GoodTherapy | Spotting Teen Depression

How can you tell if your teen is depressed? 

 It can be confusing if your teenager seems completely fine some days, but other days they act like it’s the end of the world. They’re teens, right? They may have had a breakdown recently that seemed totally out of character and now you’re really concerned. Your teenager may be more able to compartmentalize their lives the younger they are. They may be able have fun with their friends and then later feel down and upset. This is a strength for many teenagers. They can cope by turning off certain parts of their lives, but it can make it difficult for parents and guardians to spot depression in teens.  

Silent depression occurs when someone appears to be functioning in everyday life, but still has the internal symptoms. Your teen might still be attending school every day, but may feel tired or unmotivated. Their teachers might even say they seem “distracted”. They may spend time with friends, but feel disconnected from the rest of the world. They might feel isolated in their own home, and not share how they feel with others.  

 Other symptoms of depression include difficulty sleeping and a loss of appetite. These symptoms can be difficult to conceal. Your teen might skip school meals but eat at home. They might be sleeping through the night but not getting enough sleep. These signs can be difficult to spot unless you ask and look for them.  

Let’s talk about some practical ways to figure out if your teen may be depressed.   

Identify potential triggers.  

 Trauma can take many forms. Breaking up with a friend, or partner can be very difficult. Changes in schools and social groups can lead to mixed emotions. Conflict at home and family illnesses can cause ongoing stress, regardless of the source. If there is something your teen might be going through, that might not seem out of the ordinary for you, don’t underestimate the impact. Middle school and high school can be difficult enough as it is. But, one small change can make a big difference in a teenager’s emotional stability.  

 You will notice a change in your behavior.  

 While your teen may be content to spend alone time, have they increased the time they spend with others? If your teen is skipping out on their time with their best friend group, it could indicate they are becoming more isolated. Are they crying more often over small issues than usual? Are their grades falling or do they seem less motivated, even though they are still achieving good grades? Although one of these changes does not necessarily mean they are depressed or that they are experiencing depression, it could indicate that there is a need to explore the topic of teenage depression. 

 Ask  your teen openly.  

Ask your teenagers if their feelings are down and if they feel depressed. Even if your teen says “No way! I’m not depressed!” You’ve still shown them that it’s a topic you’re willing to discuss and they may be more likely to bring it up in the future if needed.  

You may be surprised at how much your teen knows about depression if they have been feeling down. Talking about mental health is more openly done in schools, by teens, and via social media. Your teen may be able to verbalize to you exactly how they’re feeling if you open up the discussion.  

 Learn how to prevent self harm. 

Self-harm, especially cutting, can lead to depression in teens. The act of cutting is often used to relieve pain and soothe oneself. It is an outer manifestation of a deeper inner struggle. It is very difficult for a teen to “just stop” self harming without replacing it with positive ways to cope with emotional pain. 

As a parent, it is important to remain calm and take your teen’s self-harming behavior seriously. Let your teen know you are concerned about their emotional well-being and will take the necessary steps for them to find a way to cope. If you have self-harm, speak to your doctor and get help from a therapist.

Seek professional assistance.  

It’s never too early to get counseling if you suspect teen depression. Preventative treatment is equally important to keep depression away. They can learn to manage their emotions, cope with stress, and communicate clearly. If you are interested in learning more, most therapists offer a free consultation.  

Your teen should know that you value their mental health and take them seriously. You can let them search online for a therapist that they like, or invite them to participate in the decision-making process once you have found a therapist. If finances are a concern for you, make sure to check with your insurance company and inquire about in-network as well as out-of network options for mental health. Group therapy sessions are often more affordable than individual sessions. No matter which option you choose for your teen, it is important that they take action by getting the help they need.  

You might find the GoodTherapy registry helpful. There are thousands of Therapists on our site who would love to be there for you. Find the support that you need today.




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