7 Things Parents Should Know about Teenage Depression

Make sure you know these 7 things about teenage depression (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Make sure you know these 7 things about teenage depression (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Depression in teenagers doesn’t always look the way we, as parents, expect it to.  Sometimes the symptoms of depression can look a lot like normal teenage angst which means it goes undiagnosed.  But getting teens who are dealing with depression the help they need is critical because depression impacts all areas of their life and if left untreated it can result in serious long-term problems.  Here are some of the important facts about teenage depression that parents need to know in order to recognize the signs in their own child and to know what steps to take to get them the help they need.

1.     Depression isn’t Moodiness

Every teenager has down days and bad moods.  Teenagers may be overly dramatic or overreact to situations that don’t seem that serious to us.  They may rebel, act out, or seem annoyed by everything we do or say.  All of these things are normal during the teenage years.  Depression is different.  Depression isn’t about having a moody weekend or being bummed out about a bad test.  Depression is more pervasive, more overwhelming, more encompassing.

2.     Depression Doesn’t Always Look the Way We Expect

Teenagers don’t always act the way we expect them to and this holds true when it comes to teenagers who are suffering with depression.  You may expect them to be sad, to cry a lot, or to seem down all the time.  While some teens may experience these, others can seem very irritable, be angry at the world, and even display fits of rage.  Teenagers may also withdraw from friends, quit favorite activities, and experience changes in eating and sleeping habits.

3.     Depression Sticks Around

One red flag for parents is when teenagers seem to have a personality change or to be displaying the signs of depression for a long period of time.  This is one of the ways parents can differentiate between normal teenage moodiness and actual depression.  Moodiness comes and goes, depression doesn’t.

4.     Depression Can Cause Physical Symptoms

One of the ways that depression can look different in teens than it does in adults is the presentation of physical symptoms.  Teenagers may complain of aches and pains that have no source.  They may get frequent headaches or feel sick to their stomach with no medical explanation.

5.     Depression Can Increase Sensitivity

While it may seem like a teenager dealing with depression doesn’t care about much including what other people think, they can become very sensitive to any kind of criticism or rejection as these reinforce the sense of worthlessness they are already experiencing.

6.     Depression Can Cause Selective Withdrawal

Another way that depression can look different in teens is that teens don’t tend to pull away from everyone in their lives, unlike adults.  Teenagers may pull away from family members or change the group of friends they hang out with but do not always withdraw from all interpersonal relationships.

7.     Depression Can Lead to Real Problems

The consequences for teenagers whose depression goes untreated can be severe.  Depressed teenagers can have difficulties in school like poor attendance and failing grades.  They may run away from home, begin using/abusing drugs or alcohol, develop an eating disorder, participate in self-harming activities like cutting, become violent, or attempt suicide.  If you suspect your teenager may be depressed, seek the assistance of a mental health provider who can help you determine the right steps to take to get your teenager the help they need.

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