Today, more and more teenagers are suffering from depression. It is estimated that, at any time, between 10-15% of teens encounter some level of depression. Many parents have teens that struggle with depression, and if you are one of them, you know it can be challenging. This becomes particularly difficult if you yourself never dealt with depression in adolescence, as it is near impossible for you to relate to what he or she is experiencing. However, with education, you can increase your ability to understand what your teen is going through, and thus, provide more support.
What is teenage depression?
Depression is a serious mental illness that causes individuals to feel persistently sad, down, unhappy, and even hopeless. Teenage depression, in general, is often experienced in a fairly similar way to that of depression in adults. Yet, differences tend to lie in the level of intensity of emotions and the resulting behaviors.
General symptoms of depression in teens
Depression can look different from one teenager to the next. But there are some general symptoms that tend to present across the board, including:
- Low energy – depression impacts energy levels, so if your teen struggles with depression, you may notice increased lethargy, sluggishness, or exhaustion.
- Irritability – frequent irritability and/or sudden anger outbursts are common in teens who suffer from depression
- Physical changes – you may also notice physical changes in your depressed teen. Often, because of the associated feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness, changes in posture will arise. Your teen may hold his or her head down, avert eye contact, and walk with slumped shoulders.
- Changes in sleep patterns – depression usually has an impact on teens sleep habits. This could range from increased difficulty falling or staying asleep, to sleeping much more than usual.
- Loss of interest – if you notice your teen becoming less engaged in previously enjoyed activities, this could be a sign he or she is depressed.
- Urges to isolate – depression can affect one’s desire to be social and interact with others. If your teen is depressed, you may notice a decreased interest in engaging with friends or family.
What your teen may be experiencing
Although being able to spot the symptoms of depression in your teen is important, it does not mean he or she will be open to discussing it with you. In order to provide the best support for your child (and encourage open communication), understanding what he or she is truly going through is key.
Many teens are excited about the future, eager to progress to the next stage of life and move into adulthood. If your teen is struggling with depression, thinking about the future most likely brings up feelings hopelessness and despair. A depressed teens outlook is often dampened, and motivation to make plans or move forward in life is often stunted.
Feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt are common emotional responses for depressed teens. Frequently, these feelings are associated with the low self-esteem inherent to depression. Teens with depression regularly the belief they are in some way defective, thus spurring the worthlessness and guilt.
Depression can be confusing to teenagers, as one moment they might feel fine, and the next, a sudden wave of extreme sadness or hopelessness shows up. At other times, your teen may feel nothing at all, like a general numbness. Because of the unpredictability of moods with this mental illness, it is likely your teen has periods of feeling anxious, unsettled, and confused.