How Can I Tell If My Teen Is Depressed?

Teenagers are constantly developing new thoughts and behaviors as they try to adapt to the world around them. As a parent, it can be difficult to recognize symptoms of distress in your teen, especially when identifying more intense symptoms like the ones associated with depression. It is because, as a teenager, depression can show up in many different ways. It may be just as difficult for your teen to realize if they are experiencing depression as it is for a parent to recognize it in their child.

Everyone experiences sadness from time to time. There does not have to be a specific cause for feelings of sadness, as long as they pass after some time. When unpleasant feelings of sadness linger for weeks or months, that might be a sign of depression. Depression can be debilitating and may require outside guidance and treatment to move beyond it. Parents must learn how to recognize symptoms of depression. That way, if it ever shows up in your teen, you will know how to address it and be the support system that your teen may need.

Feeling Depressed vs. Having Depression

It is common for people to use the term “sad” and “depressed” synonymously. When people use these terms interchangeably, it can be difficult to understand the true severity of unpleasant emotions that someone may be experiencing. Sadness is a symptom of depression. A person who identifies with feeling sad might express their emotions outwardly by crying or isolating themself for a while. These individuals also tend to maintain regular eating and sleeping habits. Sadness is a temporary feeling where a person starts feeling better in a few days to a few weeks.

The true nature of feeling “depressed” encompasses long-term feelings of sadness that do not go away over time. Feeling depressed can also be understood as experiencing intense sadness that negatively interferes with an individual’s daily functioning. In other words, a person who has depression is more likely to experience feeling depressed than just feeling sad.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Youth

There are many different mental health conditions associated with depression. While only a physician or mental health professional can diagnose depression, there are symptoms that you can become familiar with to recognize signs of depression in your teen. Typically, the following symptoms have to be experienced almost every day for at least two weeks. While some symptoms may be more severe than others, a person may only show a few of these symptoms and still be depressed. Symptoms of youth depression may include:

  • Sadness (with or without emotional expression such as crying)
  • Anxiety
  • Issues with sleep, such as sleeping too much or not sleeping enough
  • Issues with an appetite such as eating too much or not eating enough
  • Irritation
  • Loss of motivation or lack of interest in things normally found pleasurable
  • Feelings of fear (with our without rationality)
  • Isolating from social gatherings or hanging out with friends
  • Issues with concentration, attention, or cognitive functioning
  • Increased substance use
  • Suicidal ideation such as treating suicide, comments about death and dying, or feeling hopeless
  • Feelings of extreme guilt, shame, or lack of self-love

Common Questions to Acknowledge

Does my teen have to exhibit suicidal ideation to be depressed?

It is possible for your teen to have moderate or severe signs of depression but not be suicidal. However, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and seek help from your physician or psychiatrist. If your teen shows excessive interest in suicidal topics or violence, engages in self-destructive behavior, or talks about feeling worthless or helpless, your teen may be at a much higher risk for suicide.

My teen is a great student and has a lot of friends. Could they still be depressed?

Depression is a mental health condition that can happen to anyone at any time. Although your teen may get good grades and seem to have a great social life, your teen can still be depressed or meet the criteria for diagnosing depression. Depression can develop from a lack of self-worth, a common symptom of depression experienced by many. Therefore, parents must acknowledge and express their teen’s endless worth and potential to understand it for themselves.

My teen is experiencing a few of the symptoms listed above. As a parent, what can we do to guide and support our children through their depression?

One of the greatest things you can do as a parent is to express your love and support to your child genuinely and continuously. Navigating teen life can be quite difficult, as your teen is learning their place in the world, what is right and wrong, and what they want to accomplish in their future. Many resources are available to help your teen recover from depression, such as prescription medications, therapy, and mindfulness or meditation.

Depression is a mental health condition where people suffer from severe feelings of sadness for at least two weeks. Depression can happen to anyone, regardless of age or life circumstances. Identifying depression in youth can be challenging as your child might show symptoms of depression as they are navigating their place in the world. With that being said, there are many common signs and symptoms of depression that you can recognize in your teen. Look for signs of sadness, such as your teen isolating themselves from activities or people they typically enjoy. You can also be aware of their self-talk and try to address it when it becomes negative. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center wants to help your teen while they are faced with the distressing symptoms of depression. We offer a range of mental health treatments and services that will foster positive wellbeing for your teen. Call us at (303) 443-3343.

Leave a Reply