Guide for Parents: Signs of Depression in a Teenager

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Update Date 29/07/2020 . 5 mins read
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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 signs of depression 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Frequent disruptive behavior, such as  always getting into altercations and scuffles, sudden outbursts of anger
  • Thoughts of death or a suicide attempt

How do teenagers deal with depression?

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, in more ways than one.

It is because alcohol and drug abuse can make them more susceptible to other mental illnesses as well as severe health problems.

Impulsive decisions and carelessness

Teens experiencing depression may sometimes think they are downright 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.

Aggression and violence

This is most likely to manifest in teenagers who suffer from mistreatment or abuse at home and in school. 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. 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.

Low self-esteem and lack of confidence

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

They usually compare themselves to other teens making them look at themselves negatively. Teens 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.

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. However, some factors are believed to cause or trigger depression in teenagers, these include:

  • 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?

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 go out with their closest friends. Parents must 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. 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 learn how to spend time and socialize with family and friends.
  • 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.
  • Be patient and understanding as depression is a serious matter and recovery might take a long while.

If your teens, you or people you know need of help, 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 check in with people who you think are showing signs of depression, especially if it’s your teenager.

Learn more about Parenting and Adolescents, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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