When it comes to anxiety and depression in teens, our society has come a long way in recent decades. There are more resources than ever before for those who are struggling with mental illness on top of trying to conquer middle school, high school, and university.

However, as a parent, it can be difficult to know whether your teen is suffering from depression or simply wrestling through the normal woes of puberty and what can be a trying time socially.

Read on to learn some common signs of depression in teens, so you can make informed decisions in caring for your child.

Ongoing Sadness or Irritability

If you’ve never experienced depression yourself, you may unintentionally have an over-simplified idea of what depression is. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, my teenager doesn’t really seem sad, so I think he or she is fine.” However, depressed teenagers don’t always express sadness. They may act hopeless, irritable, or angry instead.

While just about every teen is going to show these emotions from time to time—these years simply aren’t easy for anyone—a depressed teen’s negative emotions will seem unrelenting. Keep an eye out for severe unhappiness or anger that seems to run deeper than hormonal mood swings.

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Teenagers struggling with depression often begin to isolate themselves. This could mean they withdraw from friends and family, lose interest in favorite hobbies, or stop engaging in the classroom. If grades are dropping without explanation and your teenager seems more withdrawn, it could be a sign of depression.

While your instinct may be to nag your child to study more or to push involvement in extracurriculars, it’s important to remember that depression can’t be willed away by you or your teen. The best way to support your teen is by loving without judgement and seeking help from a professional.

Lack of Energy or Constant Restlessness

Depression can present itself as two opposite ends of a spectrum—fatigue or restless agitation. If your teenager constantly seems lethargic or antsy (or swings back and forth between the two), there may be more than hormones at work.

Oftentimes, this lack of energy or restlessness will result in difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness, and drastic changes in their eating or sleeping habits. Your teen may also complain of aches and pains with no obvious cause. Any of these red flags could be cause for concern.

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Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviors

While all teens can be melodramatic at times, it’s never a good idea to dismiss suicidal comments as being “just for attention.” If your teen makes jokes about committing suicide or comments that things might be better if they were dead, listen up. These remarks could be a true cry for help.

Other suicidal behaviors include writing stories or poems about death, giving away favorite possessions, seeking out opportunities to tell loved ones goodbye, and trying to obtain tools for self-harm. If you suspect your teen may be suicidal, don’t ignore the signs or wait to take action. Call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

What to Do Next

While there are certainly small things you can do to help your depressed teen—such as providing nutritious meals, encouraging exercise, and limiting screen time—those lifestyle changes aren’t always enough to stamp out depression.

If you suspect your child may be suffering from depression, reach out to a psychologist or psychiatrist for professional help.

If you believe your teen may be using drugs or alcohol to self-treat depression, contact us today to learn more about how a brief stay at Hawaiian Island Recovery can help.