Depression is a common but serious illness that can affect anyone, even children. About 5 percent of children and adolescents in the general population suffer from depression at any given point in time. However, many teens don’t get help. Unlike adults, your teen has to rely on you, teachers or other caregivers to get the help they might need.
But since moodiness is a natural part of being an adolescent, how do you know if your teen is simply dealing with the ups and downs of adolescence or if it is something more serious like depression? Felicity Adams, M.D., program director of Carilion Clinic’s Child and Adolescent Pshychiatry, shares what signs parents need to look for.
Dr. Adams noted that the signs of depression can sometimes be subtle, but there are several common symptoms:
1. Sadness or hopelessness
2. Irritability, anger or hostility
3. Withdrawal from friends and family
4. Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
5. Changes in eating and sleeping habits
6. Restlessness and agitation
7. Feelings of worthlessness
8. Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
9. Lack of energy or fatigue
10. Difficulty concentrating And while some of the symptoms listed above are similar to the symptoms of depression in adults, other signs can be quite different.
“Adolescents may be more irritable when they are depressed and that is not always the case in adults,” explained Dr. Adams. “Children might also present with signs of physical illnesses such as stomach aches and headaches and they might not want to go to school.”
Fortunately, depression is a treatable condition and most people that are treated do get better. The first step is recognizing it and getting help.
NOTE: If your teen is hurting himself or talking about suicide, please seek medical help immediately as these can be signs of a serious mental health issue. If you are in the western Virginia region and you are concerned about the mental health of your child or a loved one, call CONNECT. CONNECT is a confidential, 24-hour emergency evaluation and referral service that is available at no cost to members of our community. CONNECT is staffed by psychiatric nurses and clinical social workers who are trained to help people connect to the psychiatric and behavioral medicine support they need to function well.