Every teen will have his or her own way of dealing with things. How do you know if your teen is becoming depressed when communication is so limited? How do you know how to go about finding out? None of these signs are for sure signs of teenage depression, but from my experiences with classmates and friends, these are a few possible signs.
The first thing to remember is that you CAN NOT just assume that your teen is depressed because they will not talk to you about themselves. This is normal teenage behavior. I am sorry to say it, but very few teenagers want to talk to their parents about very many things.
The second thing to remember is not to push your teen into talking with you. If they don't want to talk, they won't talk, and nothing you do will make them talk. Trying to force them into conversation is just asking for trouble, and will have the complete opposite effect on you.
One of the small things that you may not notice at first is a depressed teen distancing themself from his or her friends. This can take a while to notice since teens sometimes drift away from certain friends. Pay attention to who your teen hangs out with. They may leave their normal group of friends and begin hanging out with a new group. If this happens, don't make too big of a deal about it because it is not a sure sign of depression. Some teens just have a problem fitting in so they drift from one group to another until finding one where they click.
Another small thing is self-belittlement. If a teen starts making small comments about how they are ugly, or fat, or stupid be sure to say they are beautiful/handsome, perfect-sized, and smart. Although they act as though they think you are stupid for saying this and will disagree, it really does help to make them feel better. A depressed teen is more likely to make themselves feel low than a regular teen, but once again, this is not a sure sign of depression.
One serious sign of depression is a drinking or drug problem. You don't have to track where your teen is every minute of the day, but you do need to watch who they hang out with. If the person they hang out with does drugs or alcohol, your teen is very likely to be offered one of these things. Depressed teens often use these things to "self-medicate". They drugs and alcohol help them to forget their problems and worries, and they begin to become addicted. They start to see that the more they drink or the more drugs they use, the easier it becomes to forget their problems.
Another possible act is that of getting into trouble. Sometimes this is just a normal phase, but others it is more serious. It might be a plea for some attention. Commiting minor acts to get into trouble such as skipping class or picking a fight at school may just be their way of wanting you to watch them more closely. It is their way of warning you that they are having trouble.
One of the most serious acts of depression is "cutting" where teens will cut themselves, usually on the arms or legs. Different teens have different ways of doing this. Some will cut their wrists and try to cover it up with armbands, or they will cut on the inside of their elbow and wear long-sleeved shirts. Don't assume that a teen wearing an armband or long-sleeved shirt is a cutter. If you begin to notice that you never seem to see them without something covering up a certain place on their arms or legs, you might want to try to check up on it, but don't go completely crazy and make accusations. Cutting is very serious, and the teens that do it are usually seriously depressed.
Remember that none of these signs are set in stone because each teen is different, and if they are depressed, they will show it in their own way. These are just small signs that you may want to look out for. Let your teen know that you are always available to talk and make sure that if they come to you to talk, you make time. If they come to talk and you tell them you are too busy, it makes them feel like their problems aren't worth your time. I know it is frustrating that you can only talk on the teen's terms, but it is better to just talk when they want to. Remember to be patient, understanding, and remember not to make it about yourself but to keep it about your child.
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