Teen depression can affect any teenager from any background and should not be confused with normal stroppy teenager behaviour.
It is far more serious and can sometimes have fatal consequences. Because of this, it is vital that the signs of teen depression are picked up quickly. But why are teenagers so vulnerable to depression?
Why do teenagers get depressed?
There are many pressures that teens face which can all add up to cause teen depression. They could be facing exams, have peer pressure, pressure from their parents, there could be confusion about their sexuality or they could feel that they are unpopular with their peers.
Teens do not have the maturity in which to deal with all these conflicts and not being able to deal with then can lead to severe depression. So what signs should we be looking out for?
There are many signs of teen depression, but the main factor is to notice a change in behaviour. It could occur suddenly or come on more gradually and a teen can exhibit all of the signs or just a few.
Here are some signs of teen depression:
- Changes to sleep patterns
- Problems concentrating
- Apathetic behaviour
- Loss of interest in the things they enjoyed doing
- Complaining of unexplained pains
- Problems making decisions
- Irresponsible behaviour such as playing truant or getting into trouble with authorities
- A sudden drop in grades at school
- Excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Changes in eating including overeating or a loss of interest in food
- Loss of weight or putting on excessive weight
- Trouble remembering things
- Rebelling against authority figures
- Preoccupation with death and dying
- Change in mood, appearing sad or anxious
- Starting to use drugs or alcohol
- Evidence of promiscuous activity
- Withdraws from friends
Teens who are exhibiting these signs of depression are in danger of becoming even more depressed if they do not receive help. This can lead to teen suicide. It is important to know what the signs of teen suicide are so that you can act quickly.
Signs of teen suicide:
- Threats of killing one’s self
- Saying that there is no point in carrying on
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness
- Talking as if no one cares or would be bothered if they were not here
- Making preparations for their death, including writing letters, giving away prized possessions, making a will
- Excessive alcohol or drug abuse
These behaviours should be taken extremely seriously and not attributed to typical moody teen behaviour. If your teen is exhibiting any of these signs, then get them to see a professional such as a doctor or counsellor.
There are things that a parent can do to help alleviate teen depression:
How to help a depressed teen
One of the best things you can do as a parent is to strengthen your relationship with your teen. This will keep you in good stead if there are problems further down the road.
So how do you do this? Try putting yourselves in their shoes, remember how you felt as a teen so that you can empathise with them.
Recall how your parents treated you and if it was good, then try and replicate that. If it was bad, think about how you can do things differently. Remember that as a teen every emotion is heightened, every problem is magnified and every feeling is exaggerated. So what might seem like a tiny thing to you is your teen’s whole world.
When trying to help your teen, concentrate on their feelings – not their actual behaviour. Behaviour is just a sign of what is going on inside their heads, so use the behaviour to help to figure out what’s happening.
So ways of tackling unhealthy behaviour is for you to acknowledge it but to try and understand why they are doing it. For example, you might say: “You seem to be sleeping more during the day, is everything ok at school or home with us?”
Making sure your teen can come to you whatever their behaviour is key to helping them. I did not have the best relationships with my mother when I was a teen. However, I always remember her saying to me that I could go to her no matter what I had done. And I would have done.
Here are a few more tips to helping your teen:
- Try rewarding any good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour. Punishing your teen could make them feel shameful and worthless.
- Give your teen a break, don’t expect them to be perfect all the time, they are only human.
- Let them make mistakes, we all do and it can be a great learning curve, so don’t overreact if they mess up.
- Make time for them and really listen to what they are saying. Even if their problems seem small to you, they are big to them.
- Make sure your teen knows that whatever has happened you will always be there for them.
Teen depression is a serious problem and if yours is exhibiting signs, it is easy to feel that you cannot help them. However, with proper counselling and help from the family teen depression doesn’t have to continue or get worse.