4 Facts About Teen Depression and How Parents Can Help
Teens are known for being a moody, rebellious, egocentric and emotional bunch. But while this is normal adolescent behavior, depression is a real disorder that affects one in 20 teens (point prevalence statistic from Essau & Dobson, 1999).
According to Michael Strober, Ph.D, clinical psychologist and senior consultant to the Pediatric Mood Disorders Program at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, depression in teens is “a serious mental health problem” which isn’t necessarily temporary. “Depression can linger for months and a significant number of young people can have a recurrence,” he said.
Here, Dr. Strober along with Alice Rubenstein, Ed.D, a clinical psychologist in private practice who treats teens, dole out the facts about this commonly misunderstood disorder.
1. Depression goes beyond moodiness.
Temperamental teens are common. But moodiness doesn’t mean depression, Dr. Rubenstein said. Neither does sleeping a lot, which is typical for teens; they actually require more sleep than adults and have trouble falling asleep early. (See more on sleep in teens here.)
So how do you know the difference between normal teenage doldrums and depression? Consider if there’s been “a real change in the functioning of [your] child’s behavior,” Strober said. You also might notice changes in appetite and sleep, poor school performance, an inability to concentrate, lack of interest and withdrawal from regular social activities.
“Agitation and irritability in teens may be a sign of depression” as well, according to Rubenstein. However, research hasn’t shown the presence of increased agitation as a distinct symptom, Strober said.
In general, look for consistent patterns. “If depression lasts more than two, certainly three weeks, you want to pay attention,” she said.