The teenage years can perhaps be best described as a time of physical, emotional and social tumult. Changes happen so rapidly in adolescence, that neither child nor parent really knows how to cope. Teenagers often become more detached from their family during this time. In fact, parents become less important in their teenager’s eyes, as their life outside the family develops. While this is a normal and healthy part of development, it is not an easy place for parents to be. They must be able to let go of their children while still recognizing the warning signs of adolescent depression. This can be difficult because some moodiness is normal during the teenage years.
Here are 5 signs that your teen may be suffering from atypical depression and asking for help.
1. Mood Swings
Thanks to the cocktail of hormones suddenly surging through a teenager’s body, it is quite normal for them to have mood swings. So how can you tell what’s normal and what is a sign of mental illness? You have to trust your parental instincts here. You know your child better than anyone and should be able to recognize any significant shift in mood. Particularly look for mood shifts that seem to have no root cause. Adolescent depression can show up in irritability, not just sadness.
2. A Change in Behavior
It is normal for a teenager to have a certain kind of behavioral change. Normal changes include challenging authority a bit more and claiming their independence. What’s not normal is for your child to suddenly start presenting as a different person to you. This can be a sign of adolescent depression.
3. Substance Abuse
Most teens experiment a bit with drugs and alcohol. But you should see red flags if your teenager is chronically abusing substances and coming home drunk or high on a fairly regular basis. It is especially important to act immediately if your family has a history of substance abuse. Don’t shy away from stepping in – it could mean the difference between life and death for you child.
Those teens who are experiencing significant emotional turmoil may choose to take their emotions out on themselves by cutting, hitting or hurting themselves in some other manner. If you notice cuts or scrapes, ask your kiddo about them. Odds are, if they are symmetrical, it wasn’t running into a bush or playing with the cat.
5. Talk of Suicide
While teenagers can definitely be prone to drama and overreacting to events, no parent should ever ignore talk of suicide. With teen suicide rates on the rise, particularly among girls, any mention or attempt should immediately result in professional help.
If you or someone you know has a teenager who is showing one or more of these signs and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to help.