What Parents Should Know About Teenage Depression

Sep 14, 2023 | Uncategorized

“Recognizing depression in teenagers can be challenging as it often disguises itself as normal mood swings or typical teen angst,” wrote Livia Freier, Ph.D., on Psychology Today in August. “However, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression in order to provide the necessary support and seek professional help if needed.”

Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, lack of interest or pleasure in activities, and a general loss of motivation. “It affects people of all ages, including teenagers, who may experience unique challenges during this developmental period,” Freier wrote. “Depression in teens can manifest as changes in behavior, poor academic performance, social withdrawal, increased irritability, and physical complaints, such as headaches or stomachaches.” 

“It is essential for parents to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression in order to provide the necessary support and guidance to their teenage children,” Dr. Freier wrote. “Addressing depression in teens promptly can help prevent the condition from escalating and negatively impacting their overall well-being.”

Some common signs of depression in teenagers include anger, declining grades, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, negative self-talk, changes in sleep patterns, physical complaints, talk of death or suicide, and withdrawal from friends and family. It is important to note that not all teens will exhibit these symptoms, and each individual may experience depression differently.

Recognizing depression in teenagers can be challenging as it often disguises itself as normal mood swings or typical teen angst. Adequately diagnosing teenage depression is crucial in order to provide the necessary support and intervention for struggling teenagers. 

While it can be challenging to distinguish between normal mood fluctuations and the symptoms of depression in adolescents, several key indicators can help identify when professional help is needed. It is crucial for parents, educators, and other trusted adults to be aware of these signs and symptoms, as early intervention can significantly improve outcomes for teenagers experiencing depression.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions may eventually induce an urge to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Over 80 percent of teens in the Pew survey found that drinking alcohol and drug addiction were major or minor problems in their communities. 

In their 2019 study on adolescent depression and substance use, Mason, Mennis, et al. found that “It appears that adolescents experiencing heightened levels of depression symptoms entered our study using substances at a much higher rate, compared to adolescents with higher levels of peer network health.” The authors noted the healing effect of peer networks. 

“Having higher levels of peer network health buffered higher levels of depression’s influence on substance use for these young adolescents. […] It is reasonable to assume that adolescents in the current study who had a protective set of close friends, i.e., friends who are engaged in prosocial activities and who provided instrumental and emotional support, experienced a buffering effect of their peer network health against depression and substance use.”

Their findings confirm that—similar to adults—adolescents are misusing substances to cope with their depressive symptoms.

Avanti Behavioral Health recently launched an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for clients between the ages of 13 and 18, located in the Denver Tech Center. The program is designed to provide adolescents with the support they need to address their substance use and mental health concerns. 

The IOP provides comprehensive, holistic, family-centered, and trauma-informed care for your teen. A thorough clinical assessment is a crucial step in the treatment process at Avanti. It is a free evaluation that aims to identify any misdiagnosed or undiagnosed conditions that may be affecting the well-being of your child. 

We hope your child thrives in the new school year but if they need additional help, we encourage you to call us at (720) 753-4030 for more information about our IOP and family programming. 

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