It isn’t always easy to know the difference between teen moodiness and depression. There are signs and symptoms that every parent, grandparent or caregiver should be aware of. The teen years can be pretty tough for many adolescents and depression affects more teens than many parents realize. It is estimated that one in five adolescents will suffer from depression at some point during their teen years. Depression reaches across economic, cultural, urban and rural areas alike- it is indiscriminate. Sadly, many teens never get help, even though depression is highly treatable.
Know potential red flags.
Depression in tweens and teens often goes unrecognized. The symptoms can be confused with adolescent moodiness, changing hormones, and emotional flux. It’s difficult to know if this is a phase or something more serious. Possible signs to look for include:
- personality changes and behavior outside of your child’s norm.
- fatigue or loss of energy.
- increased frustration and anger.
- being uncharacteristically “down” or irritable for several weeks.
- lack of interest / withdrawal from friends.
- reluctance to participate in activities, and hobbies that they once enjoyed.
- changes in appetite (eating too much or not enough) and sleep (sleeping too much, not sleeping well, sleep avoidance).
- obsessing over body image.
- overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, guilt or a significant decrease in self-esteem.
- stomachs, headaches or other body aches that can’t be explained and don’t respond to treatment.
- Difficulties concentrating or completing simple tasks.
- Declining grades.
- Self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting or burning.
Know where to turn for help.
If your still not sure whether it is normal teenage “moodiness” or depression consider how long the symptoms have been going on, how severe, and how different your teen is acting from their normal self. Many tweens and teens will cycle through symptoms routinely. That does not always mean they’re suffering from depression. If the symptoms last more than two weeks, consider enlisting support. Consider connecting with your tweens/teen’s teachers, school counselor and or other adults who might have regular contact with your child.
Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that worrisome symptoms will go away. If you suspect that your teen is depressed, bring up your concerns in a loving, non-judgmental way. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing are signs of a problem that should be addressed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and to listen. Give your teen the message that they are loved and that you are always there no matter what. Keep repeating this even when the say “I got this” keep letting them know they are loved and that you will be there for them.
By Becky Greenwood, LPC, InMindOut Therapist, San Marcos