14 Signs That Your Teen Might Need a Depression Screening
As parents, guardians, or caregivers, it’s crucial to be vigilant about the emotional well-being of our teens. Adolescence is a period of significant growth and self-discovery, but it can also be a time of heightened vulnerability, particularly regarding mental health issues such as depression. At Elevations, we understand the importance of recognizing the signs that indicate your teen might need a depression screening. This blog post aims to shed light on these signs, offering valuable insights and guidance to help you support your teenager’s mental health.
Here are 14 signs that suggest your teen might need a depression screening.
1. Persistent Sadness or Irritability:
One of the most common signs of depression in teens is a persistent feeling of sadness or irritability. If your teen seems consistently down or easily agitated, it might indicate something deeper is troubling them.
2. Changes in Sleep Patterns:
Keep an eye out for significant changes in your teen’s sleep patterns. This includes sleeping too much or too little, frequent nightmares, or difficulty falling asleep. Disrupted sleep can often be linked to underlying emotional distress.
3. Loss of Interest in Activities:
If your teen suddenly loses interest in activities they once enjoyed, it could be a sign of depression. Withdrawal from friends, hobbies, or extracurricular activities might indicate a lack of motivation and emotional struggle.
4. Decline in Academic Performance:
Depression can impact a teen’s ability to concentrate and focus, leading to a decline in academic performance. If you notice a sudden drop in grades or a lack of interest in school, it’s essential to investigate further.
It’s essential to approach this subject with curiosity and an open mind. If your teen feels they are letting you down, it could negatively impact their emotional state. Be supportive when approaching topics and show you care for their wellbeing.
5. Changes in Appetite and Weight:
Significant changes in appetite, whether a loss of appetite leading to weight loss or increased emotional eating resulting in weight gain, can indicate emotional distress. Food can be a source of comfort or stress for adolescents, especially as they experience changes through puberty.
Be aware of habitual changes around food or mealtimes, as some behaviors can raise concerns for disordered eating.
6. Fatigue and Low Energy Levels:
Teens struggling with depression often experience constant fatigue and low energy levels, even after a night’s sleep. They might express feeling tired all the time, regardless of their rest.
Low energy levels can coincide with a lack of interest in hobbies, friends, or social activities, as stated in sign #3.
7. Self-Harm or Suicidal Thoughts:
Any mention of self-harm or suicidal thoughts should be taken very seriously. If your teen talks about feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, or exhibiting self-destructive behavior, seek help immediately.
8. Social Isolation:
Teens battling depression often withdraw from social interactions, preferring solitude over spending time with friends or family. If your once-social teen becomes increasingly isolated, avoiding social gatherings or activities they used to enjoy, they may need a depression screening.
9. Irrational Anger or Hostility:
Depression can manifest as intense and irrational emotions, including anger or hostility. If your teen displays frequent outbursts of anger, even over minor issues, it might be a way of expressing their inner turmoil.
Always communicate with your teen in a caring manner to try and help them overcome this obstacle. Contact a professional for support if you cannot speak with them safely.
10. Physical Ailments with No Apparent Cause:
Persistent physical complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, or other vague ailments without apparent cause might manifest underlying emotional distress. Physical symptoms act as indicators of emotional dysregulation. Teens often struggle to articulate their feelings, while physical sensations can be easier to communicate. Listen to their concerns.
11. Substance Abuse or Risky Behaviors:
Teens struggling with depression might use substances like alcohol or drugs to cope with their emotions. Additionally, they may engage in risky behaviors such as reckless driving or unprotected sex, seeking thrills to escape their emotional pain temporarily.
Risky behavior can be due to peer pressure, which could be triggered by a change in social circles. Staying up to date with your teen’s friend group can help you notice these changes.
12. Excessive Perfectionism:
While striving for excellence is commendable, an obsession with perfectionism can indicate underlying anxiety and depression. Teens who are overly critical of themselves, setting impossibly high standards, and becoming distressed over minor imperfections might struggle with their mental health.
Encourage your teen to reach their goals while keeping a realistic perspective on what they can achieve while maintaining overall well-being.
13. Difficulty in Concentration and Decision-Making:
Depression often impairs cognitive functions, making it challenging for teens to concentrate on tasks or make decisions. If your teen exhibits a noticeable decline in their ability to focus or seems indecisive about trivial matters, it could indicate a mental health issue such as depression.
14. Expressing Feelings of Guilt or Worthlessness:
Teens battling depression might express overwhelming guilt or worthlessness, even with no apparent reason for these emotions. They might be excessively self-critical, blaming themselves for various situations or feeling like a burden to others.
Understanding the Complexity of Teen Mental Health:
Recognizing danger signs like those above is essential when understanding a teenager’s emotional well-being. However, it’s crucial to remember that these signs indicate potential mental health concerns and do not always point directly to depression. Adolescence is a time of profound change, and teenagers can experience a wide range of emotions and behaviors as they navigate this transformative period.
Individual Differences and Emotional Turmoil:
Teens, like adults, can have bad days, experience mood swings, or face difficulties that impact their behavior temporarily. It’s natural for them to feel sad, irritable, or fatigued occasionally. Similarly, changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or academic performance can be influenced by various factors such as stress, hormonal shifts, or even academic pressure.
The Importance of Professional Assessment:
While these signs can be red flags, they don’t diagnose a mental health condition definitively. Each teenager is unique, and their experiences and struggles vary. What’s crucial is the duration, intensity, and impact these signs have on their daily lives.
If you notice these signs persisting over an extended period and significantly interfering with their ability to function, seeking professional assessment becomes imperative. Mental health professionals can conduct thorough evaluations to determine the root cause of these symptoms and provide appropriate guidance and support.
Other Potential Causes:
It’s also essential to recognize that these signs can indicate various mental health conditions besides depression, such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, or even physical health issues like thyroid disorders. External factors like bullying, academic stress, or family problems can also contribute to these behavioral changes.
The Importance of Open Communication:
Maintaining open lines of communication with your teenager is critical. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns. Sometimes, these signs might indicate an underlying issue they are struggling to cope with, and a supportive environment can make a significant difference.
Recognizing the signs of depression in your teen is the first step toward getting them the help they need. If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to approach your teen with understanding, empathy, and support. At Elevations, we are committed to helping teenagers navigate the complexities of adolescence, providing comprehensive mental health support tailored to their needs.
Don’t hesitate to contact our team of mental health professionals if you’re concerned about your teen’s emotional well-being. We work with your family to create a therapeutic environment where teenagers can flourish emotionally, mentally, and academically, ensuring a brighter and healthier future.
Jennifer is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who works well with complex family systems. Her training includes helping couples, families, children, adolescents and adults with a variety of presenting problems including trauma, self-harm, mental illness, mood regulation, unhealthy eating patterns, behavioral problems, foster care, and family conflict. Her specialty areas include working with struggling teens and family therapy. Her work experience includes working in public mental health, working with families and children who are involved in the foster care system or adopted, and working in residential care. Jennifer is also a certified Dialectical Behavioral Therapist.