Major depression is a serious medical illness that affects 1 in 20 American teenagers. The most serious risk of depression in teenagers is suicide, the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds and the second leading cause of death among college students. Parents should be aware of the symptoms of Major Depression:

  • Depressed, irritable mood or feeling nothing
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Feeling restless or slowed down
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Decreased concentration
  • Feelings of guilt of worthlessness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

The presence of five or more of these symptoms during the same two week period accompanied by significant impairment in functioning may lead to a diagnosis of Major Depression.

While teenagers exhibit many of these symptoms during the course of adolescence, it is the combination of at least 5 of these symptoms over a sustained period of time that is a warning sign that should not be ignored. In fact, teenagers can be moody and exhibit changes in sleeping, eating and concentration without being clinically depressed. So how is a parent to know the difference? Parents should be particularly vigilant for:

  • Negative self-attitude
  • Lack of enjoyment or excitement
  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Social isolation

Parents may wonder if what they are seeing in their teenager is “normal” behavior or something more serious. When in doubt, ALWAYS consult your pediatrician or mental health care professional. Major Depression is a common and treatable illness.  And most importantly:  If your child is asking you for help from a professional, get them help immediately.  Chances are they have been feeling depressed for a long time, perhaps even years, before they have asked.  They are likely in a very bad state of mind by the time they reach out for help.

If you’re looking for support parenting a teenager with mental health concerns, contact me to learn more about my parenting coaching services.