Depression in Teens Help for Worried Parents
Young teens are notorious for being moody, sad, or overly expressive. It’s practically a stereotype in TV shows and current movies. As they make the transition from adolescent to adulthood, the emotional challenges that many teenagers face can be trying for everyone in the family. The loss of a first love, or peer pressure at school can seem overwhelming to a sensitive young person.
But teen depression goes beyond mere moodiness or social sensitivity. It’s a serious mental health problem that impacts 1 out every 5 teenagers today. Fortunately, it is treatable, and parents can help if they recognize the warning signs early.
Depression and the Mind of a Teenager
It helps to know all of the issues that might contribute to a teenager’s current state of mind. For some teens and adolescents, the signs and symptoms depression are not always obvious. While well educated adults may know how to locate a good therapist or find effective treatment for their own disorders, teens must depend on parents, friends, teachers, or important figures in their lives to spot the indications of depression and help them get the kind of help they need. This is why it’s so important for family members and friends to know the signs and risks. The National Institutes of Health offers these basic checklists for concerned parents.
The Risks for Teen Depression
How well do you know your teenager? The risks for depression among teens can increase with a variety of conditions that range from their family backgrounds to the demands of their social situations. Is there another depressed person in your family? Has the moody behavior continued for weeks or months? Have you noticed any dramatic changes recently? Your teen or adolescent could be more at risk for depression if:
- Mood disorders run in your family
- They experience a stressful life event like a death in the family, divorcing parents, bullying, a break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or failing in school
- They have low self-esteem and are very critical of themselves
- Your teen is a girl. Teen girls are twice as likely as boys to have depression.
- Your teen has trouble being social
- Your teen has learning disabilities
- Your teen has a chronic illness
- There are family problems or problems with their parents
Recognizing the Symptoms
If your teen or adolescent is depressed, you may see some of the following common red flags. When these symptoms last for weeks or months, the NIH says it’s time to speak with a healthcare provider:
- Frequent irritability with sudden bursts of anger
- More sensitive to criticism
- Complaints of headaches, stomach aches or other body problems. Your teen may go to the nurse’s office at school a lot.
- Withdrawal from people like parents or some friends
- Not enjoying activities they usually like
- Feeling tired for much of the day
- Sad or blue feelings most of the time
Extreme or significant changes in day-to-day habits are also indicators. Watch for signs like these, the NIH says. You may notice that your teen has been experiencing this kind of behavior:
- Trouble sleeping or is sleeping more than normal
- A change in eating habits, such as not being hungry or eating more than usual
- A hard time concentrating
- Problems making decisions
- Problems at home or school.
- Drop in school grades, attendance, not doing homework
- High-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, unsafe sex, or shoplifting
- Pulling away from family and friends and spending more time alone
- Drinking or using drugs
Other Behavior Disorders
Depression often co-exists with other behavior disorders. Teens with depression may also have:
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Anorexia, Bulimia, or other eating disorders
Often, just like adults, teenagers attempt to self medicate or mask their pain with the drugs that are immediately available to them. Depressed teens are also at risk for:
- Heavy drinking
- Regular marijuana (pot) smoking
- Other drug use
Suicidal thoughts or behaviors should be taken very seriously. Each day in the U.S. there are more than 4,800 suicide attempts by young people in grades 7-12. For depressed teens that also abuse alcohol or drugs, the risk of suicide is even greater. Because of the very real danger of suicide, teenagers that are depressed should be watched closely for any of these signs:
- Giving possessions away to others
- Saying good-bye to family and friends
- Talking about dying or committing suicide
- Writing about dying or suicide
- Experiencing a major personality change
- Taking big risks
- Withdrawing and wanting to be alone
If you fear that your teen is contemplating suicide, never ignore their threats or attempts to harm themselves. Call a healthcare provider or a suicide hotline right away. You can call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-999-9999 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere in the nation.
Recovery is Possible
Getting effective treatment for depression early could help your teenager feel better sooner, and it could also prevent future episodes. Research shows that mental health intervention, a safe, positive environment, and coping skills can help adolescents and teens develop effective tactics for Discovery Mood and Anxiety . The goal of Discovery Mood and Anxiety is recovery. Life will never be perfect, but learning some essential tools for dealing with the daily ups and downs can make a major difference for someone struggling with behavior disorders.
Discovery Mood Can Help
Don’t wait for a crisis! Call us now at 800.760.3934. Our personalized behavior modification programs are tailored to fit your needs. Discovery Mood provides multi-faceted levels of care that range from residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, to partial hospitalization for adolescents and teens that are struggling with depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, self-harm behaviors, gender identity, oppositional defiant disorder, eating disorders, and other major mental health disorders. Call now and speak with one of our highly trained admission specialists today. All calls are completely FREE and completely confidential.
Mental Health America: Depression in Teens. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
Helpguide.org: Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression, by Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal, PhD. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
The Parent Resource Program: Suicide Statistics . Retrieved September 19, 2016.