Is My Child Depressed?

One of the most serious behavioral problems among troubled teenagers is depression. It is essential that parents recognize when a pre-adolescent or adolescent child is depressed, because treatment is more effective with early intervention. The more serious consequence of untreated depression can be risk of suicide. Therefore, any indication that a child has been depressed for six months or more should be treated in the same way you would if you saw signs of physical disease in that child.

One of the obstacles facing parents is that the child may simply seem like what many believe is a “normal teen”-angry, belligerent, irritable, and hostile. These behaviors when isolated to events or short periods of time may well be the growing pains of adolescence, but when they extend beyond a six-month period and seem intractable and entrenched, parents need to seek intervention before more serious indications arise.

The typical signs of depression are:

  • Adolescent feels “low” most of the time
  • Adolescent is irritable, especially when pressed to be more active
  • Weight loss or weight gain (more than 10% of normal weight)
  • Insomnia or sleeplessness, or the opposite, excessive need for sleep
  • Low energy, seemingly the teen has no “get up and go”
  • Child says things that indicate low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts, ideation, or threats (with or without a plan)
  • Drop in grades
  • Drop in social activities, interactions with peers, or sudden change in friends
  • Teenager cannot seem to make a decision
  • Low frustration level
  • Frequent bouts of crying, often “for no reason”
  • Lack of interest in their usual activities (social, family, academic, extracurricular)

If your child says certain tell-tale things that indicate depression, and stays in this “state of mind” for more than six months, it is time to seek outside therapy or other interventions. Typical statements repeated are:

  • I don’t know why I bother, what’s the point of anything
  • I wish I were dead
  • I can’t do anything right. I’m worthless. (Or variations on this theme)

If your teenager seems stuck in a pattern that includes some of these behaviors, it is time to seek therapy and make sure your child is properly treated should he or she be suffering from depression.