Teenagers can be a moody bunch, we all remember those days, hormones flying all over the place, they love me -they don’t love, I hate them, I love them, they’re my BFF, it goes on and on. So how can a parent tell if their teenager’s moods are more than just “normal” teenage melancholia and moodiness? Honestly, it can be difficult and can have drastic effects on teenagers developing personality and can lead to serious problems such as self-harm, substance misuse, educational breakdown, severe anxiety, and suicide. Luckily, teenage depression does respond well to treatment and can be greatly alleviated once identified and appropriate intervention secured. Occasional moodiness, irritability and acting out are to be expected in teens. However, depression is something different. Here the effect of sadness, anxiety, and irritability can adversely affect the core of a teenager’s personality. Note teenage girls are twice as like than boys to be diagnosed with depression. This is felt to be because of the level of maturity that girls reach quicker than boys and evolution causes. Overall it is the length of time symptoms go on for that will determine a diagnosis.
10 warning signs of teenage depression
- Sadness and despair
- Poor sense of self and self-belief
- Anger and irritability
- Tearfulness and crying
- Social withdrawal & loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Excessively harsh view of the self
- Agitation or lack of motivation/boredom
- Poor energy and concentration
- Self-harm or Suicidal ideation
How do I know if it is teen moodiness or teen depression?
All of the above features exist on a spectrum and we must consider the severity and longevity of these symptoms if we are to decide if it is a depressive episode or not. Dramatic changes in behaviour and personality are red flags for an emerging problem. Many young people who are attempting to cope with emotional distress will act out (externalise) via irritability, anger, school problems and moodiness whereas others will act in (internalizers) eating problems, withdrawal, low self-esteem and secretive self-harm.
But I don’t think my teen has depression. They’re not “taking to the bed” or acting like a depressed person.
Many parents have thought that for a person to be depression they are required to ‘take to the bed’ and often adult depression may exhibit this feature. Teenage depression can be somewhat different in that sadness and social withdrawal may not always be a feature in fact anger, irritability and rage can be far more prominent. Teens may still be able to be with their friends or be okay on certain days. But this doesn’t exclude teenagers from the diagnosis of depression. Teens may also exhibit other features such as increased irritability, psychosomatic or unexplained aches and pains, extreme sensitivity to criticism and unexplained withdrawal from activities. Overall it’s the length of time that behaviours go on for that may lead to a diagnosis of depression.
A word about Suicide and depression
Suicide and depression although commonly linked are not always the case. Suicidal thoughts and behaviours can occur without a previous depressive episode and suicidal intent isn’t necessary for a diagnosis of depression to be made.
In saying that suicidal thoughts and urges are serious considerations for young people with depression. If you at any stage feel someone’s life is in danger please contact emergency services and/or your GP. Self-harm behaviour is not always directly connected to suicidal intent. We must try to understand self-harm as an attempt to cope with emotional distress.
6 Warning signs of suicide (Not to be taken as full indicators, sometimes, unfortunately, there are no warning signs)
- Talk of suicide
- Hopeless phrases like ‘there is no point’ ‘I’d be better off dead’
- Romanticizing death
- Dark poetry, stories or drawings
- Finalising behaviour
- Internet searches about suicide methods
How you as a parent can help
Your first port of call is to your GP. They will refer you on to support services for your child. Talk therapies and medication is usually the main treatment for teen depression. Family and friends can offer support to you and your child. Be patient, be persistent without lecturing and validate their feelings. Please ensure that you too have adequate support and you may need therapy during this time. Don’t be afraid to reach out for this vital support while you support your child.
This blog post is only for information purposes only and shouldn’t take the form of proper diagnoses and therapy/treatment.
We offer counselling services to parents of teens with depression If you would like to make an appointment please call 089 4373641