Risk Factors And Warning Signs: Is Your Teenager Depressed
George Livengood, Assistant National Director of Operations, Discovery Mood and Anxiety Program
Sadness. Irritability. Withdrawal from friends. Weight loss.
Depression can reveal itself in different ways, but one thing is certain: with 12.8% of adolescents between the ages of 12-17 suffering a major depressive episode in the United States, its an incredibly widespread issue for our nations teenagers. Sadly, the many pressures of teen life changing bodies, hormonal changes, social conflicts, academic pressures can often create an extra psychological strain.
Untreated depression can be devastating to a teens emotional, mental, and physical health. Fortunately, treatment is readily available for teenagers in crisis. And by learning how to identify the signs of depression in your teenager, you can help get them the help they need at this difficult time. Lets take a closer look at signs of teenage depression, and what to do if you suspect your teen is struggling.
Signs A Teen Might Be Depressed
1. Changes in Appetite
Loss of appetite is a common sign of depression, but Wilson also points out that a sudden craving for sugary foods is another red flag. These foods can be a way to self-soothe, she says.
2. Avoiding Social Situations
Keep an eye on how much time your teen is spending with their friends. If the balance is shifting further and further toward social withdrawal and isolation, that could be a sign of trouble.
3. Shame and Severe Self-Criticism
Depression might sound like a teen saying, Im stupid, Im a failure. Im no good, Wilson says. They really internalize this idea of not being good enough, or that somethings wrong with them.
4. Loss of Interest in Things They Once Enjoyed
Spending less time with old hobbies could be a perfectly normal sign of growth in a teenager the red flag is when they dont replace that activity with something new that brings them joy.
Frequent feelings of sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness can all be signs of depression. Be aware of how often and how intensely your teen is feeling these types of emotions, Wilson says.
6. Forgetfulness or Trouble Concentrating
If you have a child who typically is focused, attentive, and good with time management, and all of sudden this becomes something theyre struggling with, that could be a red flag, Wilson says. This can sometimes manifest as slipping grades at school.
7. Shifting Sleep Patterns
Doesnt Make Contact With Family Members
Emotional issues alienate the kid from the household. He needs to shut, spend time alone in his room, or not often seem at dwelling. Its common for adolescents to generally reveal their protest towards their dad and mom, however right here its price taking note of the passive coloring of unwillingness to speak: the kid merely turns into silent. Dont disregard such habits, encompass your son or daughter with care, attempt to convey it to a frank dialogue. When you cant clear up the issue by yourself, search assist from a baby psychologist.
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Encourage Them To Think About What They Enjoy Doing
Take a step-by-step approach towards helping them do these activities when they feel able to. This could be things like exercising or playing sport, listening to music, doing something creative like colouring or drawing, watching a favourite film, reading a favourite book or going for a walk with you.
Depression In Children: Warning Signs
Parents should be particularly vigilant for signs that may indicate that their child is at risk for suicide.
Warning signs of suicidal behavior in children include:
- Many depressive symptoms
- Social isolation, including isolation from the family
- Talk of suicide, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Increased acting-out of undesirable behaviors
- Increased risk-taking behaviors
- Focus on morbid and negative themes
- Talk about death and dying
- Increased crying or reduced emotional expression
- Giving away possessions
If you suspect that your child or teenager is depressed, take the time to listen to their concerns. Even if you don’t think the problem is of real concern, remember that it may feel very real to them. Itâs important to keep the lines of communication open, even if your child seems to want to withdraw. Try to avoid telling your child what to do. Instead, listen closely and you may discover more about the issues causing the problems.
If you feel overwhelmed or unable to reach your child, or if you continue to be concerned, seek professional help.
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Changes In Sleeping And Eating Habits
Teens need a lot of sleepup to ten hours a night. But if your daughter is sleeping longer than thator isnt getting much sleep at all, be aware. Take her schedule into consideration, but if her schoolwork and activities are keeping her from getting a healthy amount of sleep, it might be time to consider an adjustment.
Depression or anxiety can trigger changes in your daughters eating patternseither more or less than she nsignificantormally would. Depressed teens sometimes show a preference for sugary foods because sugar gives a temporary mood lift.
Signs Your Teen Might Be Depressed: A Mental Health Experts Advice On What To Watch For
We spoke with a mental health expert about the biggest red flags.
Nearly one-third of Wisconsin high school students report feeling sad or hopeless almost every day, according to the Wisconsin Office of Childrens Mental Health. One in six have seriously considered suicide. And 60 percent of Wisconsin teens with major depression do not receive consistent treatment.
This pandemic is wreaking havoc on mental health, says Kristin Wilson, MA, LPC, CCTP, Vice President of Clinical Outreach for Newport Healthcare, which provides mental health treatment for teens and young adults at locations nationwide. So many teenagers are struggling socially.
