How Depression Can Look in Teens

Do you think you see signs of depression or suicide in your child?

When it comes to teenagers, it can sometimes be difficult to separate normal growing pains and serious problems that need help — especially when it comes to their mental health. It's important to not only know the symptoms of depression and warning signs of suicide but how mental illness can present itself in teens specifically.

Symptoms of Depression in Teens

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Think about how long you have noticed the symptoms in your teen, how severe they are, and how this differs from their normal behavior. While some “growing pains" are to be expected as teenagers grapple with the challenges of growing up, dramatic and long-lasting changes in personality, mood or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem.

How Teen Depression Can Manifest

Problems at school: Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.

Running away: Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. You should view both as cries for help.

Drug and alcohol abuse: Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate" their depression.

Low self-esteem: Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure and unworthiness.

Internet addiction: Teens may go online to escape their problems, but excessive computer use can increase their isolation.

Reckless behavior: Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking and unsafe sex.

Severe depression can lead to thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Know these warning signs so you can get the help your child needs.

Suicide Warning Signs in Teens

  • Talking or joking about committing suicide
  • Saying things like, “I'd be better off dead," “I wish I could disappear forever," or “There's no way out."
  • Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more")
  • Writing stories and poems about death, dying, or suicide
  • Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
  • Seeking out weapons, pills, or similar items

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