Parents Dealing With Anxious Or Depressed Teenagers
Teenage depression is a lot more common than most of us think.
In fact, almost 4% of adolescents between 10 and 19 are vulnerable to or maybe already going through depression and anxiety. The reasons behind this mental health condition can be aplenty- right from bullying and peer pressure to physical illness and childhood trauma. Even genetics can play its part in this regard.
Sadly, many parents expect their anxious and depressed teenagers “to overcome the issue” as they grow older and mature. But ignoring the problem can have serious repercussions on their lives.
So, today, we will tell you about what you can do as parents to help them.
What Are The Signs Of Teen Anxiety Or Depression?
Although episodes of rage, sadness, or irritability are often associated with hormonal changes during teen years, some of them can also be symptoms of depression. As such, you should keep an eye out for:
- Changes In Behavior
Behavioral changes can manifest in many ways in teens- from sudden changes in the sleeping pattern to a lack of interest in school or social life in general. Many depressed teens also seek respite from drugs and alcohol, which brings the added risk of addiction. Aside from that, unexplained episodes of anger, oversensitivity to criticism, or isolation from friends and family can be signs of teen depression.
Surprisingly, frequent complaints of physical pains and aches, especially without any definite medical reason, can be a strong indication of depression. This is one sign that separates teen depression from adult depression.
- Emotional Changes
If your teenager feels sad, empty, alone, frustrated, or hopeless without any apparent reason, he or she may be going through depression. These emotions may also affect other aspects of their life. For instance, they may become more self-critical or fixate on past mistakes. Or, you may often notice them breaking down, which, in hindsight, results from the overwhelming negative feelings.
Moreover, such gloomy emotions can interfere with their physical and mental productivity, meaning they may start performing less in school and sports. Or, they may have trouble focusing on things and lose interest in daily activities- even something as essential and basic as eating or bathing.
- Unhealthy Obsession With Death
You may have heard about severe cases of teen depression resulting in self-harm or even suicide. But with proper “attention to detail,” you may detect suicidal thoughts early-on and take the necessary steps to prevent them.
In this regard, notice if your teen kids:
- Suddenly start talking about death
- Start getting injured a lot
- Give away personal belongings without any reason
- Bid goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
- Show an interest in death, suicides, weapons, etc.
- Physical Manifestations
Physical manifestations of depression usually include extreme changes in sleeping and eating patterns. So, if your teenager is sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia, it may be a red flag.
Likewise, changes in appetite and weight may also be considered signs of depression. Your kid may either become too hungry and start shoving food down their mouth or refrain from eating at all. Over time, these changes will reflect in their body weight, causing an unhealthy increase or decrease. And this may, in turn, invite a host of other physical problems.
Some depressed teenagers may also become physically restless, showing signs of agitation like the inability to sit still for long, hand-wringing, or pacing. Furthermore, depressed teens often experience a lack of energy and extreme fatigue, causing them to spend most of their time doing nothing. Or, you may notice slow body movements and speaking in depressed teens.
- Low Self-Esteem
Although low grades and poor academic performance often upset teenagers, an overwhelming sense of low self-esteem or guilt may be warning signs. They may even reach the point of self-detestation.
What Can Parents Do To Help Their Depressed Teenagers?
- Focus On Communication
The first step in helping your depressed teenager is to communicate with them in a non-judgemental way- be someone they can speak to without the fear of being judged. Don’t try to lecture or patronize them, no matter how irrational they may come across. Your understanding and support can make a huge difference in their recovery.
Consider group therapy or signing up for a teen counselling session with a qualified therapist with specific experience with young adults.
Keep in mind that your kid may not tell you everything on the first go. It can take days or weeks before they open up to you, so be gentle and patient. Never try to force them into communicating, as this can cause them to belt up even more.
- Combat Isolation
Social isolation is a vicious cycle- depression causes teenagers to isolate, and being alone can reinforce the problem. Hence, it’s crucial to help your depressed teen reintegrate into his or her social life.
Encourage them to participate in activities that allow them to connect to other people, whether friends or family members. This can include anything from outdoor games to dancing classes or get-togethers. But here again, don’t pressurize them; otherwise, your help may burden them.
Another thing you can do is to motivate them to do volunteering. Helping others and finding a purpose can be a great self-esteem booster for your kids to become more confident about themselves.
- Limit Screen Time
Stress the importance of physical interaction in overcoming the feeling of being lonely or alone instead of spending time online. You can set aside a dedicated time, preferably every day, for family facetime. Make sure to eliminate any distractions during this period, especially the ones caused by their phone notifications.
- Take Care Of Their Physical Health
A healthy body can contribute to a healthy mind, so encourage your teen to look after their physical health. However, this practice doesn’t have to involve boring exercises- it can be something fun like biking or playing basketball. You can even ask them to run errands or walk the pet.
Although emotional support and healthy lifestyle practices play a crucial role, parents should remember these are no substitutes for treatment and medication. Hence, we’d strongly recommend getting in touch with a qualified medical professional without delay to understand the best course of action.
At the same time, it’s important to get your kids involved in the process and plan the treatment according to their preferences and comfort. Even the best psychologists or medicines won’t be able to help if the patient isn’t at ease.
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