It’s normal for your teenager to feel sad, irritable and overly sensitive from time to time. But if these feelings don’t go away or become more intense as time goes on, they may be suffering from depression.
Teen depression is more than just moodiness; it’s a serious mental health problem that affects how your teenager thinks, feels and behaves SoundCloud Mobile. It can cause considerable distress at school or home, and needs to be treated – and teen depression isn’t a sign of weakness.
Recognise the signs
Depression affects teenagers and adults differently. Symptoms may include:
- Sadness or hopelessness.
- Irritability, restlessness or agitation.
- Fatigue or lack of energy.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Poor performance at school.
- Withdrawal from friends and family.
- Loss of interest in activities.
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
- Unexplained aches and pains.
Why teens get depressed
- Academic stress. Teens generally feel a lot of pressure to perform and succeed academically. This can lead to depression, especially if he’s overly stressed or struggling to cope with the workload.
- Peer pressure. Teens want to be liked by their peers. To fit in, they often feel anxious to act a certain way, change things about themselves or do things they aren’t comfortable with. This can lead to a low self-esteem, unease, and depression.
- Physical and emotional changes stemming from puberty can be difficult and confusing for some teens, and may contribute to the onset of depression.
- Sexual orientation. Questioning your sexuality or not revealing your sexual orientation can be stressful for teens thanks to cultural stigmas and negative attitudes towards gay youth. Staying in the closet can cause anxiety and lead to depression.
- Traumatic events. The death of a loved one, abuse or divorcing parents can be very upsetting for teens, and may cause depression and anxiety.
How to deal with it
Don’t ignore the problem. Don’t wait and hope that the symptoms will just go away. Depression can be damaging and even fatal if left untreated.
It’s important to talk it out, even if you’re not sure that depression is the issue. The behaviours and emotions you’re seeing are signs of a problem that need to be addressed. Say it right:
- Bring up your concerns in a non-judgmental way. Mention the specific signs you’ve noticed and why you’re worried. Then, ask him to share with you what he’s going through.
- Listen, don’t lecture. Be ready and willing to truly listen. Avoid criticising or passing judgement. Simply let him know that you’re there for him, fully and unconditionally.
- Don’t ask too much. Teenagers don’t like feeling overwhelmed or patronised, so hold back from asking a lot of questions.
- Consider his feelings. Never try to talk him out of depression. Make him feel understood and supported by acknowledging his pain and sadness, even if his feelings and concerns seem irrational to you.
- Be gentle, but persistent. Don’t give up if he shuts you out. Talking about depression can be difficult. Have respect for his comfort level, while still emphasising your concern and willingness to listen.
Help at hand
If your teen won’t open up to you or claims that nothing is wrong, ask a trusted third party to step in. A close relative, school counsellor or his favourite teacher may be able to help. If you notice new or worse symptoms, suicidal gestures or attempts, or other unusual behavioural changes, see your doctor or mental health professional immediately.