lack of energy can also be common symptoms. If your teen seems to be overly fatigued, despite spending more time sleeping than usual, this could be a sign of depression.
Depression can also manifest as unexplained aches and pains, often headaches and stomach aches. If medical checks find no physical cause for these ailments, depression should be considered as the cause.
If you believe that your teenager may be suffering from depression, it is vital that you do not ignore it. Starting a dialogue with them will help you to understand more about how they feel, but it is important to really listen to what they are saying and not to lecture them. Try to be understanding and kind; acknowledge their feelings and let them know you support them. If your instinct tells you something is wrong, even if they tell you otherwise, don’t ignore it. If necessary, ask for help from someone else they know and trust. Keeping your teenager involved in activities and socializing may help them feel less isolated. Encouraging their physical health may also help, so encouraging exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and limiting screen time may all help too.