The first thing to remember is that while teenagers are often almost full grown on the outside, their minds still have up to ten years or more to develop fully. Many teenagers are going through chemical changes in the body and brain which cause stress all by itself. Yes, mere existence is stressful for a teenager based on biological changes.
Next, there are outside factors. We see things that cause teenager stress and anxiety and often laugh at the 'simple problems' of teenagers, ignoring two significant considerations: The first is the chemical changes in the brain that make things more stressful. A teenagers brain is more akin to an adult brain coming off of a 100 hour work week. With the workload of school, combined with puberty causing sleep disruptions alone, a teenage mind is in a constant state of exhaustion. Remember those days when you fly into a rage at something simple like forgetting to empty a dishwasher after an unusually long day? The teenage brain is like that for five years straight.
Another thing to consider is the impending doom of adulthood soon. As we talked about above, we have the teenager seemingly unable to cope with the simplest of choices such as what to eat or wear. Now imagine this level of stress on such a small issue and then apply it to the problems of adulthood. In just a few short years, this child who can barely manage waking up and getting dressed in an orderly fashion is going to have to be working and paying bills and managing their own house. We parents stop and reflect on this throughout our lives in terror with years of experience. Now image the prospect of being thrown into the void as a child.
Teen suicide and other dangerous behaviors are at all-time highs. We no longer have the luxury of ignorance and ignoring our children's mental well being. It is crucial to be mindful of your teen's mood and to take steps to help rather than ignore or punish depression and its related behavior.
The main things to look for are many of the same signs you see in adults. Loss of appetite or sleep, an increase in wanting to be alone, weight changes, low self-esteem and problems at school are all common signs.
It is also important to remember that exhibiting some signs of depression may not necessarily mean they are depressed. Recognizing the symptoms is why it is critical to talk to your kids. Having an open and honest relationship with your child is important as they reach the teenage years. If you do not have a positive relationship, trying to create one when you get worried is too late. Before you make any assumptions, it is good to find out why behavior changes are occurring. Sometimes there may be perfectly reasonable explanations for some behaviors which you will not know without conversation.
If your teen is facing depression, it is essential for them to feel safe and secure in talking to you and finding a responsible remedy. Some depression is normal in teens, but if this is an ongoing or severe problem that can cause further problems, help may be needed. It is critical that we raise our children to understand there is no shame in getting help before it is too late. If you are worried about your teen and are not sure how to approach the situation, please call our office, and we can discuss how to help.