The Red Flags of Teen Depression
This is a holiday season like no other, that is for sure. For most it is a time to feel jolly and anticipate time with family and friends. But for many adults and teens alike all the hustle and bustle can worsen the symptoms of those who already suffer from anxiety and depression into. And for others, the holidays can create the perfect storm for the onset of symptoms.
For some teens, feeling depressed can cause them to withdraw and avoid social interactions, which oftentimes leads to further sadness and loneliness – a downward spiral that can easily spin out of control. These feelings, which may be more easily managed during other times of the year, may be intensified in the midst of the holiday season.
As parents and other caregivers of young people, it is vital to be aware of the many signs and symptoms of teen depression (according to HelpGuide: Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression):
Irritability, anger, or hostility
Sadness or hopelessness
Tearfulness or frequent crying
Withdrawal from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities
Poor school performance
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
Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression in Teens vs. Adults
When considering the red flags for depression, it is important to know that they may look very different in young people versus adults.
Irritability, anger, or hostility: The predominant mood in a depressed teen is oftentimes irritability, as opposed to sadness. It is common for a depressed youth to be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
Unexplained aches and pains: When a physical exam turns up zero answers to your child’s chronic headaches, stomachaches and such, the cause may be due to depression.
Extreme sensitivity to criticism: It is common for young people who are depressed to experience feelings of worthlessness, which makes them even more vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure than their teenage peers.
Withdrawing from some, but not all people: Depressed teens typically maintain at least some friendships, while depressed adults tend to isolate themselves. Depressed youth, however, are known to socialize less, pull away from their parents, and start hanging out with a new crowd.
Is it depression or teenage “growing pains”?
If you’re unsure if your teen is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been going on, how severe they are, and how different your teen is acting from their usual self. Hormones and stress can explain the occasional bout of teenage angst—but not continuous and unrelenting unhappiness, lethargy, or irritability.
Suicide Warning Signs in Depressed Teens
Seriously depressed teens, especially those who also abuse alcohol or drugs, often think about, speak of, or make attempts at suicide—and an alarming and increasing number are successful. So it’s vital that you take any suicidal thoughts or behaviors very seriously. They’re a cry for help from your teen.
Suicide Warning Signs to Watch For:
Talking or joking about committing suicide
Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out”
Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”)
Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide
Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
Giving away prized possessions
Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.
To understand what happens when you make this confidential and free call, go to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/