3 Signs to Help Recognize Depression in Teens

It’s not always easy to recognize depression in teens, but there are signs to look for to determine if they may need help. The symptoms of depression in adolescents may look different than those typically associated with depression in adults. Teens today deal with pressures stemming from academics, social media, friendships, and relationships. The last few years have presented them with unique challenges. With all they face, parents may assume if they’re short on energy, losing sleep, or withdrawn, that they’re just exhibiting normal behavior that comes from the pressure of daily life as a teen. It can be easy to miss when a teen may feel depressed and in need of help. It’s critical to support teen mental health, so here are three signs to be aware of. 

1) Anger or Rage

Some teens dealing with depression may express anger or irritability. They may show their depression with outbursts of rage. Or perhaps they cause trouble in school when they hadn’t before. As parents, we shouldn’t assume their anger is just part of an adolescent “phase.” This is a sign that must be recognized, monitored, and addressed. Check-in with your teen at a time when you and they are calm. Try to determine if their anger seems justified or whether it’s likely masking something else that may require professional help.

2) Lack of Sadness

It’s not uncommon for many people to associate depression with the emotion of sadness. But for some teens, depression could lead them to become withdrawn and not even be able to feel or demonstrate sadness. Their lack of emotion may lend a clue to you. Depression disrupts the emotional life of the person suffering from it, but it does not always present as sadness.

3) A Loss of…

Another thing parents can look for is whether there is a loss in various areas of their child’s life. Have they lost interest in things they usually like to do at home? Have they stopped their involvement in activities that used to bring them pleasure? Are they struggling socially or dealing with a loss of friends? Are they experiencing a loss of appetite? Have they lost (or gained) weight? Do they lack energy? Are they having trouble sleeping at night? If you have witnessed several of these symptoms in your child, talk with your child about what is causing their “loss.” If they are unsure or unable to verbalize it with you, help them seek out and speak with a professional. For tips on having a conversation on the benefits of professional support, check out this article.

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What Teens Need to Know About Seeking Professional Help

Perhaps the most essential thing teens need to know is that emotional discomfort is treatable. There are people who know how to support teens so they can feel better. And they deserve to feel better. Click through for more.

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Seeking Help is an Act of Strength

Strong people know they’re capable of feeling better, deserve to feel better, and will take the required steps to improve their outlook. Use the word “deserve” instead of “need” when talking about getting help.

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Asking for Guidance Shows Self-Awareness

Individuals who know themselves, can identify their feelings, and recognize when they need help often become the most successful and happy adults.

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Professionals are Trained to Help

They work with teens because they want to help. They have gone through years of training to do so. They honor privacy and strive to support without judgment.

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Professionals are Only Part of a Support System

Seeking professional help does not mean teens should give up other support systems. Family and friends remain the most important people in their lives.

Express Your Concern

Any of these signs can be cause for concern, but no list is complete. You know your child best. Trust your intuition if you sense that something seems off. Try not to be alarmed. Instead, remain calm and have an open conversation about how they’re feeling. They may be dealing with something manageable, or it could be a sign of depression. Either way, tell them that they deserve to feel better and that there are professionals that can help. 

Reinforce Good Self-Care Habits

Research reveals that today’s teens are getting less sleep and exercise as a group. But a study published in 2020 showed that even light exercise helped protect children from developing depression. And throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, most young people have spent less time in person with friends and family. Yet, sleep, exercise, and spending in-person time with friends are essential practices behind healthy teen development. So, parents should help ensure teens get needed sleep at night, support them in developing a healthy exercise routine, and encourage them to carve out in-person time with friends.

Depression is Treatable

Adolescent depression is more than teens just being moody. If left untreated, it can become a serious problem that impacts their lives and the lives of those who care for them. It can impact their ability to function socially and academically.

The good news is depression is treatable. If you have concerns, you don’t have to come up with solutions on your own. Instead, seek professional help. Getting professionals involved early to work with your child can potentially shorten the period of depression. Early treatment can also help head off the long-term effects of depression.

If you are worried about your child, say something like, “I love you, but I’m worried about you. I’m unsure how you’re feeling about yourself, and you deserve to be feeling good. Above all, I want to make sure you’re safe. Can we talk about that?” Knowing that you care is never offensive to a child, it is precisely what offers them the security that they are loved. Asking children if they’ve been thinking about hurting themselves does not put ideas in their heads.

If your teen has expressed thoughts of suicide or self-harm, these should never be minimized or trivialized. They must be addressed. If you’re unsure how to find a professional, consider reaching out to a school guidance counselor or health center or your child’s general healthcare provider. And for more information, look to:

National Institute of Mental Health

Psychology Today

JED Foundation

If your child’s safety is at risk, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text START to 741-741.

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About Eden Pontz

Eden Pontz is Executive Producer and Director of Digital Content for CPTC. She oversees digital media content development and production for Parentandteen.com. She also writes, copyedits, and produces articles, podcasts, and videos for the site. Her pieces cover a range of topics including teen development, peer pressure, and mentoring. Eden brings years of experience as a former Executive Producer of Newsgathering at CNN, as well as a field producer, writer, and reporter for CNN and other news organizations.

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