Too often, signs of teenage depression are mistaken for the typical ups and downs associated with teenage hormonal mood swings. But, what behavior is normal for the average teenager and how can it be differentiated from more serious instances of clinical depression?
If you're a parent of a child between the ages of 10 and 18, asking yourself that very question is critical. Depression can affect one in five teenagers before their 18th birthday. Unfortunately, the disease often goes undiagnosed because it's believed to be a normal part of life.
Recognizing the Signs of Teenage Depression
Too often, parents dismiss the common symptoms associated with teenage depression as just typical teenage behavior. In addition, many teen suffering from this affliction will either hide their feelings or refuse to admit that there's a potential problem. They may also be averse to seeking help from family or friends.
There are numerous symptoms associated with teenage depression, and they often mimic depression symptoms in adults. These include chronic fatigue, trouble focusing on tasks, lack of concentration and irritability. As depression progresses, the teenager can become anxious and distracted as they attempt to deal with this debilitating problem. Other symptoms include crying, shouting, general complaining or lethargy.
As with adults, depression may also become visible in a variety of unexplained and incurable physical problems such as aches and pains, headaches and digestive issues like an upset stomach. Other signs include a change in appetite and subsequent weight gain or loss along with a change in sleeping habits, such as insomnia or chronic fatigue. More serious symptoms include talk or thoughts of suicide or death.
If five or more of the above symptoms are exhibited for a period longer than two weeks, mothers and/or fathers should talk to their teenagers and seek professional help. Of course, if there is a threat of suicide, then parents should seek treatment and intervention immediately.
Causes and Effects of Teenage Depression
Teenage depression is often caused by external stress-inducing circumstances. These may include a divorce in the family, an upset in the family dynamic, financial problems, sexual or physical abuse, alcohol or drug problems within the family, a death in the family or trouble dealing with a recent trauma or tragedy.
Other teenagers see depression as a result of being unable to reach particular goals, whether these are social, academic, athletics or body goals. For example, if a teenager has trouble making friends or is rejected by their peers, this can often cause depression. Or when depression runs in the family, the teenager may be genetically disposed to the condition.
The effects of teenage depression are most often seen socially and at school. Typically, a teenager exhibiting common symptoms sees their grades drop as they miss school, lose focus and abandon their drive to achieve and succeed. They may drop out of extracurricular activities and are also more prone to abuse drugs or alcohol.