1. Isolating. If your teenager has stopped spending time with the family and with friends, it could be a sign of depression.
2. Change in Weight. Teenagers gain weight throughout their adolescent years as part of becoming an adult. However, if you’ve always had a rail thin teen who then becomes overweight, or a teenager with normal weight who becomes extremely thin, it may be mood related. Rapid weight change is associated with depression.
3. Hypersomnia. This means excessive sleeping. Adolescents often sleep 10 to 12 hours per night on the weekends, which is normal. However, if your teenager is getting 10 to 12 hours of sleep each day of the week too (including naps), that’s called hypersomnia.
4. Insomnia. Sometimes depression leads to an inability to fall asleep. For others insomnia looks different. They fall asleep just fine, but then wake up after a few hours and cannot get back to sleep.
5. Irritability. This is not always a symptom in adult depression, but is present in nearly every depressed teenager. Please note, teens are often irritable, so irritability on its own is probably not depression.
6. Crying often. If your adolescent cries easily, and sometimes cannot even articulate why, it could be due to depression.
7. Flattened affect. Your affect is your emotional expressiveness. If your teen is usually fairly expressive, but now seems quite a bit less so, it can be a sign of depressed mood. When we think of affect, we’re usually talking about intonation and facial expression.
8. Suicidal thoughts. In most cases of depression, suicidal thoughts are part of the picture. A person can feel pretty hopeless when they’re depressed. Without hope it can be hard to find reasons to live. If you’re teenager is expressing suicidal thoughts, they need immediate help.
9. Self-harm. Some depressed teens cut themselves. They say it is a method to control when they feel their pain, how deeply they feel it, and who can know it. This is also a serious symptom that needs immediate evaluation by a professional.
10. Anxiety. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Does your teen worry excessively? They might have a mixture of depression and anxiety.
One thing that’s really important to understand is you can’t read a blog post like this and diagnose your teen with depression. Depression can be a combination of these symptoms, or all of these symptoms. However, these symptoms can signify other problems too. While this post is helpful for educating yourself on what might be going on, please take your teenager in for an evaluation with their doctor, a therapist, or a psychiatrist if you suspect depression.
I know it’s really hard on the whole family when a teen feels depressed. As parents it’s difficult not to think somehow it’s your fault. You may have tried everything you can think of to snap your child out of their “bad moods.” Try to keep in mind this isn’t your fault, and also that your teenager isn’t trying to do this just to be ornery. Hang in there, be gentle and loving, and get help if needed.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT