Depression is often depicted as a mental illness that completely drains the energy out of the individual, leaving them unable to do anything except lie in bed and experience constant bouts of extreme sadness. While this is true in some cases, depression does not always manifest in this way, and some symptoms may not appear as strongly as they do in other individuals.
In the case of teenagers, it is important that you identify potential symptoms of depression before they have the opportunity to worsen and lead to further mental health issues or physical problems. If you think your child may be depressed, but you’re not completely sure or you’re having trouble identifying the symptoms, here are some major signs and symptoms of teenage depression.
Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Teenagers who suffer from depression often have significant changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. For example, you should take note if your teenager typically eats large portions of food and is now eating much smaller portions or not eating at all, or if they typically eat less and are now eating much more frequently (although depending on how old they are, this could be a normal growth spurt). The same can be said with sleeping patterns. If your teen is normally an early riser but they now sleep for much longer, or if they used to sleep a lot and barely sleep now, this could be a symptom of depression.
Drop in school performance or trouble at home
A drop in your child’s performance and negative changes in behavior are always something to worry about, but they may be indicative of something more than a rebellious phase. Depression is known to cause changes in concentration and energy, and it can prevent a teenager from being able to properly focus and keep up with their schoolwork. In addition, the emotional changes that occur during depression may cause agitation and irritability, which can result in your child lashing out at others. These changes are often very noticeable, and are something that should be looked into immediately.
Increased isolation and withdrawing from friends and family
Being a teenager is often associated with locking yourself in your room and keeping to yourself, which makes it that much harder to identify depression when it happens. Isolation is something that you will need to tackle as a parent, but one way you might differentiate typical teenager behavior from problematic mental health behavior is when your child begins isolating themselves from their friends. If they are completely cutting themselves off from people they would otherwise be connecting with, this could be a sign of depression.
Lack of engagement in activities
Much like how it’s worrisome when your child begins removing themselves from people that they used to enjoy being around, it is equally worrisome if they begin cutting themselves off from activities they enjoy. It’s perfectly normal for teenagers to distance themselves from interests they had when they were younger; however, if they no longer engage in their current hobbies, and it seems as though they don’t do much these days, you could be dealing with a case of depression.
How do you respond?
Many parents are not sure how to respond to a teenager with depression, or they may assume that they can put their child into therapy and treat the mental illness with the proper coping mechanisms. While this may work for some, others may need additional help such as medication or teenage depression rehab centers. Regardless of the severity of your teen’s depression, make sure to reach out for help and take the steps necessary to ensure that your child is properly treated and given the right tools for coping with their depression both now and in the future.