Teenagers face a host of pressures, from the hormonal changes of puberty and building their self-esteem, to facing peer pressure about sex, drugs, and alcohol. With all this turmoil and uncertainty, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between normal teenage growing pains and depression. Many parents expect some trouble from their teenagers and believe that periods of acting out and moodiness may be just a temporary stage. But what if it is more? What is your teenager is displaying signs and symptoms of depression?

Depression and anxiety among teenagers are serious disorders and can lead to a lifetime of psychological illnesses and even to suicide. In fact, more than 10 percent of children will be diagnosed with depression before the age of 18. Depression is actually under diagnosed in children and teenagers because parents often believe that their son or daughter is just moody and that this moodiness is transient. Depressed teenagers are more likely to become involved in alcohol and drug use, which can lead to criminal behavior. Children and teenagers often exhibit depressive symptoms differently than adults do. For example, a child or teenager who is depressed might refuse to go to school, isolate himself or herself, exhibit aggressive behavior, sleep more than usual or become involved with alcohol or drugs.

Signs and symptoms associated with teenage depression

Depression in teenagers is also associated with a number of other mental health problems, including eating disorders and self-injury also known as cutting. While depression can cause tremendous pain for your teenager, and disrupt everyday family life, there are plenty of things you can do, as a parent, to help your child start to feel better. The first step is to learn the signs and symptoms associated with teen depression.

  • Sleep disturbance: This can present with a need for an increase in sleep, problems falling asleep, difficulties, staying asleep, or waking up without feeling rested.
  • Decline in academic performance: Teenagers may skip school or leave school early. They may lose interest in completing their homework or passing a class.
  • Social isolation: Your son or daughter may choose to stay home instead of hanging out with their friends. They may also display hostility and anger towards friends resulting in fights and breakups. They may also choose to hang out with a different group of friends.
  • Loss of interest in activities: Your son or daughter may no longer have interest in playing their favorite sport or engaging in their favorite activity. They may make excuses for ditching practice and may prefer to stay home instead.
  • Feelings of guilt: Teenagers may criticize themselves for their mistakes or faults, which can be characterized as self blame or self loathe.
  • Loss of energy: Feeling of fatigue may be present throughout the day. You teenager may feel sluggish no matter how much sleep he/she gets. They may be falling asleep in class or not able to complete their weekly chores because of exhaustion.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Problems focusing, making decisions or a decline in test scores and grades in school. Schoolwork and homework may take longer to complete than usual.
  • Change in appetite: Never feeling hungry or constantly wanting to eat can result in weight loss or weight gain. Teenagers may cover up their emotions with food and may binge whereas others may have no interest in food.
  • Psychomotor agitation: These are unintentional movements without any purpose such as pacing back and forth, uncontrolled tongue movements, picking at nails, skin or clothing, and hand wringing that stem from mental tension.
  • Unexplained aches and pain: Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If a thorough physical exam does not reveal a medical cause, these aches and pains may indicate depression.
  • Sadness/irritable mood: Irritability, rather than sadness, is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
  • Suicide ideations: Thoughts or plans of suicide.