Adolescence is a turbulent time for almost everyone! Teens experience a lot of stress at school, in their social circles, and at home. They are struggling to explore and assert their identities, make and navigate important friendships, and they are starting to date. Puberty, increased academic stress and extra-curricular activities are a lot to manage. Teenagers are known to be moody, but how do you know when teenage angst is something to worry about? The following five tips will let you know if it's time to talk to your teen about how they are feeling, and seek outside help if necessary.
1. Tearfulness or Depressed Mood
If your child is tearful, seems sad, or "down in the dumps" for most of the day, every day, it may mean that they are experiencing depression. It is normal for teens and adults alike to experience sadness, but if that sadness is persistent, it could be cause for addressing the issue.
2. Sleeping Too Much or Not Enough
Teens are notorious for staying up late and sleeping in, they are also growing and changing, and may require more sleep than usual. However, if your teen is sleeping a lot more than usual or is having trouble sleeping, this is a strong indicator of depression. Depressed individuals find it difficult to get out of bed, or they may feel like, "what is the point?" Sometimes people are so worried or dysphoric that sleep is difficult for them. If you notice this behavior in your teen, talk to them about it.
3. Loss of Interest or Pleasure in Activities Previously Enjoyed
Do you notice that your teen used to love spending time with family, playing games, or singing and dancing, but now they have lost interest? A symptom of depression is losing interest in activities that used to be pleasurable. It's normal for interests to shift and change as your child does, but the key thing to look for is a zest for life, or passion. If your child is excited about doing things they enjoy, that is a good sign. However, if your child has become ambivalent or just not interested in anything, chances are they may be depressed.
4. Excessive Weight Loss or Weight Gain
If your child is not dieting and they gain or lose a significant amount of weight, this could be a symptom of depression. Also be aware of a change in eating patterns.
5. Excessive Guilt of Feelings of Worthlessness
Keep tabs on your child's self-esteem. Depressed people can be irrationally hard on themselves. They experience the world through a negative lens, and view themselves with extreme negativity. Ask your child about what they are good at, or proud of and gage their response. Notice any statements that seem strange, or irrationally negative.
6. Inability to Focus
If your child is having a difficult time focusing in class, completing assignments, or seems distracted often, this could be a sign of depression. Notice if your child just seems "off" when it comes to focus and task completion.
7. Fatigue or Loss of Energy
Is your child exhausted or worn out often? Depressed teens not only lose interest in activities that they may have previously enjoyed, but they often do not have the energy to complete tasks. If this seems to be affecting daily life, it may be cause for concern.
8. Psychomotor Agitation or Retardation
Does your teen seem slowed down or "keyed up?" A change in the way they move can be a symptom of depression. This is not just a subjective feeling of slowing down, but a physically observable phenomenon.
9. Thoughts of Suicide
If your child is thinking about death often (not just a fear of death), then this is a clear sign that they need help. If your child starts giving away possessions, discusses their death or funeral, or makes statements like "I'd be better off dead," then PLEASE get your child help immediately.
What to Do If you Notice These Symptoms
Your adolescent may only have some of these symptoms, or all of them. The important thing is to pay attention, talk to your child and ask questions. Do NOT assume that they are lying, or trying to get attention with any of these behaviors. Do NOT yell at your child, get angry with your child, or do nothing. These reactions WILL make your child's depression worse.
Taking your child seriously, listening, acknowledging feelings, and getting the necessary and appropriate help for your child can help. If you notice more than a few of these symptoms, please take your teen to their primary care physician, and get them an appointment with a licensed mental health professional. Counseling can help your child express feelings in a safe environment, work on root causes of depression, and learn healthy coping skills to help manage depression. Medication may also be recommended by your child's doctor to treat depression.
Learn More About Counseling at www.counselingandnaturetherapy.com
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