When I hear the words “teenage years”, I think of navigating through a minefield.
While occasional mood swings and acting out is expected during these years, depression is a serious health problem that can cause an intense sense of anger, sadness, or despair potentially negatively affecting your teens’ personality or leading to something more serious such as suicide.
Teenagers go from being “kids” to facing a multitude of changes from puberty to social pressures. They may face unrealistic social, academic, or family expectations that may lead to deep disappointment. They may feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and confused as they navigate trying to figure out where they fit in and who they are.
Unfortunately, majority of the time, teens need YOU to recognize their suffering in order to get the help they need. This may be hard for you to recognize because depression does not look the same as adults’ depression symptoms.
When a teen is suffering emotionally they may express their depression through a variety of ways that may include hostile and risk-taking behavior.
Here is what you may see and potential warning signs to look for:
• Poor performance in school- Depression can cause concertation difficulties as well as low energy leading to poor attendance, academic problems, or behavioral problems.
• Poor self-esteem or guilt- Depression may intensify feelings of not being attractive enough.
• Experiment with drugs or alcohol-While substance abuse makes depression worse, they use it as an attempt to “self-medicate” in order to suppress their feelings.
• Become promiscuous- to avoid feelings of depression.
• Changes in eating and sleeping
• Lack of motivation
• Lack of energy
• Lack of concentration
• Emotional or frequent crying
• Thoughts of death or suicide
Some symptoms that differ from adults with depression may be:
• Withdrawal/loss of interest in friends and activities- Adults with depression may isolate themselves from people, but teenagers may isolate themselves from family, socialize less, but keep some close friends.
• Angry/irritable- instead of being sad, they seem grumpy and hostile.
• Physical pains- Teenagers may complain of body aches such as headaches and stomachs.
• Very sensitive to criticism because of feelings of being worthless.
Depression in teens is a serious condition. If you notice your teen has significant changes or warning signs and symptoms listed above lasting more than a few weeks, it’s important to seek professional help. Don’t make the mistake hoping it’ll get better on it’s own. Untreated depression may lead to other serious problems such as behavior problems, substance abuse, or even suicide.
Talk to your teen in a non-judgmental way. Address your concerns and symptoms you’ve noticed. Lend a listening ear instead of asking too many questions. Ask them to share what they may be going through and if they’d be more comfortable talking to a professional about it. Make sure they know your number one priority is their well-being and you'll support them in whatever they need.