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Guide for Parents: Signs of Depression in a Teenager

Guide for Parents: Signs of Depression in a Teenager

Knowing the signs of depression in a teenager is vital for parents to nurture their adolescent’s mental health.

The teenage years is a period of transition, from being a kid to a full-blown adult. There are a lot of things that we do as kids that we would have to let go of. These sudden changes can be hard to cope with, partnered with new things we’ve never experienced before, and it can become a serious problem.

Signs of depression in a teenager

The changes teenagers go through during this phase of their lives isn’t easy to cope with. Unlike older age groups who know how to fully fend for themselves, teenagers still need their parents to help them adjust.

When teenagers feel that their parents, close relatives, or friends aren’t there to support and guide them, this is when they would feel alone and start to show signs of depression.

Unlike others, teenager’s most common behavioral, cognitive, socio-emotional, relational and physical symptoms are aggressiveness, anxiousness, and extreme irritability. There are other signs of depression in a teenager, which include:

  • Hostility, annoyance, anger, and the feeling of constant frustration
  • Unhappiness or hopelessness
  • Sudden crying spells even over simple things
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family
  • Frequent boredom and lack of interest even in personal hobbies and activities may be signs of depression in a teenager
  • Unhealthy changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Low self-esteem and lack of confidence
  • The feeling of guilt or uselessness
  • Blaming oneself for past failures and mistakes
  • Difficulty in dealing with rejections and failures
  • Having a hard time concentrating, thinking, making decisions, as well as remembering things
  • Physical pains and aches may be signs of depression in a teenager
  • Fatigue and sluggishness or would rather sleep in than spend time with family and friends
  • Poor performance in school and other activities where a teenager previously excelled at
  • Nicotine, drugs, and alcohol abuse may be signs of depression in a teenager
  • Frequent disruptive behavior, such as always getting into altercations and scuffles, sudden outbursts of anger
  • Thoughts of death or a suicide attempt may be signs of depression in a teenager

Outcomes of depression in teenagers

There are different ways teenagers cope with the feeling of depression. It might seem that they’re always acting out, but this behavior is just their way of letting out their negative emotions and pain.

Here’s how teenagers often cope with depression.

Substance and alcohol abuse

People usually resort to alcohol and other substances to help them cope with depression. Although these substances indeed have effects that provide temporary respite from depression, it can actually make things worse. Alcohol can impede one’s judgement and decision-making. It may also exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Alcohol and drug abuse can make patients more susceptible to other mental illnesses as well as severe health problems.

Impulsive decisions and carelessness

Teens experiencing depression may sometimes think they are misunderstood not only by their parents but by other people too.

Because of this, they usually pursue forbidden activities. These activities include activities such as staying out late and drinking with friends, drunk driving, and unsafe sex.

There is also a biological basis for this impulsivity, as the brain of a teenager is still developing parts related to executive functioning skills. These include impulse control, planning, and decision-making.

Aggression and violence

Some teens act out with aggression due to a combination of their disposition towards aggression, and various stresses that may bring out this aggression. In some cases, this may be due to them suffering mistreatment or abuse at home.

They resort to violence to project their anger as well as for other people to feel what they’re going through.

Running away

For teens who can’t handle the burden of depression, they usually think the best decision to make is to drop everything and go. This may also be a way for them to escape their stressors.

However, most teens who talk about running away usually don’t go through with it.

Instead, these threats of running away should be met as a cry for help.

Poor school performance

One of the most common signs of depression in a teenager is poor school performance. This is more noticeable for teens who previously excelled in academics and athletics.

Depression causes teens to abandon their interests and hobbies as well as their drive for learning.

Anxiety

Usually partnered with depression is anxiety. This is most common for teenagers because of their insecure nature.

Symptoms of anxiety include feeling nervous, fearful, or guilty; being worried; fears regarding school or specific situations or people; fears of doing something bad or making a mistake; and being self-conscious.

Low self-esteem and lack of confidence

Among the signs of depression in a teenager is low self-esteem.

Teens usually compare themselves to other teens making them look at themselves negatively. Those with low self-esteem and lack of confidence often view themselves as unappealing and unworthy of attention and love.