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What Depression Looks Like In Teens
No two people are exactly alike, so depression looks a little bit different for everyone. Even if you as a parent have depression, your child may experience depression differently.
Some common signs a teenager is going through depression are:
- Loss of a friend group
- Lack of interest in hobbies
- Poor performance at school
- Use of drugs or alcohol
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of attention to personal hygiene
- Evidence of self-harm like scars or cut marks on the arms, legs, or ribs
- Evidence of a suicide attempt or plans for a suicide attempt
Not all of these signs individually necessarily mean that your child is suffering from depression. However, showing many of these behaviors at the same time likely means a teen is depressed. Evidence of self-harm and suicidal behavior are especially dangerous signs of depression and are indicators that immediate treatment is needed.
How To Handle Depression During The Pandemic
In this truly unique time, families are faced with more choices and challenges than ever before regarding their childrens education, safety, and mental and emotional wellbeing. Although you might not be able to control the current circumstances, you are in control of how you respond to difficult or scary events and your children will likely mirror your reaction.
Schwenk provided some insight into this situation.
Everyone is having a lot of different feelings coming from the uncertainty surrounding this next school year she said. What are the feelings under the feelings? It is crucial for parents to care for themselves and manage their emotions in order to provide that for children also. Parents, guardians, and caregivers can model to kids how to handle feelings. So when adults are not able to express themselves and ultimately just shut down, kids are learning to deal with their feelings in the same way. On the other hand, when parents draw, journal, or exercise to process their feelings kids pick up on that.
As for the children who might already be having difficulties transitioning, Schwenk recommends creating healthy routines and showing your child that you will always be there to support them, even if you dont know whats coming next.
Try to show up for your child in the best way you can, Schwenk said. Let your child know that you will get through it together. Whatever happens with school, you will be in it together.
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Risk Factors For Teen Depression
Though every adolescent is different, pay careful attention to your teens mood and behavior if they experience any of these risk factors:
- Family history of depression.
- Stress. Schoolwork piling up out of control? Too many responsibilities, too little time? Stress can contribute to depression in teens.
- A history of abuse or neglect.
- Social issues. If your teen is being bullied at school or having difficulty with friends, they might be more prone to depression.
- Smoking cigarettes.
- Life changes. Sometimes teens are more prone to depression during a major life change, like parents divorce or move to a new home or school.
- Grief. When someone close to the teen dies, its normal and natural to feel sad. However, if the grief persists for too long, it could be a risk factor for depression.
- Physical/Psychological issues. Teens who have a chronic disease, an already-existing mental health disorder, or history of traumatic brain injury are at a higher risk for depression.
Teenage Depression: Things To Try At Home
If your child is suffering from depression, there are important things you can do to help in your everyday family life.
Physical health and wellbeing
- Encourage your child to make healthy food and drink choices. Make sure you have a variety of healthy foods in the cupboard and fridge, and offer tasty and nutritious options at meals.
- Get your child to do some regular physical activity. Staying physically active can help to improve your childs mental health. It might be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk every day to start with.
- Encourage your child to get enough sleep. If your child is having trouble sleeping, try not to let them nap during the day regardless of how tired they feel. Help your child make time for relaxing activities before bedtime and encourage your child to avoid screen time in the hour before bed.
- If you can, make sure your child avoids alcohol and other drugs. Using these to dull sadness or pain can make your childs problems worse.
Relationships and feelings
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Tip : Take Care Of Yourself
As a parent, you may find yourself focusing all your energy and attention on your depressed teen and neglecting your own needs and the needs of other family members. However, its extremely important that you continue to take care of yourself during this difficult time.
Above all, this means reaching out for much needed support. You cant do everything on your own so enlist the help of family and friends. Having your own support system in place will help you stay healthy and positive as you work to help your teen.
Children and Mental Health: Is This Just a Stage? Treatment of mental disorders in children, including depression.
Depression support, suicide prevention help
In the U.S.: Find DBSA Chapters/Support Groups or call the NAMI Helpline for support and referrals at 1-800-950-6264
UK: Find Depression support groups in-person and online or call the Mind Infoline at 0300 123 3393
Australia: Find Support Groups and regional resources or call the SANE Help Centre at 1800 18 7263
Canada: Call Mood Disorders Society of Canada at 519-824-5565
India: Call the Vandrevala Foundation Helpline at 1860 2662 345 or 1800 2333 330
Suicide prevention help
In the U.S.: Call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
UK and Ireland: Call Samaritans UK at 116 123
Australia: Call Lifeline Australia at 13 11 14
Other countries: Visit IASP or International Suicide Hotlines to find a helpline near you
Helping Kids With Depression Get Treatment
Some teens will want to go to therapy when you ask them and some wont. For those who are resistant, know that they arent going to suddenly open up to the idea of therapy quickly, but you can help guide them towards treatment by opening the door and then waiting patiently for them to walk through it.
