Teen angst and moodiness is something you expect your child to go through somewhere around middle or high school. Although general sulkiness is par for the course during these hormonal years, sometimes these behaviors can signal a deeper problem. How can you tell if your teen is depressed or suicidal? Read on for signs and symptoms of teen depression, and find resources to help your child cope if you think she needs help. If you think your teen is suicidal or in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline right away.
Withdrawal from Friends and Family
Although all teens go through phases of wanting more independence and the need for alone time, most balance it out with close friendships and a good family life. If your teen completely isolates herself from loved ones and starts having trouble with her relationships with friends, she could be suffering from depression. Try to set aside time each day to talk to your teen about how she's doing — these 10 simple ways to connect to your teen can help get the conversation started.
Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about half of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. If your teen exhibits anxious behaviors, like the inability to concentrate or make decisions, along with other signs of depression, it's important to seek help from a mental health professional.
Feelings of Apathy
If your child was once excited about hobbies and sports and now shows a lack of interest, if she expresses ideas about life being pointless, shows a disinterest in friendships or schoolwork, or just a general lack of enthusiasm, she could be experiencing a deeper problem than typical teen growing pains. Make sure to recognize your child's achievements and offer praise in the areas that your teen excels at, whether it be academics, sports, music, or specialized hobby. Talk to her about why she enjoys these activities, and express your concern in a non-judgmental way if you feel she is pulling away from what used to make her happy.
Excessive Sadness, Hopelessness, or Guilt
Mood swings and feeling unhappy certainly aren't uncommon in the teen years, but if your teen feels excessively sad for more than two weeks, it could be a sign that something more is going on than just raging hormones, especially when coupled with feelings of guilt or apathy (see previous slide). When talking to your teen, avoid trying to convince her that she isn't depressed or peppering her with questions. Teens tend to shut down when confronted with lectures and unsolicited advice, so try to just listen to what your teen has to say.
Changes in Sleeping Habits
Sleeping until noon and staying up late aren't strange for a typical teenager. However, extreme fatigue, lack of energy, sleeping all day, and staying up all night on a regular basis can be cause for concern, especially when it starts to negatively impact your teen's day-to-day life. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers tips to help keep your teen on a normal sleep schedule, such as encouraging regular exercise, preparing nutritious family meals, and ensuring that your teen's schedule doesn't interfere with his need for shut-eye.
Anger and irritability are very common emotions in typical teens. However, if your teen becomes hostile, dangerous (to himself and others), or overly sensitive to rejection, he may be dealing with a bigger problem. Responding with anger yourself won't help the situation — try to reason with your teen calmly and rationally when he exhibits behaviors like this.
Physical Aches and Pains
Depression can cause physical aches and pains. If your teen is complaining of persistent headaches, stomachaches, or backaches, when other signs of depression are also present, she may need professional help.
Loss of Appetite of Excessive Eating
A lack of appetite or excessive eating that causes sudden and significant weight changes can be a sign of depression. Preparing and eating meals together will not only keep you aware of her eating habits, but can also help create stronger family ties and open the lines of communication with your teen.
Rebellious or Irresponsible Behavior
Most teens test the waters and push boundaries — missing curfew and showing up late to class are annoying and irresponsible, but nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to typical teen behavior. However, skipping school, drug use, promiscuity, and a complete disregard for personal responsibility and authority are behaviors that should raise a red flag. Make sure to keep any alcohol or prescription medications in your home locked up and out of reach.
Sudden Drop in Grades
If your teen has always done well in school and you see a sudden drop in grades, this may be cause for some concern, especially if he displays other signs of depression like apathy and irresponsible behavior.
Preoccupation with Death or Dying
If your teen is expressing thoughts of death or suicide, or shows a preoccupation with dying, seek help immediately. According to the NIH, some warning signs of suicide include:
- Giving possessions away
- Personality change
- Risk-taking behavior
- Withdrawal, isolation, urge to be alone.