A Parental Guide to Teenage Depression


Teen depression is often misunderstood and overlooked. A parental guide to teenage depression helps to educate and inform about this serious issue affecting many teens in society today. Teen depression is a serious mental health problem characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in activities. Depression has a negative impact on cognitive functioning, emotion and behavior. The onset of depression can occur at any time. For teenagers, the symptoms of depression vary from the symptoms seen in adults with depression.


A parent's guide to teenage depression

Teen depression can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, low self-esteem, violence and even suicide. Concerned parents must understand depression and the signs and symptoms in order to effectively help their child. Hopefully this information can serve as a parent’s guide to teenage depression and can teach ways to help identify and address this serious issue.


Understanding Depression


Mental health professionals have worked endlessly to remove the stigma associated with depression. Unfortunately, despite their efforts there remain many misconceptions about depression – especially among teens. While the teenage years are a difficult time, most teens are able to successfully navigate through this challenging period of life. Occasional bad moods and sadness should not be misinterpreted as depression. For a teen suffering from depression, normal functioning becomes impossible. Depression causes an overwhelming sense of sadness, anger and despair. Although depression among teens is common – very few receive adequate support and treatment. It is imperative that parents are able to identify the signs and symptoms of depression in order to get their child the treatment they so desperately need.


Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Teens


The teenage years are a time where hormones are growing, identities are being formed and meaningful relationships begin to develop. For a parent, it may be difficult at times to differentiate depression from average teenage moodiness. It is important to understand that the symptoms of teen depression differ from the symptoms of depression seen in adults. The Mayo Clinic identified emotional and behavioral changes seen in teens suffering from depression:

Emotional Changes:

– Feeling of sadness
– Feelings of hopelessness or feeling “empty”
– Irritability
– Frustration or anger, even over seemingly small matters
– Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
– Loss of interest with family and/or friends
– Conflict with family and/or friends
– Low self-esteems
– Feeling of worthlessness
– Feelings of guilt or shame
– Fixation on past failures
– Exaggerated self-criticism
– Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
– Extreme need to reassurance
– Lack of optimism about future
– Recurrent thoughts of death, dying or suicide

Behavioral changes:

– Tiredness and loss of energy
– Insomnia or sleeping more than usual
– Changes in appetite – decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
– Use of alcohol or drugs
– Agitation or restlessness – for example, pacing or in the inability to sit still
– Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
– Frequent complains of physical ailments, for example body aches and headaches
– Social isolation
– Poor academic performance and/or attendance
– Neglected physical appearance, poor hygiene
– Aggressive or angry outbursts
– Engaging in risky behaviors
– Self-harm, for example cutting, burning, piercing, tattooing
– Making a suicide plan or suicide attempt

In order to determine whether your teen is depressed or exhibiting normal teenage behavior, it is important to consider the severity and duration of these symptoms. If you still feel uncertain whether or not your teen is suffering from depression, it is recommended that you seek professional help to assist in identifying the problem. As with any other mental health problems, early intervention provides the best opportunity for successful recovery with fewer consequences.


Suicide Warning Signs in Depressed Teens


Suicidal ideation is a dangerous symptom of teen depression. Teens suffering from depression often think and speak of suicide. Depressed teens that abuse drugs or alcohol are at a greater risk for attempting suicide. Some depressed teens may make unsuccessful attempts at suicide. Many of these acts appear to be “attention seeking”. Regardless of how legitimate their claims may be, any discussion or attempted act of suicide MUST be taken seriously. You must take immediate action.

Suicide Warning Signs in Depressed Teens:
– Talking or making jokes about committing suicide
– Telling others that “I wish I could disappear forever” or “I would be better off dead” etc.
– Romanticizing death
– Depicting a morbid fascination with death or dying
– Giving away sentimental items
– Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
– Seeking out weapons, drugs or other ways to kill themselves

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK


Addressing Depression and Finding Treatment


The longer depression goes untreated, the greater the emotional and physical health risks. If you believe your teen is suffering from depression, the first step would be to take your child to the family physician. Be prepared to discuss the symptoms you have witnessed. Discuss all emotional and behavioral changes. Identify all patterns you have witnessed and provide as much detail as possible. The more information you are able to provide, the better able the physician will be to address the problem. A physical exam and lab work will be able to determine if there is a medical cause for the emotional and behavioral changes.

If there are no underlying health issues that are causing the depression, ask the physician for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in treating adolescents. A psychologist or psychiatrist will able to diagnose and provide a treatment plan for your child. Treatment may include individual therapy, group therapy, and in some cases medication. It is important to understand and explore all treatment options.


Outpatient Treatment for Depressed Teen


Many adolescent outpatient treatment facilities are able to effectively help treat a teen suffering from depression. By providing individual therapy, group therapy and a community that is understanding and supportive, outpatient treatment may be the right option for your teen. If your child is suffering from a dual-diagnosis, both depression and substance abuse, outpatient treatment is highly recommended to address both of these serious issues. Both depression and substance abuse are serious issues and with the right help, emotional and physical recovery from both is possible. If you or someone you love needs help, please do not hesitate to give us a call and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please call (877)799-1985 or simply click the link below.


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A Parental Guide to Teenage Depression