If you tell someone that your teen is being moody and having problems at school, they might just nod. After all, aren’t teens supposed to behave like this? Hormones, peer pressure, and changes in life — all of it is enough to throw any teenager out of rhythm. But what if it’s not normal? What if it’s depression?
Depression is not anything to brush off. It’s a diagnosable mental health condition that, in teens, often goes unrecognized. Therefore, it is imperative that all of us learn more about depression among those living in their teenage years. What does it look like? Why does it happen? And what can be done?
Common Signs Of Teen Depression
A major red flag involves them losing interest in activities that once excited them. Your teen may no longer seem to care about much — including schoolwork, their social life, and even their appearance. They exhibit low energy and often fall back into social isolation. This can lead to worsening grades, spending time alone, and a burgeoning smartphone addiction.
Other signs to look for:
- Sudden changes in eating and/or sleeping habits
- Focusing only on the negative side of things
- Self-medication, e.g. comfort eating, drugs, alcohol, online porn
- Talking about running away
- Getting mixed up with friends who engage in risky behaviors
- Talk of death, dying, and suicide
Never take it lightly if your teen makes jokes about suicide, seeks out weapons or pills, or talks about how they wish they could just disappear. Seek help immediately.
What Causes Teen Depression?
There are believed to be genetic factors involved. But environmental impacts cannot be overlooked. For example:
- Childhood trauma
- Having an existing mental health problem
- Poor academic record
- Getting bullied
- Being a loner/lacking a social support system
- Living in a home with problems and realities like substance abuse, domestic violence, illness, disability, divorce, etc.
- Too much social media use
As for that last item, living life online can create:
- Comparing oneself to others
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)
- Less face-to-face interactions
- Disruptions in sleep patterns
How To Help Your Teen Through Depression
Encourage family social time
- Always make time for face-to-face conversations with your child
- Set boundaries for the usage of devices in the home
- Get them involved in volunteer work and other good deeds
- Let them know their friends are welcome in your home
Lead by example
- Do not overuse your phone around your family
- Stay socially active and invite your own friends over
- Demonstrate how much time and care you put into preparing healthy meals for yourself and your family
- Keep a healthy sleep routine
- Keep physically active and invite your family to join you
If your teen has been diagnosed with depression participate in their care
- Work with them to find a compatible, qualified therapist
- Help them manage appointments and, if necessary, medications
- Encourage them to consider natural treatment options
- Avoid blame or anger
- Remain patient as they progress through their treatment
As the parent of a depressed teen, you will be dealing with a lot of stress. It is advisable to consider therapy for yourself. In your weekly sessions, you can learn more about managing your own emotions. And, you will have a place to vent about the frustration and fear that will inevitably arise.
Be open with your teen about this — in a way that does not impose guilt. Let them know that, like them, you are taking active steps to maintain your mental well-being. There is no shame or guilt in such actions. No one should be expected to magically know what to do when something like depression emerges. Working together as a family and together with a therapist is a proven path toward recovery for all involved.