Even in adulthood, depression can be hard to recognize. For teens, depression can be even more difficult to detect. Teenagers are still developing their ability to understand their emotions. They are more likely to displace or act out their feelings. Many teens who are depressed may not appear sad or depressed to others. It may be difficult for parents to recognize. Other signs, or symptoms, may be present that can alert parents to depression. These may include:
- Somatic symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches
- Aggressiveness, anger, or rage
- Irritability, such as overreacting to criticism
- Oppositional behavior, such as refusing to cooperate
- Social problems including social frustration, withdrawal from others, or wanting to run away from home
What causes depression?
The exact causes of depression are not clear, though we do know of some contributing factors. Some types of depression are thought to be hereditary and can more commonly be found in families where one or more members suffer from depression. Depression can be a symptom of a physical problem, such as an illness or disabling condition. Depression also can be related to, or secondary to, another mental disorder.
The incidence of depression is higher among girls than boys, though the reasons for this are not clear. Some researchers have suggested girls are predisposed to depression for both biological and psychosocial reasons. Others have speculated that depression is simply more difficult to identify in boys.
Depression is sometimes part of a psychological problem. For example, low self-esteem, or negative self-concept, is often found along with depression. Stress in the environment or trauma also are associated with depression. For adolescents, the changes they are experiencing can contribute to confusion and emotional turmoil. A teen’s development into adulthood can bring value conflicts and struggles to find a sense of purpose. Problems in relationships or feelings of isolation are common in adolescence. These emotional and psychological factors can contribute to depression.
What parents can do
The influence of parents during a time of potential turmoil is essential for raising healthy teens. Too often, parents respond to the signs of growing independence and withdraw from their teens’ lives. The most important thing a parent can do is to be involved – spend time with their teen.
Support positive relationships
Teens need to feel like they belong. Their peer relationships are one important arena for them to do this. Parents should help their teen find interests and activities that provide opportunities to connect with other teens. Give them opportunities to spend time with friends. Teens need to be exposed to other caring adults they can trust. Contact with these adults should be encouraged in order to help shape the direction of their lives and provide stability.
Parents need to be available so teens can talk to them about the problems they are facing. Asking teens about their life and listening to the answer is important. Listen to their troubles and help them find solutions to their problems. Be able to recognize the warning signs of depression. If a teen talks of suicide, take it seriously.
When to seek help
Seek professional help if your teen shows some of the signs and symptoms of depression. Even if depression is not present, professional mental health counseling can help parents understand the problems their teen is facing and learn how to be helpful. If a teen refuses help, it is still important for parents to get the help they need to care for their teen.
Seek immediate help if a teen shows any of the following problems and these problems are interfering with a teen’s daily living: