by Melissa Skinner, M.A., LCPC
Teenage depression has been steadily increasing over the years and the research indicates that one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. There are certain risk factors that are more strongly associated with the development of depression among teens. Some of these include a family history of mood disorders, having a learning disability, difficulty being social, poor relationships with parents or a stressful life event such as a death, divorce or bullying. Since teens do not always express or even understand their own feelings very well, it can be very difficult for parents to spot when their child is depressed. A moody teenager, to some extent, is very normal but there are signs to watch for in order to recognize a clinically depressed teen. The following list are some of the signs parents may notice. If these signs or symptoms last for at least two weeks, your teen may have depression:
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Discontinuing activities they had once enjoyed
- Sleeping more or having trouble sleeping
- Acting irritable or having angry outbursts
- Having problems concentrating
- Having problems in school
- Complaining of headaches, stomach aches or other illnesses
- Eating much less or much more
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Using drugs or alcohol
If you notice some of these signs, talk with your child about how he or she is feeling and try to understand what is going on in their world. Often teenagers, especially depressed ones, have a difficult time opening up about their feelings but it’s still important to let them know we are here for them at any point in time. If you suspect your teen may be depressed, gently say something along these lines, “I’ve noticed you’ve been a little down recently and I want you to know I’m always here”or “I love you, feeling depressed is so hard, please know I’m here to help you get through this”. Be patient and do not take it personally if your teen shuts you out despite your efforts.
Some teenagers may be open to the idea of therapy, while many may need a lot of convincing and time to get used to the idea. Keep in mind too, that not every therapist is going to be the right match for your teen. Therapy is not a one size fits all, so you may need to try a few before finding a therapist that your child feels comfortable with. A good teen therapist should be able to establish a good connection with your child. If your teen agrees to therapy that’s a win. If they continue to attend, that’s an indication that they are aware it’s helping them, even if they can’t articulate this. With teenagers, their actions often speak louder then their words.
Melissa Skinner is the founder of Northwest Counseling & Wellness and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been working with adolescents and their families for 15 years. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 872-222-3132