Smartphone dependency and overuse of the internet

In this day and age, smartphones play an important role in social interactions. Depressed teens try resorting to going online in order to seek refuge and acceptance from their online friends in times of loneliness.

However, this kind of online activity can isolate them even more from their real-life family and friends. Smartphone overuse may also be a form of addiction.

Researchers have also found that there is a link between smartphone dependency and the increasing risk of depression and loneliness in adolescents, but further research is still needed to support this claim.

The Ways Social Media Affects Mental Health

What causes depression in teenagers?

The cause of depression in teenagers and other age groups is not completely known yet. It is possible that the disorder comes about through a combination of the patient’s disposition and environmental risk factors.

Among the considerations when seeing signs of depression in a teenager are:

  • Childhood or current trauma. Traumatic events in the past and present such as bullying, physical, emotional, verbal, and mental abuse, and loss of a loved one can trigger depression in teenagers.
  • Genetics. Teenagers can most likely suffer from depression if this mental condition has also been experienced by one of their parents, grandparents, or close relatives.
  • Hormones and brain chemistry. Depression can also be triggered by changes in hormones, as well as the impairment and abnormalities of chemicals found in the brain.
  • Negative mindset. If teens got used to the feeling of loneliness and helplessness, then they would most likely learn to think negatively about things that might result in depression in the future.

What can parents do to help manage the signs of depression in a teenager?

After recognizing the signs of depression in a teenager, you may focus on treatment and management. Here are some tips and ways parents can do to help their teens win their battle against depression:

  • Always make time for conversation and make sure to listen well.
  • Do not force teens to tell you what they’re feeling. Be patient and let them slowly open up to you.
  • Avoid invalidating their feelings. Instead of telling them that what they are feeling will pass and that everything will be okay, you can try validating their feelings and assuring them that you are there for them.
  • Encourage teens to surround themselves with supportive people, such as close friends, family, or teachers and mentors.
  • Parents may also ask their teen’s opinions whenever the family is planning for a trip or an event so they can feel that voice matters.
  • Motivate your teen to work out. Working out may improve one’s mood by reducing stress hormones in the body. It is best that you exercise together so you can also have time to bond.
  • Establish a scheduled for screen and internet time so they can make opportunities for other enjoyable and productive activities, and to avoid habit-forming screen time behaviors.
  • Encourage your teen to get plenty of sleep. Sleep is not only essential for young children and old people but to other age groups as well.
  • Show your teens that you are concerned about them and that you care about what they feel.
  • Guide and support them so that they can access the right professional help, if needed.
  • Make sure to be present in every therapy and treatment your teen will have to go through. This shows that you are emotionally and physically available. You may also directly communicate with the professionals who are helping your teen.
  • Be patient and understanding as treating depression is a multi-dimensional process and recovery might take a long while.

If you are seeing signs of depression in a teenager, or in anyone else around you, here are support groups whose main advocacy is about mental health:

  1. Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines
  2. No to Mental Health Stigma PH
  3. Buhay Movement
  4. Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, Philippines
  5. Philippine Mental Health Association, Inc.
  6. PRISM
  7. Talang Dalisay
  8. Silakbo

If in need of 24/7 mental health assistance, you can also contact the National Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 0917 899 8727 (USAP) and 989 8727 (USAP).

Key takeaways

Depression is a real problem among teens all over the world, and we should not downplay its severity. Many people have lost their children, spouses, and other important people in their lives because of it. That is why it is important to watch out for signs of depression in a teenager. Check in with people who you think are showing signs of depression, especially if it’s your teenager.

Learn more about Adolescents Mental Health here.

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Sources

Teen Depression https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/teen-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20350985 Accessed July 28, 2020

Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/parents-guide-to-teen-depression.htm Accessed July 28, 2020

Depression https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/depression.html Accessed July 28, 2020

Understanding Teenage Depression https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=understanding-teenage-depression-1-2220 Accessed July 28, 2020

Teen Depression https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/teen-depression/index.shtml Accessed July 28, 2020

Teen Depression https://medlineplus.gov/teendepression.html Accessed July 28, 2020

Which Comes First: Smartphone Dependency or Depression? https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190930161918.htm Accessed July 28, 2020

 

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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated Jun 08
Medically reviewed by Jessica Espanto, LPT, MA, RPsy
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