The adolescent years can be tough for both parents and teens. The coming of age brings so many emotions that parents may wonder if their child’s moodiness or changes in behavior are something to be concerned about or are just a rite of passage. Depression is a serious mental health condition, so it’s important to be vigilant to the signs.
Dr. Keith Cheng, who is an adolescent psychiatrist and the chief medical officer at Trillium Family Services in Oregon, gives several symptoms of potential depression that parents should watch for:
- Expressing a lack of self-worth or self-esteem
- Experiencing periods of melancholy that persist beyond two weeks
- “Cutting” or other self-harm behaviors
- Losing interest in things or activities once important
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
While depression can be genetic in origin, Cheng says it can also be situational. A break-up or bullying incident is probably much more traumatic for teens and adolescents than it would be for adults. Cheng also says that depression can be triggered when certain developmental milestones are not achieved causing youngsters to feel cut-off from their peers. One example of this provided by Cheng is the child who feels left out at school because he doesn’t have a cell phone like everyone else.
If parents suspect there may be a problem, a good first step is to make an appointment to see the child’s primary care physician. This way, any physical health concerns such as anemia, hypothyroidism, or a deficiency in vitamin D, which can affect energy levels and mood, can be ruled out. Ensuring kids get proper nutrition, sleep and exercise is also important for development and mood regulation.
Children with depression may try and isolate themselves from their families. Parents should still try and maintain open lines of communication and encourage their kids to talk about their feelings on a regular basis.
Depression is a highly treatable disease. There are a number of successful treatment options, and not all involve medication. Family Guidance Center is a local community resource for parents wanting to know more about depression and other mental health disorders. To learn more or set up a free screening, contact Family Guidance Center.