Being a teenager is tough, and having to parent a teenager comes with struggles, too. The adolescent years are fraught with difficulty. From brain development to insecurity and social pressure, moody and emotional behavior and quickly developing personalities.
In this time period when behavior is changing so rapidly and sporadically, sometimes it can be hard to notice whether depression is at the root of these changes or if they’re normal developmental shifts.
Although it may be easy to discount teen behavior as characteristic of their age, depression is surprisingly common among adolescents. The U.S. Library of Medicine estimates that one in five adolescents will struggle with clinical depression at some point in their youth.
Knowing teen depression statistics can be useful for parents and caregivers to know, but it can still be tricky to discern whether your teen’s behavior is par for the course of being a teen, or whether something more serious is at play. Read on to learn five recognizable signs of depression in teens and what to do once you notice teen depression symptoms.
Teen depression symptoms
Depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD), is a mental health condition characterized by persistent sorrow and loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable. Depression can affect anyone of any demographic, and while adults often manifest symptoms of depression, the side effects you might look for in adults can be harder to spot in adolescents.
These symptoms should clue you into understanding your teen’s behavior and when professional help is necessary.
A feeling of hopelessness
Gauging when a mood disorder is present is tricky because so many of the symptoms are beneath the surface, making them harder to spot. While sadness might be hard to measure, asking questions about your teen’s future can shed some light on what’s really going on.
Try asking the following questions to elicit some information about your teen’s outlook on life.
- What are you looking forward to in the next month?
- What are you most excited about in the future?
- What are some goals you have for the next year?
If your teen is unable to share hopeful sentiments about the future, it could be a sign of apathy about the future. A person faced with depression may struggle to experience enjoyment in activities and have a bleak perspective on what’s to come.
One of the hallmarks of depression in teens is a tendency to push away friends and family. While changing friend groups is normal in middle and high school, it’s unhealthy for an individual to have only one, two or no friends.
You may notice your teen making excuses for having no plans with friends, refusing to talk about their friends at school or making up stories, withdrawing from extracurricular sports and clubs or spending free time alone.
3. Negative changes in daily schedule
In adolescence, it’s normal for teens to experiment with and change their routines. You may notice your kid starting a new sport, spending extra time getting ready in the morning, making time for new hobbies or creating a homework schedule.
One of the most common teen depression symptoms that can be easily spotted is when the changes your teen makes are unproductive or even harmful. You may notice your teen oversleeps significantly or struggles to sleep at all, indulges in overeating or starts an abnormally strict diet. It’s common to see individuals neglect personal hygiene when affected by depression, too.
4. Poor self-image
Teens who struggle with depression often have low self-worth and are critical of their own achievements, appearance and abilities. While teens are prone to comparison, a poor-self worth that interferes with daily life is a sign of trouble. Teens who feel worthless, guilty, ugly or shameful more often than not may be affected by depression.
How can you identify negative self-worth as a parent? You may notice that your kid fixates on failures, overly criticizing and blaming oneself. A teen with a healthy self-perception will be able to celebrate achievements and point out positive traits about him or herself. A teen who struggles with depression may be unable to see any positives.
This mindset can contribute to self-harm behaviors. If your teen shows marks of self-harm or seems to hide behind clothing that is inappropriate for the weather, it’s possible that low self-worth has led to self-destructive tendencies. Immediate treatment is recommended in these cases.
5. Difficulties in school
While there are certainly cons to quantifying achievement, poor performance in school can be a sign that a mental health condition is present. Someone who struggles with depression may also suffer from a lack of concentration, difficulty making decisions, poor memory skills and low interest in doing well academically.
There are plenty of ways that process can be tracked in school and depression may be easier to pinpoint: low test scores, poor attendance, trouble with peers in school, inability to carry through with responsibilities, trouble with authority and more. These signs don’t automatically indicate that a teen is facing clinical depression, but they may confirm that an issue is beneath the surface of school performance.
Diagnosing and treating teen depression
If you have noticed any of the above teen depression symptoms or other questionable behavior in your kid, the safest bet is to get a professional assessment. When you call the Light Program you’ll automatically be connected to care that fits your family’s needs and can provide the care you’ve been looking for.
Don’t wait for symptoms to get worse to receive therapy and medication that could be life-saving for a teen with depression. Call today to get a mental health assessment and be matched with the level of care you and your teen deserve.