According to statistics from Mental Health America, more than 13% of teenagers between 12 and 17 reported suffering from at least one severe depressive episode in 2020. Teenage depression isn’t merely a brief phase or the typical moodiness and rebellious episodes that characterize adolescence. Instead, it’s a mental illness parents, teachers, coaches and guardians should take seriously. In observation of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, what should you know about teenage depression?
Teen Angst vs. Depression Symptoms
If you’re responsible for helping guide a teenager through puberty and adolescence, you can look for several warning signs to distinguish ordinary teen mood swings from depression. Depression symptoms affect nearly every area of an adolescent’s life, and can include:
- Anger, irritability and pronounced sadness
- Sleeping or eating more or less than normal
- Losing interest in formerly enjoyable activities
- Neglecting self-care, such as hygiene
- Isolating from family and friends
- Slipping grades in school
- Hopelessness, worthlessness or suicidal thoughts
- Physical aches and pains
The more severe these symptoms become, the more likely it is that your teen is experiencing depression and not a passing mood. Unfortunately, teenagers living with depression often do not get the correct diagnosis, which can delay their much-needed treatment.
How to Help a Teenager With Depression
Of course, it is not unusual for children to want to keep some parts of their lives private as they move into the adolescent and teen years. Thus, it may be challenging to observe your teen’s behavior for any dramatic changes. Any notable deterioration in mood or behavior that lasts two weeks or longer without stopping may indicate major depression. Teenagers can also experience dysthymic disorder, a milder form of depression that may not interfere with day-to-day responsibilities, but which can still adversely affect their relationships and quality of life.
Teenage depression often co-occurs with other disorders like substance use, anxiety and risky behavior. If left untreated, teen depression can persist into adulthood and can cause increasingly serious difficulties, such as trouble finding and keeping steady employment. That’s why it’s essential to talk to your teen about how he feels and keep the lines of communication open. Ensure he knows you’ll always listen without judging if he brings any concerns to you.
Restoring Young Men’s Potential
If you are worried your teen might be struggling with depression – even a mild case – don’t hesitate to talk to your family doctor or a therapist who specializes in teenage depression. Because mood disorders and substance abuse often go hand in hand, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the early warning signs your teen needs help and intervene to get him treatment as soon as possible.
At ARCH Academy, we serve young men ages 14 to 18 who have developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol. At our Tennessee young adult treatment center, our counselors create customized treatment programs for teen depression and substance abuse. Reach out to us today to learn about recovering in an academically focused environment.