Teenagers questioning who they are is common. But it becomes more complex when your child may be trying to deal with depression. It is a time when changes in their brains can make them more emotional than usual. And these brain changes continue until their mid-twenties. So it is normal for teenagers to be moody.
Depression is quite common in young people between the age of 12 and 25. And one in four will experience depression of some sort by the end of their adolescence. Teenage girls (15.9%) are more than twice as likely as boys (7.7%) to experience depression. And despite depression being treatable, only 31% of females and 13% of males seek professional help.
Often depression is misdiagnosed. While a low mood that persists over a few weeks can be a sign of depression, there are other symptoms to watch out for.
Signs of depression in your teenager
Teenage moodiness can take its toll — on you, your friends and family. How often has your child said they hate themselves? They hate the way they look and feel. And that no matter how hard they try they feel that they just cannot do anything right. Or do they think the world or their family would be better off without them being around?
These are all warning signs. And while moodiness and sadness is normal in teenagers, it is much more than this. It can be hard to tell the difference between depression and moodiness and sadness. Things to look out for in your teen include:
· How long have their emotional outbursts and behaviour been going on for? When your child’s behaviour such as a loss of interest in the things they once enjoyed and emotional outbursts continue for two weeks or more, then it may be depression.
· How strong are their emotions? Is your child always moody and angry or does it come and go?
· What sort of impact is their moodiness and behaviour having on their life? Is it starting to impact school, friends, relationships, everyday life or the enjoyment they once had for life?
When you suspect depression, have your child seen by a doctor. If left untreated, it can have a long-term negative impact on their life. Early treatment can help reduce depression symptoms which can reduce the likelihood of them returning later in life.
Depression symptoms in teenagers
It can be difficult to see depression in a teenager. Signs of being depressed in a teenager include:
· Physical signs. Physical signs in your teenager may manifest as:
· Always complaining of being tired, having little energy and no motivation.
· Complaining of unexplained or vague symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches.
· Overeating or showing no interest in food or there may be drastic weight changes.
· Oversleeping, trouble dragging themselves out of bed or battling insomnia.
· Behavioural and emotional signs. Behavioural and emotional signs in your teenager may manifest as:
· Feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and blaming themselves for the things that go wrong. Your teenager may say things like “I am nothing but a failure” or “I can never get anything right.”
· Angry outbursts that are not normal for them.
· Losing interest in their hobbies, socialising and not wanting to spend time with friends.
· Extreme feelings of sadness.
· Withdrawing from family and friends.
· Engaging in risk taking activities such as sex, drugs, alcohol or smoking.
· Moodiness, irritability, feeling sad all the time and bursting into tears for no apparent reason.
· Persistent negative thoughts of killing themselves or of self-harm they cannot escape. They may even feel the world would be better off without them in it or they cannot cope anymore.
· Thoughts that are symptoms. Thoughts that may be a sign of depression in your teenager may manifest as:
· Having trouble making decisions.
· Forgetting or having trouble remembering things.
· Not being able to focus.
These symptoms may come and go over weeks or months, or they may be ongoing. So it is important to seek help if you are concerned about your teenager’s mental health. Your child may be diagnosed with depression if they display five or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks.
Causes of teenage depression
Some people are predisposed psychologically or biologically to depression. When this combines with the stresses of life, it can leave your teenager depressed. There are many risk factors that can influence how your child feels and these can include:
· A family history of depression that may be genetic.
· Hormonal changes throughout the teenage years.
· Traumatic experiences such as bullying at school, online or at home, domestic violence, changes in their environment, divorce, sexual abuse and stress at school.
· Learned patterns of thinking and character traits such as low self-confidence and self-esteem, sensitivity to the world, moodiness and self-doubt.
· Previous mental illness such as depression and anxiety.
· Stressful life events that make them feel humiliated, rejected or feel like a failure.
Getting help with depression
When you suspect your teenager is feeling depressed, it is time to seek help. You may not feel comfortable talking to your child about how they feel or they may refuse to talk to you at all, or tell you there is nothing wrong. Taking them to see a health practitioner shows your teenager that you care even if they do not want to go. Most teenagers will not seek help on their own so your support and understanding is important.
There are many places you can seek help for your child such as:
· your doctor
· school counsellor
· local mental health professionals
· a psychologist or counsellor.
If you do not know where to go to seek help for your teenager, ask your general practitioner for help. They will be able to guide you in the right direction.
How to help your teen at home
As a parent you may feel guilty or that it is your fault your teenager feels depressed. So it is crucial that you provide a good model in the way you deal with your emotions to help them learn coping skills. And avoid telling your child to “pull themselves together” as it will not help. In fact, it can make them feel worse. Here are some things that you can do at home to help your teen through their depression:
· Sit down with your teenager and have an in depth conversation.
· Encourage them to make healthy choices in their diet. Make sure there are always healthy food options in the house and cook nutritious meals.
· Discourage your child from drinking alcohol or taking drugs. While they may do this to dull the pain of their emotions, it will only make everything worse.
· Make sure they get enough sleep. This can be hard when they have trouble sleeping. But give them time to do something relaxing before going to bed and avoid napping throughout the day.
· Suggest your teenager does some sort of physical exercise on a regular basis. Physical activity is good for improving mental health and it can start with just a 10-minute walk every day. Even exercise with them as a support and you will both reap the benefits.
· Ensure the environment at school is positive and they are not being bullied.
· Encourage your child to spend time with people that make them feel good about themselves.
· Share meals together as a family.
· Help them develop skills in something that interests them to help build confidence.
· When your child will not talk to you, suggest they keep a diary to write down how they feel about things
· Reduce the amount of stress they are under on a daily basis.
· Suggest someone else they can talk to if they refuse to talk with you.
· Make time to spend with your teenager each day to do things they enjoy.
· Understand your teenager will have good and bad days.
When you see you teenager making negativity a habit, sit down and talk with them. Make the time to build the relationship between you so they know how much you enjoy spending time with them.
Your teenager’s mental health is important and it can be difficult to tell the difference between normal moodiness and a serious problem. But if you do not prioritise their mental health, their symptoms can escalate. Until you do something about it, this will continue to negatively impact your child’s overall health, life and happiness. It will also impact their friends and your family.
With some simple changes to your child’s life and with practice, they can learn to cope better. They can learn what their triggers are and work on challenging their negative nagging inner voice. This will help them see through the illusion depression and negative thoughts create. But if their mental health has become a problem, it is time to turn it around. Time to do something positive about it. Seek help. Take back control. You and your teenager do not have to go through it alone. The sooner you get help, the sooner your child can start taking good care of their mental health. And get back to enjoying life.
If you or your teenager are struggling, reach out to our professionals. When you are not coping, contact us. We can talk to you and your child about getting your life back on track. But if you reach a crisis point, call us immediately. We are here to support you.
We can work with you over the phone, via Skype or in our Spas. Book in today for my Emotional Empowerment Program. I have an introductory offer for just $99 so you may start taking back control of your life. We aim to help you cope with any mental health challenges. Our facilitators may alleviate the effects of these so you start to take control and enjoy life again.
Let me help alleviate the effects of mental health issues
My Emotional Empowerment Program has helped many people like you and your teenager for more than a decade. My aim is to help manage their symptoms. This can give you both a new hope for the future. A future filled with happiness, peace and contentment in weeks not years.
Give the Brain Wellness Spa a try by booking a free 25-minute telehealth consultation. Or discover a seamless way to rejuvenate your emotional and mental health by becoming a member. It will give you access to more than 75 audio programs that can help your child and you to live inspired and improve mental wellbeing.