Many parents wonder how to tell if their teen is experiencing normal teen mood swings or something more serious, like Major Depressive Disorder. One way to distinguish these is to consider the severity of symptoms, duration, and impact on functioning.
Symptoms of depression in teens include depressed, sad, or irritable mood; loss of interest or enjoyment in activities; changes in eating and sleeping patterns; decreased energy; socially isolating from family and friends; and talking negatively about themselves and the future. Some teens with depression may also experience suicidal thoughts and self-harming behaviors. If these symptoms last most of the day for 2 weeks or more, your teen may be experiencing depression. In depression, these symptoms are often severe enough to cause changes in performance in school, work, extracurricular, or family activities. Generally, mood swings in teens without depression are less severe, last a few hours to a few days, and do not significantly impact activities.
Depression is treatable, so if you notice signs of depression in your teen, it’s important to talk to them and offer support, and to seek guidance from a healthcare provider. 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.