Identifying Signs of Depression/Anxiety in Your Teen

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“It’s just a phase.”
“She’ll grow out of it.”
“He’s a teenager, that’s normal.”

We’ve all had rebellious thoughts and mood swings during our teenage years, but sometimes teenagers and their parents are facing more than just the occasional moodiness. According to a news release by the World Health Organization, “half of all people who develop mental disorders have their first symptoms by the age of 14.”

Before dismissing your teen’s behavior as just a phase, consider his or her lifestyle and habits. If you believe your son or daughter may be suffering from depression, be on the lookout for these telltale signs:

Drastic Emotional Changes

Mood swings happen, but they aren’t always harmless. Your teen may be suffering from depression if he or she seems to spend most of his or her time in a mixture of these emotions and states of mind:

  • Irritability or Anger
    These emotions lead to hostile and destructive behavior towards family and even friends at times over otherwise harmless conversation.
  • Sadness, Loneliness
    It’s not uncommon for anyone who suffers from depression to live in a state of sadness, feeling alone, as if no one understands them. Some people who struggle with depression also withdrawal themselves from friends and family, also known as social isolation.
  • Feeling Like a Failure
    It’s easy for a teen who is suffering from depression to feel as if he or she isn’t living up to the parent or guardian’s expectations. With few friends and low grades in school, a teen may feel as though he or she is getting nowhere in life and is nothing but a disappointment.
  • Insecurity, Guilt
    Profusely apologizing for insignificant mishaps may also indicate struggles with depression in your teen. It’s often accompanied by feeling as if he or she is a failure. Separation anxiety can also be attributed to depression.

Rebellious Behavior

Yes, sometimes teens do things just to spite their parents and higher authority figures. It gives them a sense of power, of defiance. But when mixed with other signs, some of these habits can be attributed to depression.

  • Tobacco, Alcohol, and/or Drug Use
    You may come across evidence, such as poorly hidden alcohol bottles or drugs in your teen’s bedroom or cigarette packs sticking out of their backpacks or coat pockets or even in trash cans. It’s also important for you and your spouse to be open about each other’s habits and your suspicions.
  • Promiscuity
    In some cases, teens with depression will seek attention from others sexually in order to temporarily relieve themselves from their emotional struggles. This can lead to unexpected pregnancy or contraction of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS.
  • Drop in Academic Performance
    If he or she is suffering from depression, your teen may be late to or even cut class on a regular basis. You may also receive notice that your teen is skipping school. A severe and sudden drop in grades is also evidence that your teen is struggling with a mental disorder such as depression.

If these signs of depression and other mental illness are not addressed and treated , they can lead not only to suicidal thoughts but actually acting on those thoughts. Some teens make non-lethal suicide attempts, possibly seeking attention, howeverothers truly feel as if the world would be better off without them…that no one would miss them. Either way, they need your attention, your love and compassion. They need to know you care about their well-being and that their lives matter to you.

So take the next step and talk to your teen, or if you’re not ready to take that step, contact us.

For more information on how High Focus Centers can help get your teen back on his or her feet and live a healthier life, call (800) 877-3628.

Elizabeth Frei, LCSW
Substance Abuse Coordinator
High Focus Centers – Paramus, NJ