What Teen Depression Looks Like & How to Get Help


Navigating the tumultuous waters of adolescence can be challenging for both parents and teenagers alike. Adolescence is a period marked by mood swings, emotional turbulence, and occasional bouts of irritability and despair. While it's natural for teens to experience emotional turbulence, distinguishing between typical teenage moodiness and signs of a more profound issue, like depression, is crucial. Recognizing the difference early on can make a significant impact on your teen's well-being. In this blog, we'll explore the signs that may indicate your adolescent needs professional help and offer guidance for parents navigating the delicate terrain of teenage mental health.


Unpacking Persistent Behavioral Changes


Teenage mental health can be nuanced and the signs of a struggle may not be what you would expect. Be on the lookout for persistent, unexplainable changes in their behavior. Was your child once outgoing and gregarious? Have they become isolated and withdrawn? Are you noticing sudden changes in their sleeping and eating patterns? Perhaps they’ve stopped engaging in hobbies and activities they used to enjoy. All of these things may be symptoms of a deeper problem and should not be brushed off as normal teenage angst.


The Report Card Decoder


Some kids simply don’t like school and don’t naturally excel in academics. That’s okay. However if your teenager has previously been on track academically and engaged in their classes but suddenly loses interest, there may be a problem. Going to school, engaging with peers, and performing well academically requires a lot of brain power, energy, and willingness. If your son or daughter is struggling with their mental health, they may not have any of those things to give. Depression and anxiety can be crippling and zap all the mental fortitude right out. It’s difficult to perform well in school when you’re just trying to get through the day. If you notice a decline in academic performance, keep an eye on it and investigate the cause. 


The Social Landscape


Independence and isolation are two different things. It’s a normal progression for adolescents to desire more independence from their parents. This transition usually coincides with an increased desire to spend more time away from home and with their friend group. But a sudden and extreme withdrawal from friends and social activities is a definite sign that something is wrong. Depressed teens may isolate themselves, avoiding social interactions and preferring to spend excessive amounts of time alone. Pay attention to your teen's social dynamics and intervene if isolation becomes a pervasive pattern.


Physical Ailment Deciphering


Mental health issues don’t always stay confined to the head. Anxiety and depression can manifest as physical symptoms that negatively affect your child's wellbeing. Unresolved stress can result in chronic headaches, stomachs, and physical discomfort. It’s the body’s way of alerting you to an issue that is being ignored. Emotional distress will become physical distress if left untreated long enough - especially if your teenager isn’t able to verbalize what is wrong with them. While these symptoms may have various origins, consider them as part of the puzzle when evaluating your teen's mental well-being.


Emotional Outbursts or Extreme Irritability


Teenage depression can disrupt your child's ability to regulate their emotions. This may result in extreme irritability, outbursts of anger, and other intense displays of emotion which may not have been normal behavior. Teenage angst is a cliche for a reason - there’s a lot of truth to it. The period of adolescence is known for eliciting ups and downs of emotions. However these displays should rarely, if ever, be on the far end of the spectrum. If you’ve noticed your child exhibiting out of character sudden outbursts of extreme anger, it could be an indicator of something bigger going on.


Expressions of Hopelessness or Suicidal Thoughts


Nothing is more serious than your teen expressing feelings of hopelessness or talking about suicidal ideation. These statements should be taken seriously and the intervention of mental health professionals should be sought immediately. Even if you believe your son or daughter is engaging in attention seeking behavior, it is better to act as if the potential for harm is real. 

A lot of parents can feel overwhelmed and out of their depth in these situations. Turn towards mental health professionals, counselors, and helplines that can provide support and guidance during these critical moments.


Utilize the Resources


Navigating the complexities of teenage emotions can be challenging, but it's crucial for parents to remain vigilant and attuned to their teen's well-being. If you notice persistent and concerning changes in behavior, call Sustain Recovery. Our experienced clinical staff can help you understand what is going on and offer guidance on how best to move forward. 

Depression and anxiety are treatable conditions, and early intervention can make a significant difference in your teen's life. Open communication, empathy, and professional support are key in helping adolescents overcome the challenges of mental health.