Recognizing the Signs of Teen Depression

Adolescence is a difficult time for everyone, as physical and emotional changes come fast and furious. The frustrations of life in general sometimes mask teenage depression, a treatable but often unrecognized condition that could affect as many as 20% of adolescents at some point between the ages of 12 and 20.

As a parent, it’s often up to you to identify the signs, since your child may not recognize the feelings of depression for what they are, coming at the same time as so many other profound changes to their mind and body.

Moods vs. depression

One of the challenges you face as a parent is recognizing the difference between teen rebellion and depressive behavior. Because both inspire similar actions, it’s not a simple task. To complicate matters, everyone has their own reaction to the changes of adolescence.

If rebellious or angry behavior persists and there’s little indication of your child’s previous personality, you might be witnessing the effects of depression. The same is true when the negative behavior is especially intense or extreme.

Perhaps the most telltale sign of teen depression is the feeling that you’re dealing with a completely different person, and the change is abrupt. The stress and hormones of the teen years can certainly cause bouts of erratic moods, but these likely won’t dominate your teen’s personality unless depression is present.

Differences between teen and adult depression

Teens respond to depression differently than adults, making it harder still to recognize the reasons for changes in behavior. Adults tend to exhibit depression through sadness, while a teen is typically irritable. Hostility and anger are common manifestations of teen depression, rather than quiet withdrawal.

Teens with depression will typically maintain some friendships, rather than completely isolating themselves as many adults do. Your child may, however, withdraw from family and social situations in which they were previously comfortable while staying connected with just one or two close friends.

Rejection, failure, and criticism all weigh heavily on the depressed teen as they question their self-worth. While most teens can be oversensitive on occasion, prolonged emotional sensitivity may indicate depression.

Aches and pains that have no medical cause may also be symptoms of teen depression. This might include headaches, abdominal pain, or any other physical ailment.

Warning signs for suicide

Though it’s sometimes easier to dismiss suicidal comments as dramatic or motivated by angst, it’s important to recognize that suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 12 and 18. Fully 80% of the teens who attempt suicide displayed clear warning signs prior to an incident.

Watch for signs such as:

Helping a depressed teen

Depressive behavior can make communication difficult. This is a time for a parent to avoid judgment or lecturing, and instead listen to their child. Gentle persistence is critical since it’s likely you’ll be shut out at first. A teen may not yet have the skills to effectively express themselves, so reassure them that the door is always open.

Acknowledge that what your teenager is feeling is valid, no matter how upsetting what they say might be for you. If your instincts tell you something is still wrong, despite reassurances to the contrary, trust your gut.

Contact Suncoast Neuropsychiatric Wellness Center by phone or online. I can help you and your teen address depression in a healthy and proactive way.

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