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The Signs of Teen Depression & How to Help

Signs of Teen Depression

Teen depression is a serious mental health disorder, not one that can be ignored or overlooked. If you believe your teen could be facing depression, or you yourself are struggling with the way you feel right now, know that there’s help.

Don’t make the mistake of believing teen depression is just “moodiness” or a normal part of the developmental process. Depression is never something to ignore, especially in teens who may be struggling against a wide range of pressures and challenges. Value mental health in people of all ages.

An estimated 4.4% of all children between the ages of 3 and 17 suffer from depression, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s about 2.7 million people. This is a growing problem, with more teens than ever reporting symptoms of depression.

What Does Teen Depression Look Like?

A good starting point is knowing what the signs of depression look like in teens. It’s a misconception that depression means hiding in a bedroom and hating the world. In fact, teens are very resilient, which means they can hide symptoms of depression very well. Still, it’s up to you as a caregiver to know what’s happening and why.

Look for emotional changes:

  • Frustration and feelings of anger out of proportion to the circumstance/problem
  • Feelings of profound sadness, including crying without any reason to do so
  • Loss of interest in things they enjoy doing or have done for a long time
  • Self-blame and self-criticism, especially when it applies to a fixation on past failures
  • Irritable or annoyed mood
  • Feeling empty or hopeless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Believing the future is grim and bleak

Behavioral changes can also be evident, including:

  • A loss of energy without illness
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Slowed thinking or body movements
  • Insomnia or sleeping all of the time
  • Changes in appetite, including weight loss or cravings
  • Less attention to the way they look and personal hygiene in general
  • Statements about self-harm or suicide 

Isn’t All of This Normal “Teen Stuff?”

The signs of depression in teens can be hard to pinpoint when you consider that most teens are testing their boundaries and learning to be themselves. If a child gets angry for no apparent reason or they are constantly late for school, it could be due to depressive symptoms. If you feel uneasy about the way your child is acting, there is no better time to talk about it than right now.

  • Ask them what’s happening in a non-judgmental manner.
  • Take all suicidal ideations seriously, enlisting professional and medical care
  • Respect the pressure that teens feel – from school and friendships to pressures at home
  • Recognize that teens who have depression in their family may be more likely to develop depression
  • Find out what’s happening in their lives and provide emotional support for it

There are a lot of changes happening within your teen at any given time. They are learning and growing in their independence. At the same time, an imbalance of hormones, changes to brain chemistry, and trauma can all manifest in depressive symptoms. Getting help now for any of these concerns helps your teen to learn how to properly deal with challenges.

When to Seek Medical and Mental Health Treatment

If you feel your child is at risk in any way right now, get them into a hospital setting immediately. Teens who don’t need acute care can still benefit from therapy sessions with a mental health professional or from outpatient care. Seek help when:

  • There’s any talk about or evidence of self-harm.
  • Your child is feeling overwhelmed by external pressures, even if those pressures don’t seem like that big a deal to you. 
  • Conversations and communication with your teen are difficult and seem to make things worse. 
  • Their anxiety is becoming out of control.
  • You want to give them the tools they need to strengthen their ability to manage their mental health. 

How Willow Creek Behavioral Health Can Help

Even if you’re not sure whether your teen needs professional help, take action now. Learn more about the signs of depression and then offer guidance and support in getting care. Contact Willow Creek Behavioral Health for a consultation to discuss your teen’s needs and learn how we can help you.

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