Depressed Teen at Home?
The teenage years are emotional mine fields. Sometimes you might feel that your teenager is always depressed because that seems to be the mood they project a most of the time. Does it seem like they just don’t want to be with the family? Or maybe they spend most of their time at home closed up in their rooms? Perhaps they seem to do nothing but stay plugged in to their smart phones, tablets or gaming systems? An adolescent suffering from depression can be hostile to you, exceedingly grumpy or easily lose their temper. But then, this sounds like a lot of teenagers, doesn’t it?
So, what’s the difference is between this behavior, which seems like their normal attitude lately, and a full blown depression? The truth of the matter is that it’s sometimes difficult to tell just where their teenage angst ends and real depression begins.
Common Signs of Concern
A teenager suffering from depression may show signs of hopelessness, cry often, be tearful, or may begin to write dark poetry and become interested in dark themed music and movies. They may begin to feel that life is not worth living, to the point that they neglect their personal hygiene because it’s simply not worth their effort. A depressed adolescent can feel as though this dark cloud over them will never leave and therefore their future is bleak. Boredom and the loss of any enjoyment from previously engaging activities is another sign of depression
Low self-esteem is common in a teen suffering from depression. Their sense of self-worth, which is always difficult to maintain during the teenage years anyway, takes a huge hit when depression creeps into the life of a teenager. Depressed teens may feel worthless or that they’re simply not good enough. Feelings of guilt can overwhelm them when things go wrong, as though every bad thing that happens is their fault.
Feelings and Emotions
Teenagers are already susceptible to feelings of inadequacies. When a perceived rejection occurs to a depressed teen whose sensitivities are already heightened, it can result in a devastating emotional spiral.
Bouts of irritability, lashing out at those around them and isolating themselves from friends or family can also be signs of depression. Sometimes a depressed teenager will ‘reject’ their own family in an attempt to preempt being rejected by them.
Traumatic events can also be a causal factor – especially those suppressed and not talked about or shared in a safe environment. And what teenager do you know that tells everything to their parents? If you know there have been some pretty scary or painful events in your teenager’s life talking with an teen counselor or working within a group may be helpful for them. When trauma or loss is involved, you might consider adding EMDR to your toolbox to help your teen.
A decline in grades or behavior at school can also be a warning of more serious problems. Especially if they become hostile when approached about the situation, it could also be a sign of depression. There are so many traits in depression that can mimic normal teenage phases. It can be difficult for parents to determine whether or not a teenager is suffering from a major depressive episode.
In the Family?
A teenager who is suffering from depression probably has one or two parents at home who are also struggling with this mental health issue. Genetics/biology play a role and but so does environment/exposure. If you feel your teenager, or a teenager you care about, is in danger, please contact their parents, their school counselor or religious leader so that they can receive the help they need.
Chemistry as Agonist
Drugs and alcohol are not always in play when depression is on the table. But let’s be clear – it’s a common risk especially for teens and young adults. If your teenager is using drugs and/or alcohol – this will only increase emotional and other problems. Parents sometimes dismiss this, attributing “recreational” use as a seemingly normal part of youth. But whether dependency, abuse or recreation; mood altering substances always wreck havoc in the long run.
It’s what many call the “play now, pay later” principle and the price gets very steep when the turmoil of adolescence and depression are in the recipe. In addition, we now know that use of drugs and alcohol during teenage and early college years (while the brain is still developing) has a permanent effect on the brain. If these are part of your teen’s current picture, don’t minimize the seriousness of the risk it holds for the kid you love.
If you are a parent of a struggling teenager or college-aged young adult, listen to your heart. If you are seeing signs of concern don’t ignore them. Reach out, ask questions, get support – be active and get involved. You cannot afford to be their friend – you have to be a parent. If you need more support, reach out to a friend or family member. If you need more information or guidance, a counselor can be a great help as well.