Depression and other mental illnesses can become a concern for any person at any age. Teens are considered at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental wellness concerns due to the way their lives can be such emotional and hormonal-infused rollercoasters. There can also be genetic concerns if other family members have previously struggled with depression.
Knowing that your teen could have an increased risk for depression, you may wonder if there is anything that you could do to prevent him from succumbing to this often-overwhelming mental illness.
In truth, there may not be anything that you can do to prevent it. What you can do, however, is to learn to recognize the signs of depression in your teen and learn how to best help your teen manage their symptoms.
Common signs of depression in teens
It is important to understand that the signs of depression can vary greatly between individuals. The signs of depression you see in yourself may not necessarily reflect the depression signs that you see in your teen. Your teen may display emotional changes and also behavioral changes.
Some of the most commonly seen signs of depression in teens include:
- Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
- Crying without an apparent reason
- Lack of energy and sleeping more than usual
- Showing frustration or anger, even over what appears to be minor issues
- Getting easily irritable or annoying
- A loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, whether eating more or eating less
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Decreased self-esteem, along with feelings of being worthless
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking, struggling with memory, and making decisions
- Making comments about a bleak future or no future at all
- Decrease in school performance or a total lack of interest in school
- Less attention paid to personal hygiene or physical appearance
Your teen may also start to self-harm or speak about suicide. While it may be easy to dismiss this as attention-seeking, don’t ignore these behaviors.
Understanding what is normal and when to intervene
When it comes to teenagers, it can be a challenge to determine the differences between the ups and downs that are simply a part of being a typical teenager and depression.
So, how can you determine when you need to intervene?
- Speak with your teen. Understand how they are feeling.
- Explain to your teen that the changes you’re seeing are worrying you.
- Find out if your teen feels overwhelmed.
- Ask him if there is anything that you can help with to help his sense of being overwhelmed.
If you feel that your teen is overwhelmed and showing signs of depression, it could be the right time to step in and get him the help he needs.
When to seek professional help
If your teen continues to show the signs of depression and you’re concerned about their mental health, it might be time for you to intervene and get him to speak to a mental health professional who has been trained to work with teenagers. Your family doctor is a good first call. They can evaluate your teen’s physical health to rule out any other contributing factors and recommend someone to help with his mental and emotional health.
It is important to note that the signs of depression are unlikely to go away on their own. They could escalate and lead your teen to experience worsening symptoms.
Options for treatment for teens with depression
Just as depression can look different between individuals, so can the options for treating depression.
Some of the options available to teens include:
- Counseling. This long-standing option for the treatment of depression could help your teen find a way forward on his mental wellness journey. In-person therapy is not the right choice for all teens. In some states, there are options for online counseling that can allow an anxious teen to get the help he needs. There are Apps that can be installed right onto your teen’s phone or tablet. These Apps will connect your teen to counselors when he needs a bit of extra support.
- Peer support groups. Counselors at your teen’s school may have resources to connect you and your teen with peer support groups. Not ideal for all teens, these support groups can help your teen to feel safe as he discusses his concerns.
- Medication options. Medications for depression are not always the right choice for all teens. They can, however, help some teens to feel a bit more stability as they fight to break free from the depression. Your teen should be monitored closely by medical professionals if he takes medication to manage the symptoms of his depression.
- Inpatient treatment. If your teen’s struggle with depression has escalated to the point where you feel he needs more focused support, you may want to consider an inpatient solution. In these structured and safe environments, your teen will be able to get the direct support and care needed to address his mental wellness struggles.
As a parent to a teen struggling with depression, you should do your part to learn how you can best provide support for your teen. Part of this may include attending your own counseling sessions to address your own struggles. The last thing that your teen needs when he’s battling depression is to find himself with a parent pushing their trauma onto him.
Address your issues, find a way to better cope with them, and you’re sure to find yourself in a better position to help your teen make his way forward. You must let your teen know that you support and love him without condition. He should feel comfortable coming to you if he feels overwhelmed or feels that his mental health is slipping.
For your part, you should observe your teen and take steps to ensure that he gets the right type of support. If he does appear to be slipping, don’t hesitate to get him the right kind of professional help.