Teens are famous for having moods that go up and down. When the “downs” become the norm, however, parents need to ask themselves: “Is this a normal mood swing? Or is it clinical depression?”
Symptoms of depression include:
An abnormal decline in school performance
Losing interest in activities the teen used to enjoy
A change in sleeping or eating habits
Spending more time when usual alone away from friends and family
Making negative comments about themselves
Making negative comments about their future
The problem with these symptoms, of course, is that most of them are part of normal teenage experience. When looking at them in terms of depression, the question becomes, “How long has this been going on?”, “How severe is it”, and “Is it interfering with how well my teenager is functioning?” When these symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks, when they become extreme, or when they keep your teen from managing day to day life, it’s time to take action.
Fortunately, teen depression is treatable. If you notice signs of depression in your teen, it’s important to talk to them and offer support. Be willing and ready to hear things you may not want to hear. Recognize when the situation is more than you and your teen can handle together. Be ready to turn to a healthcare provider when necessary.
The most effective treatment for moderate to severe depression is a combination of therapy and medication. If a teen is experiencing suicidal thoughts that they may act on, or if they attempt suicide, it is important to seek emergency medical attention right away.
If it turns out that your teen does suffer from depression and does need outside help, it’s important to remember that getting help for your child is not a sign of failure, it’s a sign of a parent who cares.