Learn More About Mental Illness

depressed teenIs Your Teen Moody or Depressed?

Seemingly overnight your once “sweet child” is slamming doors, rolling eyes at everything you say (that is, if you are not simply ignored), discovering a unique sense of style, and experiencing mood swings – the teenage years have arrived! And although phases of irritability, volatile displays of anger and tears, rebelling against rules and even experimenting with drugs and alcohol can be part of the teenage experience, it is important to stay vigilant for warning signs that your teen is seriously troubled and not just causing trouble.

One of the reasons parents often don’t recognize signs of depression is because it expresses itself differently in teens than in adults. For example, irritability rather than sadness is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. Teens may seem perfectly happy while out with their friends, but will pull away from their parents, and act depressed and angry at home.

So how do you know when your teen is just being a teen and when it’s time to worry?

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. Has your teen lost interest in activities such as school, sports, hobbies or friends?
  2. Does your teen seem less energetic and unmotivated? Unusually tired or exhausted? Does your teen sleep too much or not enough?
  3. Does your teen seem to feel guilty, sad, worthless or devalued?
  4. Is your teen extremely sensitive to criticism?
  5. Does your teen have trouble concentrating?
  6. Has your teen’s appetite changed? Do you notice weight loss or gain?
  7. Have you noticed increased indecisiveness?
  8. Is your teen angry, agitated or irritable and/or shows  signs of serious hostility and animosity?
  9. Has your teen been experimenting with alcohol or drugs? Having problems in school? Engaging in reckless behavior?
  10. Has your teen been talking, joking, and/or writing about death?

If any of these behaviors persist for more than two weeks, it may not be normal teen moodiness, but signs of a more serious issue such as depression.

Trust your instinct: if you feel something is wrong, chances are you are right and it’s time to seek a second opinion. 

Here are some things you can do to help your teen:

  • Better safe than sorry: It’s natural for parents to think the behavior is “just a phase” and will pass, but if you sense something is wrong don’t delay getting help!
  • Continue to talk to your kids, even if they are unresponsive. Be gentle and persistent.
  • Be supportive. Ensure them that you are there for them and listen without lecturing or judging.
  • Validate their feelings.
  • Visit www.Up2SD.org for more information and local resources.

If you are worried – seek help! Call the Crisis and Access Hotline on the front page. You can also connect with Yellow Ribbon, a local community-based teen suicide prevention program, at yellowribbonsd.org. In an emergency call 9-1-1.

“When we speak to parent groups about the warning signs for depression and suicide, parents often make the observation that the signs seem like typical teen behaviors. While somewhat true, the key to getting help for their teen is to identify which behaviors are being exhibited and ask themselves if these behaviors are different than how their teen typically acts. A change in behavior that persists for two weeks or longer needs to be professionally evaluated.”Carol Skiljan, Executive Director, Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program San Diego Chapter