Is Your Teenager Depressed?

Health Writer
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Teenagers are mysterious creatures. Even though we've all been there, our own experiences don't seem to help that much when we're trying to understand our own teenagers. How can you tell if you child is just going through typical teenager turmoil or if he or she is experiencing more serious emotional problems? Read on for signs that can help you determine if your teenager might be suffering from depression.

How do you tell the difference between normal behavior and depression in a teen?

While normal teenage behavior might seem at first glance to be very similar to depression, these similarities are fairly superficial. Let's look at the behavior a non-depressed teenager might exhibit. This is all normal behavior for teens.

  • Mood swings
  • Mildly rebellious behavior
  • Listening to angst-ridden music
  • Dressing strangely (at least as far as adults are concerned)
  • Sleeping late
  • General unwillingness to let parents into his/her life

A depressed teenager might...

Lose interest in activities that he or she previously enjoyed, stop hanging out with friends, or exhibit changes in appetite or sleep patterns. If they are either sleeping all the time or having trouble sleeping, that's not normal. Also, when his appetite drops off or suddenly increases dramatically. Other signs are expressions of sadness and talk about death or suicide. 

One of the most important signs overall is change

Don't just brush off any change in behavior as a normal part of growing up. Some change is normal, obviously, but when the changes are all negative, that should tell you something.

Talk to other adults in your child's life

If you're finding that you're not able to get any helpful answers from your child about what is going on, you might want to enlist the aid of a school counselor, teacher, coach or spiritual adviser. Sometimes teenagers are more comfortable talking about their problems to someone other than their parents.

Don't be afraid to keep pushing for answers

Even if your child seems to resent your concern, don't be afraid to keep pushing until you're satisfied that things are fine with him or her. Remember, deep down a teenager doesn't really resent your "interference." Even if they're grouchy on the outside, they're secretly happy that you care enough to worry.

Consider taking your child to a psychotherapist

Psychotherapy or counseling can help your child to develop life skills and provide strategies to compensate for symptoms of depression that may be interfering with daily life. Counseling can provide assistance in learning to cope with the stress that comes along with depression. Often, a combination of medication and therapy can be an effective treatment strategy for individuals with depression.