10 Signs of Depression in Teens That You Should Be Aware Of


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Everyone feels sad every now and then, like when a family member passes away or an important relationship has dissolved. But depression isn’t occasional sadness. 

Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities. It can significantly impact a person’s thoughts, emotions and daily functioning. While there isn’t a specific age when depression typically begins, there are certain periods during which people may be particularly vulnerable to depression.

The teenage years are one of these vulnerable times. These years are fraught with significant physical, emotional and social changes. Parents who are able to recognize signs of depression can take proactive steps to provide support before symptoms worsen. This article outlines the signs of depression and the steps parents can take if they suspect their teen is struggling.

Why you should be on the lookout for signs of depression in teens

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that affects millions of adolescents around the world. It affects approximately 1.1% of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14, as well as 2.8% of those between the ages of 15 and 19. 

Depression is characterized by overwhelming negative feelings that make it difficult to complete daily responsibilities, connect with others and plan for the future.

If signs of depression go unnoticed or brushed off, the symptoms can worsen and your teen could potentially be in danger to themselves or others. If they are having a mental health crisis or they’re at risk for suicide, call or text 988, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, for immediate support and local resources.

10 signs of depression in teens

Depression can manifest in many ways, and it’s not always noticeable in teenagers. It’s easy for a parent to chalk up moodiness and mood swings as “typical teen behavior.” Also, as your teen transitions from childhood to adulthood, it’s normal for them to want space and privacy to process the changes they’re going through. This space also gives them space to form their own sense of identity. 

Still, it’s crucial for you to remain vigilant. Teens who are working to build their own identity typically lack the self-awareness to recognize depression symptoms in themselves. 

Here are 10 signs that your teen may be struggling with depression:

  1. Persistent sadness and irritability
  2. Lack of interest in hobbies, extracurricular activities, and other things that once brought them joy
  3. Dropping grades or skipping class
  4. Trouble concentrating
  5. Lethargy or sluggishness
  6. Withdrawal from their social groups and friends
  7. Intense emotions that may seem out of proportion to the situation
  8. Frequent crying
  9. Changes in appetite, sleep patterns and energy level
  10. Hopelessness
  11. Unexplained aches and pains

Strategies for approaching your teen when you recognize signs of depression

If you’re concerned that your teen is struggling with depression and believe it’s time to broach the subject with them, here are some actions and strategies to consider to help you prepare: 

  • Educate yourself — Learning about depression will enable you to support your teen better. But that’s not all. Understanding depression as a mental health condition will help you as a parent recognize that your teen’s struggles aren’t a reflection of your personal failures or shortcomings.
  • Encourage open communication — Communicate your desire to help and reassure your teen that they can share openly without judgment. Be mindful of not minimizing their experiences.
  • Ask open-ended questions — Encourage your teen to share more about their experiences by asking open-ended questions. This can help them express their thoughts and feelings more freely.
  • Avoid blame — You may already know not to place blame on your teenager or make them feel guilty about their emotions. It’s also important to avoid blaming yourself. Even with the best intentions, it’s possible for parents to inadvertently make their teen’s depression “about them.” 
  • Prioritize your own self-care — Professional help and medication are crucial components of treating depression. But there are also many behaviors that are known to support mental health, such as:
    • Practicing mindfulness
    • Eating healthy meals
    • Making time for enjoyable exercise
    • Getting adequate sleep

You can help your teen learn these behaviors and apply them in their life. However, you can also model these behaviors. As an invaluable member of your child’s support network, you must take care of yourself to continue to be the supportive presence your child needs.

  • Seek professional help — Getting a formal diagnosis for teen depression is necessary for numerous reasons, including:
    • Risk assessment
    • Treatment intervention education
    • Medication consideration
    • A more accurate understanding of your child’s mental health condition

Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional for a thorough evaluation. If at all possible, involve your teen in decisions regarding their treatment plan, too.

Reach out to Lightfully today to schedule a depression assessment

You don’t have to be the only member of your teen’s depression support network. Lightfully Teen is here to help you and your child as you consider depression treatment options.

Our team treats people, not just diagnoses. At Lightfully, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” therapeutic approach for teens struggling with depression. Instead, our experienced team provides individualized treatment plans for each unique individual.

Lightfully Teen programming is available at three levels of care:

  • Residential Treatment
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called day treatment
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

We’re committed to helping each unique client receive the clinical expertise they need and the compassion they deserve. When you’re ready, contact our Admissions Concierge Team to learn more about depression treatment options.

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