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SIGNS OF TEENAGE DEPRESSION AND HOW PARENTS CAN HELP

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Being a teenager is often described as a rollercoaster ride filled with both exciting highs and challenging lows.


As a parent, I can safely say that there is nothing worse than watching my teen struggle and not knowing what to do about it. They can keep silent on their struggles but we know they're struggling. Not quite sure of the cause because every effort to make them open up seems to make them distance themselves even further.


I stay vigilant towards my son's demeanor, for any changes in his attitude, his daily routine, and his eating habits, always afraid that I might miss something and only to realize a bit too late that I could've picked up on a problem at its infancy. I do outrightly just ask him whether he's okay but it's annoying to him, but I still do.



While mood swings are a natural part of adolescence, it's crucial for parents to be aware of the signs that may indicate something deeper—a potential battle with teenage depression.


In this blog post, we will explore what has been known to be the most common signs of teenage depression and how you can lend your support during these tough times. Remember, being there for your teenager can make all the difference in their journey toward their mental well-being.


teenage depression


Withdrawal from Activities and Friends

Teenagers experiencing depression often exhibit a significant decrease in interest or participation in activities they once enjoyed. You may notice your teenager withdrawing from sports, hobbies, or social gatherings they used to look forward to. They might isolate themselves from friends and family, preferring to spend long hours alone in their room.

While some degree of withdrawal is normal during adolescence, persistent and extreme social disengagement should raise concern. If your teenager no longer finds pleasure in activities that used to bring them joy, it may be a sign of depression so you might want to dig deeper.



Changes in Sleep Patterns

Depression can drastically disrupt sleep patterns in teenagers. They may experience difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or may sleep excessively. Keep an eye out for signs of insomnia, frequent awakenings during the night, or persistent fatigue during the day.


On the other hand, some teenagers may attempt to escape their negative thoughts and emotions by oversleeping, which can also indicate a potential depressive state.

If you notice significant changes in your teenager's sleep patterns that persist over a prolonged period, it's essential to address the issue and explore the possibility of depression. Remember, as teenagers, it's normal that their sleep patterns go out of whack so we have to walk the fine line between what's normal and what's not.




Shifts in Appetite and Weight

Depression can often manifest in changes in appetite and weight. Some teenagers might exhibit a loss of appetite, resulting in weight loss, while others may turn to food for comfort, leading to weight gain. These shifts can be subtle, so it's important to pay attention to any significant changes in your teenager's eating habits.

If you notice your teenager showing a drastic change in appetite or weight, it's essential to approach the subject sensitively and openly, encouraging a safe space for them to share their feelings.



Irritability and Anger

Teenagers battling depression often experience heightened irritability and anger. They may display frequent outbursts, moodiness, or a short temper. While irritability is a common aspect of adolescence, prolonged and intense episodes may indicate an underlying issue.

It's crucial to differentiate between typical teenage behavior and signs of depression. Approach your teenager with empathy, allowing them to express their frustrations while making them aware of your support and willingness to help.




Low Self-Esteem and Self-Criticism

Teenagers with depression tend to have low self-esteem and engage in self-critical thoughts. They may express feelings of worthlessness, and inadequacy, or constantly compare themselves unfavorably to others. These negative self-perceptions can be detrimental to their overall mental well-being.

As a parent, promoting a positive self-image and reinforcing your teenager's strengths and accomplishments is vital. Encourage open conversations about self-esteem, emphasizing that their worth extends far beyond any external factors.



Physical Complaints and Aches

While teenagers might find it challenging to express their emotional distress verbally, they may experience unexplained physical complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, or general body aches. These physical manifestations can serve as indicators of underlying depression.

Pay attention to your teenager's complaints and discuss the possibility of mental health struggles, reassuring them that their physical symptoms are valid and that you are there to support them. It's important to consult a professional to rule out any underlying medical conditions and to address the potential connection between their physical complaints and mental well-being.




Academic Decline

Depression can significantly impact a teenager's academic performance. You may observe a sudden decline in their grades, lack of motivation to complete assignments, or difficulty concentrating in class. Teenagers experiencing depression may also exhibit a disinterest in their future goals and aspirations.

It's crucial to communicate openly with your teenager's teachers and school counselors. Collaborate on strategies to provide the necessary support, which may include seeking academic accommodations or counseling services. Encourage your teenager to seek help and remind them that their academic success is not solely indicative of their worth.



Increased Risk-Taking Behaviors

Teenagers battling depression may engage in risky behaviors as a way to cope or escape their emotional pain. These behaviors can include substance abuse, reckless driving, unsafe sexual practices, or self-harming tendencies. Such actions serve as red flags and require immediate attention and intervention.

If you notice your teenager displaying risky behaviors, approach the situation calmly and lovingly. Seek professional help to ensure their safety and well-being while providing a supportive environment that encourages healthier coping mechanisms.




Expressions of Hopelessness or Suicidal Thoughts

One of the most severe signs of teenage depression is the expression of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts. Pay close attention to any statements your teenager makes that suggest they feel trapped, that life is not worth living, or that they wish they weren't around. These signs should never be taken lightly.

If your teenager expresses suicidal thoughts, it is crucial to take immediate action. Contact a mental health professional, helpline, or emergency services to ensure their safety. Offer constant support, and let them know that seeking help is a courageous step towards healing.



How You Can Help

When you suspect that your teenager may be battling depression, it's important to approach the situation with compassion and understanding. Here are some ways you can help:

Create a safe and non-judgmental space: Let your teenager know that you are always available to listen without judgment. Encourage open communication and reassure them that their feelings are valid. I cannot advocate enough the benefits of open and non-judgmental communication with your teenager. It can make so much difference.


Dr Becky Kennedy's book, Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be is a great read for parents with children of all ages. It teaches you, as parents, how to listen more than you speak and to understand the perspective of your kids rather than trying to push what you think is right onto them.


Educate yourself about teenage depression: Read reputable articles, attend workshops, and consult professionals to better understand the complexities of teenage depression. This knowledge will equip you to provide the best support possible.


Encourage professional help: Consult a mental health professional who specializes in working with teenagers. Therapy, counseling, or medication may be recommended based on the severity of the depression.


Be patient and empathetic: Recognize that recovery takes time and be patient with your teenager's journey. Offer empathy, understanding, and unconditional love.


Foster a healthy lifestyle: Encourage your teenager to engage in regular physical exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and prioritize adequate sleep. These lifestyle factors can positively impact their mental well-being.


Seek support for yourself: Not enough is said about parents dealing with their teenager's depression. Caring for a teenager with depression can be challenging. Reach out to support groups, therapists, or other parents who have gone through similar experiences. Taking care of your own well-being will enable you to better support your teenager.





Depression is a big word and shouldn't be taken likely. Recognizing the signs of teenage depression is crucial in supporting your teenager's mental health. By being attentive, compassionate, and proactive, you can help them navigate through these difficult times.


Remember, you are not alone in this journey.


 

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