Teenage years are hard, and parents and teens alike can have difficulty in telling the difference between the normal ups and downs of emotion during this time versus more chronic mental health issues. Teenage depression is chronic, and challenging. Parents and teens must be on a level where they can have open dialogue in order to really determine if it’s depression, something that mimics the symptoms, or simply turbulent emotions that come standard with teenage years. Talk with your teen. Try to determine whether he or she seems capable of managing challenging feelings, or if life seems overwhelming.
Symptoms of Teenage Depression
From the Mayo Clinic:
Teen depression signs and symptoms include a change from the teenager’s previous attitude and behavior that can cause significant distress and problems at school or home, in social activities or other areas of life.
Depression symptoms can vary in severity, but changes in your teen’s emotions and behavior may include the examples below.
Be alert for emotional changes, such as:
- Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
- Feeling hopeless or empty
- Irritable or annoyed mood
- Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
- Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
Watch for changes in behavior, such as:
- Tiredness and loss of energy
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite — decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches, which may include frequent visits to the school nurse
- Social isolation
- Poor school performance or frequent absences from school
- Neglected appearance
- Angry outbursts, disruptive or risky behavior, or other acting-out behaviors
- Self-harm — for example, cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing
- Making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt
When to Seek Counseling for Teenage Depression
If depression symptoms continue or begin to interfere in your teen’s life, talk to a doctor or a mental health professional trained to work with adolescents. Your teen’s family doctor or pediatrician is a good place to start. Or your teen’s school may recommend someone.
Depression symptoms likely won’t get better on their own — and they may get worse or lead to other problems if untreated. Depressed teenagers may be at risk of suicide, even if signs and symptoms don’t appear to be severe.
If you’re a teen and you think you may be depressed — or you have a friend who may be depressed — don’t wait to get help. Talk to a health care provider such as your doctor or school nurse. Share your concerns with a parent, a close friend, a spiritual leader, a teacher or someone else you trust.
Why Counseling Helps Teens with Depression
Counseling provides a safe place and an impartial third party to talk to. Teens might not want to discuss serious issues with parents, or might fear repercussions in talking to parents about depression. Talking to a licensed counselor helps. Additionally, sometimes a psychiatrist might be necessary in order to prescribe medication that can lessen the symptoms of depression. Call us today to verify your insurance and start getting help!