Recognizing That Your Teenager Is Struggling With Depression

As a parent, you want to ensure your teenager has the support they need to grow into a healthy and happy adult. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine if changes in behavior are a natural part of transitioning into young adulthood or if they indicate a potential problem.

Adolescents and young adults with untreated mental health issues can experience life-altering side effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Mental health problems in youth often go hand-in-hand with other health and behavioral risks like increased risk of drug use, experiencing violence, and higher risk sexual behaviors that can lead to HIV, STDs, and unintended pregnancy.”

You can protect your teenager by requesting a professional assessment if you think they may have a mental health disorder.

Teenagers and Mental Health Disorders 

Teenagers have a unique ability to bounce back from mental health issues if they receive quick and effective treatment from mental health professionals. Although, undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorders can cause teenagers to experience the following: 

  • Bullying at school or within social circles 
  • Behavioral issues that lead to legal problems or issues at school
  • Unhealthy changes to family dynamics 

Some of the most common mental health diagnoses for teenagers include: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) 
  • Social anxiety disorder 
  • Panic disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Depression

Depression symptoms are particularly common among adolescents and young adults. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, “In 2019, 16% of the population ages 12–17 had at least one [major depressive episode] during the past year.” The research also found that teenagers who experienced a major depressive episode are at greater risk for suicide. They are also more likely than other teens to initiate alcohol and other drug use.

You can protect your child by learning to recognize red flags that might indicate the development of a mental health problem like depression.

Signs of Depression in Your Teenager

Depression exists along a spectrum, and you may have difficulty recognizing which behaviors might mean something is seriously wrong. In addition, depression symptoms often look very different for teenagers compared to adults.

Common warning signs of depression in teenagers are:

  • Loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Changes to sleep patterns, including sleeping too much or insomnia
  • Heightened emotional responses
  • Crying for no known reason
  • Self-blaming talk and behaviors
  • Self-harming ideations
  • Chronic feelings of sadness or discontent
  • Isolation from social groups and friends 
  • Disruptive behaviors, including fighting at school or angry outbursts
  • Running away from home or talking about running away 

Every teenager will respond differently to depression, and symptoms can vary significantly. The best way to determine if your child has depression is to talk to them and have a professional assess them. An early diagnosis can reduce the risk of severe side effects or the development of other issues like SUD.

Increased Risk of Substance Misuse 

Depression is often an underlying cause of substance misuse in all age groups. According to an article in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology,Adolescents with depression disorders have higher rates of substance use.” The research also found that teenagers who actively participated in peer groups that practice pro-social and healthy behaviors were less likely to develop SUD.

You can lower your child’s risk of developing SUD by encouraging them to spend time with peers who model healthy relationships and behaviors. 

How to Talk to Your Teenager About Their Mental Health 

Open communication ensures your teenager feels heard, understood, and loved. Actively listening to them can give you a better idea of how they feel and whether you should be concerned about their changes in behavior. You can support them by providing a warm and nurturing environment where they feel safe discussing the things that make them anxious or sad. 

Teenagers do not always respond well to direct questions about their mental health, but if you communicate honestly, they may feel more comfortable doing the same. 

You can talk to your child about depression by doing the following: 

  • Letting them disclose their feelings and thoughts at their own pace 
  • Being respectful of their personal space and giving them time to gather their thoughts 
  • Listening to everything they tell you and watching how they react to their environment
  • Avoiding blaming them or trivializing their feelings 
  • Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and model healthy boundaries and communication 

You can help your child recover from the effects of depression by communicating with them and getting them the help they need.

Mental Health Interventions

Mental health interventions can help some families locate local resources and convince their teenage children that the only path forward involves professional mental health treatment. A New Hope Recovery offers this service in some instances. However, an intervention is not always appropriate for mental health disorders. We can help you determine if your loved one would benefit from an intervention or other services. 

You may have noticed recent changes in your teenager’s emotions or behavior that have you worried about their mental health. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders can be difficult to recognize in teenagers due to their fluctuating moods and greater desire for privacy. Changes in their behaviors may simply indicate their desire to try new things, or they could be a warning sign that something is wrong and they need help. The mental health professionals at A New Hope Recovery can assess your child’s mental health and help you find local resources that will keep your teenager safe and lower their risk of developing other behavioral or mental health issues in the future. We support families and offer tailored interventions or referrals to ensure the entire family gets access to essential support services. To learn more, reach out today by calling (407) 501-8490.