Beyond the Blues: Teen Depression

Depression distinguishes itself from the “blues” because it's longer in duration and more intense in nature. In addition, it's an illness that can lead to some other serious problems (considering suicide, running away, joining a cult, and so on). Being aware of some of the warning signals of depression may help you spot a problem in time:

Tuning In

You really have to judge the “signs of depression” listed here against your teen's usual behavior. If your daredevil teen likes to experiment and take risks, that alone might not indicate a problem. But in a less adventurous teen, a sudden interest in experimentation might be something a parent or professional should take note of.

  • Changes in mood. Sadness, dejection, listlessness, and hopelessness are signals of depression, as are a loss of pleasure or enthusiasm in activities your teen formerly enjoyed. Some teens may exhibit extreme mood swings.
  • Changes in behavior. When you think of depression, you usually imagine someone who's very sad, but that isn't always the case. While dejection or hopelessness can certainly indicate depression in adolescents, there's also a strong likelihood that depression may be indicated by other types of behavior: rebellious behavior (by someone who usually doesn't rebel), or any type of defiant, antisocial behavior that isn't normal for your teen.
  • Changes in mental processes. If your teen consistently displays an inability to concentrate, memory lapses, loss of self-esteem, guilt, paranoia, or unusual anxiety, look into it!
  • Changes in biological functions. Not being hungry, or the opposite—overeating, seeming overly tired for the amount of physical activity, or sleep disturbances can also signal trouble.
  • School problems. If your teen shows a sudden change in school performance, has recurring problems with teachers, or habitual truancy, these, too, are warning signs.
  • Psychosomatic health complaints. While there may not be a physiological cause, your teen is, indeed, trying to tell you that “something hurts.” Don't dismiss frequent medical complaints for lack of cause.
  • Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Drug and alcohol use may come about for many reasons, but if you suspect your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, get involved.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager © 1996 by Kate Kelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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