What to Do if You Think Your Teenager Is Depressed
The stage of adolescence is a period where a teenager experiences many significant changes physically, cognitively and emotionally. These changes can be particularly difficult to adjust to and without support, they can lead to mental health issues in teenagers. Over a period of time, mental health concerns can lead to a mental health disorder and one such serious disorder is teenage depression.
Depression is found to affect people of different ages across the world. Teenage depression is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness, helplessness and a lack of interest in daily activities.
According to the WHO, depression occurs among 1.1% of adolescents aged 10-14 and 2.8% of those aged 15-19. Thus, it is important to identify the signs of depression and ways to support teenagers struggling with the disorder, so that they can get through this phase of transition with the support they need.
Signs of depression in a teenager
Every teenager is different and may have varying degrees of depression or present different signs. Teenage depression is usually identified when there is a significant change in their emotional or behavioural functioning which causes difficulty functioning in school or at home. Some of the common signs that are observed in teenagers who are experiencing depression are:
Persistent feelings of low mood:
Teenagers with depression begin to experience persistent negative feelings over a long period and they may have a reason for it or be able to describe why they are feeling this way. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness and helplessness are common signs of depression.
Loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed:
For teenagers, a shift in interest in activities that were once enjoyable is common. However, when they do not switch to a new activity of interest, it is a sign that something is wrong. Thus, for a longer duration if they choose to not indulge in any new activity and disengage from activities that were once a source of enjoyment is a sign of depression.
Change in sleep patterns and eating habits:
A common sign of depression is sleeping too little or too less which results in difficulty to perform daily activities. Our emotions affect the way we consume food and changes in appetite such as eating too little or binge eating which causes a considerable amount of weight loss or weight gain over a short time need to be paid attention to.
Lack of energy:
Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns can lead to low mood and energy and teenagers with depression often display feelings of exhaustion or lethargy. For some even simple tasks such as getting out of bed or performing regular chores feels like monumental tasks.
Poor performance at school:
The effects of depression can bring in a significant number of changes in the school life of a teenager with issues such as poor memory, lack of concentration and reduced motivation which results in poor grades and bad performance at school.
In certain cases, teenagers suffering from depression may have thoughts about self-harm and may talk about or act upon these thoughts. Indulging in risky behaviour, distancing themselves from friends and family all of a sudden or making certain statements like “I should never have been born” or “I wish I were dead” are signs that the teenager is going through major depression and needs immediate attention.
How to support your child through depression
Supporting your child through a difficult time can be challenging when you are unable to identify the cause of their depression. However, identifying the signs of depression and taking actionable steps can help them overcome the condition before it leads to more issues such as behavioral problems or substance use.
Here are some ways in which you can help your teen:
Seek professional help:
If you notice a significant change in your teenager’s mood or behavior over a period of time is negatively affecting their life, seeking professional help is necessary. Mental health professionals can help teenagers understand and build awareness of why they are depressed and what are the ways to work through the condition. Some of the best mental health apps provide timely access to mental health professionals which can help your child access support from the comfort of their home. Treatment of teenage depression may sometimes involve a combination of therapy and medication. A mental health professional can help to identify the best course of treatment for your teenager going through depression.
Talk to them:
Providing support could be as simple as talking to your child to listen to their thoughts and feelings and understand their mental state. Listen to them and address their concerns and questions. Realizing that they are not alone can help teenagers feel supported and open to talking about what they are going through.
Help them build a routine:
With sleep and eating habits getting affected by depression, having a routine for your teen can help them gradually get back into an active lifestyle where they can take charge of their functioning. Encourage them to engage in activities they used to enjoy so they can incorporate that into their life again.
Depression is a treatable condition and with support and professional help, most individuals can recover over a time. If you feel your teenager is showing signs of depression, it is critical to intervene early to ensure that they can get the support they need as when left unaddressed, it can lead to other physical and mental health issues. Thus, helping your teenager understand their condition, seeking professional support and providing a secure environment for them to recover from their condition can ensure they can work through their depression and lead a happy and healthy life.