Adolescence can be an emotional roller coaster. For parents, that may make it diﬃcult to spot the signs of teen depression.
Experts estimate that up to 8 percent of teenagers experience depression, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). To parents, teen depression can look like moodiness, procrastination, lack of motivation, a broken heart, excessive tiredness or boredom—hallmark traits of adolescence. What is diﬀerent about depression is that many signs of emotional upheaval occur together over several weeks at a time.
Be on the lookout for these signs of depression:
- Change in daily habits—Your child may go to bed later and sleep longer, or eat more or less than usual.
- Loss of interest in favorite activities—Your teen may suddenly stop reading, playing sports, spending time with friends or participating in clubs at school.
- Poor school performance—Diﬃculty focusing or a lack of interest or caring may cause your teen’s grades to suﬀer.
- Uncharacteristic emotions—Inexplicable irritability, sadness or hopelessness may be signs of depression.
If you are concerned your teen may be depressed, their pediatrician or primary care provider (PCP) can help. Guidelines updated in 2018 for the diagnosis and treatment of depression in teens call for depression screenings for all children age 12 and older, as well as monitoring teens with certain risk factors, including a family history of depression. The guidelines also recommend that pediatricians and PCPs coordinate with mental health professionals to develop treatment plans, which may include talk therapy and antidepressant medications.
The Do's and Don'ts of Support
If your teenager is dealing with depression, use these tips to provide comfort and reassurance.
- Do be patient and positive. It can be tempting to get upset about your teen’s angry outbursts or sarcastic comments, but remember that they’re products of depression.
- Don’t be dismissive. Take your teen’s concerns and symptoms seriously.
- Do be accessible. Let your child know you’re always available to listen whenever they wants to share their feelings.
- Don’t permit substantial screen time. Your teen will beneﬁt more from spending time with friends and family, working on creative projects, or exercising.
- Do bond over healthy choices. The two of you can exercise and cook together, as well as relieve stress by taking a painting or horseback riding class.
- Don’t give up. There may be bumps in the road, but if your child follows their treatment plan and you provide love and support, they can get better.
Paul B. Hall Medical Group offers behavioral health services close to home. Greg Horn, APRN is accepting new patients of all ages. He offers in-office as well as Telehealth visits from the comfort of your own home. To schedule an appointment, call 606-789-3188.
Sources aacap.org, aap.org, aap.org, aap.org, healthychildren.org, kidshealth.org, nimh.nih.gov, pediatrics.aappublications.org