Your child’s teenage years are a unique blend of excitement and challenge. The life changes, the hormones, the peer pressure, and the fear about the future are normal — until they’re not. Yes, your teenager will have mood swings and some issues. But you’ll want to make sure that it’s not more than just the inevitable side effects of this period. You’ll want to be vigilant about the possible presence of depression.

We’re not talking about the occasional sadness everyone feels. Depression is a diagnosable mental health disorder but even so, it can go unrecognized. Therefore, parents and caregivers must learn more in the name of guiding teenagers in their lives.

Causes of Teen Depression

Of course, there are causes for depression at any age, e.g. trauma, genetics, brain changes, and certain medical conditions. That said, during the teen years, there are specific and unique reasons that can introduce depression into your child’s life. For example:

  • Being bullied
  • Struggling at school academically and/or socially
  • Naturally being an introvert or loner
  • The presence of a pre-existing mental issue (like anxiety)
  • Dwelling in a home environment that includes any of the following: chronic illness, loss, divorce, disability, domestic violence, and substance abuse

A relatively new red flag can be too much social media usage. Over-dependence on the digital life can reduce your child’s face-to-face friendships, throw off their sleep habits, cause them to regularly compare themselves to others, and fall prey to the fear of missing out (FOMO). Any of these outcomes can increase the risk of depression.

What Does Teen Depression Look Like?

Some common signs and symptoms to watch for:

  • Palpable shifts in energy levels, socializing, sleep patterns, eating habits, and phone usage
  • Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Less involvement in school activities
  • Poor academic performance
  • Maintaining a negative perspective
  • Switching friend groups and getting involved in risky behaviors
  • Threatening to run away from home
  • Not taking care of their appearance
  • Self-medicating (alcohol, drug, binge eating, online porn, etc.)
  • Talking about self-harm, death, and suicide

As to that last point, never dismiss such talk. Seek help immediately.

How Parents and Caregivers Can Help

An excellent start is to lead by example. Be a role model when it comes to crucial life experiences like honoring your social connections, moderating your own phone use, and maintaining healthy regimens related to sleeping, eating, and exercise. Cook with your children, take walks and play sports with them, and prioritize face-to-face interactions.

A few more suggestions:

  • Enjoy social time together
  • Encourage your teen to invite their friends to your home
  • Set and enforce household boundaries when it comes to devices and screen time
  • Do volunteer work as a family; make kindness a daily part of your lives

Has Your Teen Already Been Diagnosed With Depression?

Participate in Their Care

Without infringing on their privacy and autonomy, find a way to guide your teen to a compatible mental health practitioner. Keep them on track with appointments. If a medication is prescribed, help them with this process while also encouraging natural treatment options. Do all of this without blame or resentment. Stay patient and avoid assigning guilt.

Participate in Your Own Care

A situation like this will add plenty of stress to your life. See this as another opportunity to lead by example. Practice daily self-care and don’t let the added stress cause you to withdraw from your own life. Be kind to yourself and accept the reality that no parent or caregiver has a secret formula for navigating such a scenario.

Therapy is a powerful option for the parent or caregiver of a depressed teen. At our center we use qEEG swLORETA Neurofeedback as one of the approaches to help children and adults with depressive tendencies or who experience mild to moderate depression. To learn more about qEEG swLORETA NF training to help with depression please visit the depression treatment page.