Being a teenager can involve a lot of ups and downs, and it can often be difficult to determine whether a teen's mood swings and fluctuating emotions are just a typical part of adolescence or if they could be a sign of depression. This can be troubling, as ignoring signs of depression and leaving it untreated can be dangerous. Here, we'll explore several possible signs of teen depression, as well as a few options for support.
Teen depression is a serious condition that can involve a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. While depression can affect people at any age, symptoms in teens may differ slightly from those in adults.
Signs And Symptoms Of Teen Depression
Some of the possible signs that a teen may be experiencing depression include, but are not limited to:
Sadness or hopelessness
Irritability, anger, or hostility
Tearfulness or frequent crying
Withdrawal from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities
Poor school performance
Substantial weight gain or weight loss
Changes in eating and sleeping habits
Restlessness and agitation
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
Fatigue or lack of energy
Unexplained aches and pains
Drug or substance misuse
Thoughts of death or suicide*
Engaging in self-harm behaviors
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
Why Is Teen Depression Sometimes Hard To Spot?
What can make depression harder to spot in teenagers is that teens may show some of these signs due to the moodiness that can be common in the teenage years rather than due to depression. For example, some parents can attest that restricting social interaction with friends as a punishment for a bad grade can sometimes send some teens into rage, tears, and sadness.
Factors At Play In Teen Mental Health
Many factors may be at play when it comes to teen depression or other mental illness.
Family Issues: Issues with family life, family, and parental relationships could be significant stressors in a teen's life.
Social And Academic Pressures: Many teens have to balance a lot of responsibilities and pressures related to academic, extracurricular, and social factors.
Social Media Exposure: Current research shows constant social media attention could exacerbate existing mental health problems.
Socioeconomic Factors: Others point out that race, class, and income may play a role because they likely impact communities' reach to care and treatment for mental and physical health issues.
Cyber Bullying: In recent years, cyberbullying has become increasingly prevalent among teens, and experiencing cyberbullying may put a child at greater risk of self-harm.
Being a teen can be frightening sometimes. For many, it's a time full of changes, peer pressure, school stress, social issues, and more.
Teens' Resiliency And Social Support
Some teens may be more resilient than others and seem to bounce back, even after major setbacks like losing a parent or other loved one, while others may benefit from some outside help or mental health treatment.
A substantial amount of research has shown that when teens turn toward social support activities and more positive interactions with others when stressful events arise, they are more resilient and adept at coping.
Research also suggests that the ability to reach out and externalize feelings may help reduce factors leading to depression, such as stress or the risk of substance abuse. If teens cannot talk to their parents or their teachers, then finding other supportive outlets can be especially important.
Parents may or may not realize their role in their child's mental health. But, in fact, some research suggests there is a link between parental discipline and teenage depression: one such study found that parents' harsh verbal discipline predicted an increase in adolescent depressive symptoms.
Help Is Available
The teenage years can be challenging—both for the teenager and the parents. For additional support in navigating these challenges, online therapy can help. Parents and teenagers often have incredibly busy schedules, and since online therapy can be done anywhere with an internet connection, it can often be easier to make time for it. And, since many teenagers spend a lot of time online, connecting with a therapist virtually may also feel especially comfortable for them. If your teenager is experiencing depression or other challenges, you can seek online counseling.
Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of concerns, including depression in adolescents. For instance, one such study conducted an overview of online therapies used to treat children and adolescents with depression and/or anxiety. The researchers found that "there is an increasing body of evidence that supports the use of computers and the Internet in the provision of interventions for depression and anxiety in children and adolescents."
Below are some reviews of TeenCounseling and BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar concerns:
"I have been working with Tina for almost 7 months. And those 7 months were the hardest I had in years. With Tinas guidance and wisdom I found out things about me I have put deep down and tried to forget about. I learned skills to help me and calm my anxiety and depression. I honestly couldn't have gone this far this year or even made it. I want to say thank you for listening to me and being the only person for a while that believed me."
"Sara came into my daughter's life when she was at her lowest and helped her work through depression. She is kind and caring and a true blessing for our family."