Try saying, I know youre having a hard time, and I have some ideas of things that could help. If youd like to talk with me about them, let me know. Im here for you. Its also a good idea to ask them if they has any suggestions on how you might be able to help. You might be surprised with what they have to say.
Be aware that your teen might tell you to back off. Thats fine its their way albeit a slightly irritable one of telling you that they need space. Its normal for teenagers to want independence, and its important for you to respect that. You can respond by saying, Ill give you more space, but know that Im here for you if you ever want to talk or hear my suggestions.
If they do come to you wanting help, be prepared. Do your research. Find two or three therapists they can interview and tell them that they can choose the one that they feel most comfortable with, and think will help the most. Finding a therapist who is a good fit is extremely important, and making the choice theirs will help them feel ownership over their own treatment, which is extremely important to teens and sets the stage for effective therapy.
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Teen Depression Vs Normal Teen Behavior
It is normal for your teen to have mood swings, become frustrated with you or other authority figures in her life, and even have a bad attitude now and then. The difference between a mentally healthy teenager and a depressed teenager is that a mentally healthy teenager will also get excited about her life, enjoy being with her friends, and pursues hobbies and interests.
Change is the keyword when trying to tell if your daughter is clinically depressed. Consider the normal for your daughter and then identify how she has deviated from her baseline behavior. A child who prefers a few friends or a quiet book isnt depressed if thats always been a norm in her life. If shes never been a great student, low grades arent an accurate indicator.
If you are still unsure, seek a professional opinion. If your daughter is going through a depression, a therapist will be able to help your child start their recovery. If she is not depressed, she may still benefit from the experience.
How Can I Help My Child With Depression
Medication can have an important role in the treatment of depression in children and teenagers, and it is especially indicated for cases of severe depression. “If a child is too depressed to engage in therapy, medication can kick-start engagement and get them to better engage with therapy and benefit from it,” says Dr. Holland. However, parents may find it reassuring to know that medication is not always necessary when treating depression in children.
Studies have shown that in the majority of cases, therapy is as effective or more effective than medication alone when it comes to treating depression in children and adolescents. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is one common type of therapy that research has shown to be effective for childhood depression treatment. For very young children or those with limited language skills, research indicates that play therapy is the preferred approach.
If you’re concerned that your child may be experiencing symptoms of depression, consider the following steps to help:
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Signs Your Teenager Might Have Depression
Working out whether your teenager is experiencing low mood or depression isnt an exact science. Weve pulled together seven of the most common signs of depression in teens, but even if your teenager is showing a few of these it doesnt mean they definitely have depression. If you spot a sign, the most important thing to do is to talk with your teen to see where theyre at. If you think they might have depression, you can get some help on what to do next here.
Getting Help For Teenagers With Depression
Depression is unlikely to go away on its own, but teenagers with depression usually get better with treatment. This means that seeking early help for your child is the best thing you can do.
Seeking help also shows your child that you care. Talking to your child and seeing a health professional together sends the message that your child isnt alone. And most young people wont seek help themselves, so your child probably needs your help to get professional support.
If youve tried to talk to your child, but your child has refused help or said there was nothing wrong, you might need to seek help by yourself to start with.
There are many professionals and services you can go to for help with teenage depression:
- your local community health centre
- local mental health services.
If youre unsure, your GP will be able to guide you to the most appropriate services for your family.
Depression is no-ones fault, even if it seems to run in your family. Many factors influencing depression will be outside your control. But theres a lot you can do every day to foster your childs mental health and reduce your childs risk.
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Why Is Screening For Teen Depression So Important
We know that depression in teenagers is on the rise, says pediatrician Veronica Issac, MD. Estimates say that as many as 1 in 5 teenagers will experience depression at some point during adolescence.
But the condition often goes undiagnosed partly because parents may have trouble distinguishing normal teenage moodiness from a more serious problem.
Routine screening for depression helps pediatricians identify adolescents who are struggling and may need treatment, Dr. Issac says.
Changes In Their Appearance Such As Wearing The Same Clothes Day After Day And Not Caring About How They Look Is Usually A Sign Of Teen Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health , 15.7% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17 suffers from major depressive disorder. When a child or adolescent is battling depression symptoms, they may not have the energy or self esteem to do normal hygiene activities. It may sound gross, but check to see if your child is actually brushing and washing and have a conversation with them about it. If they are resistant to talking to a parent or family member and especially if there is a family history of mental disorders, it may be time to contact your health care provider or look into family therapy.
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