3 Early Indicators of Teen Depression
Teen depression is a dangerous and frightening illness. Treatment with therapy and medication is available and effective, but few teens have the resources to seek it for themselves. If you learn to recognize some of the common early indicators of teen depression, you may be the lifeline that a young person needs.
Declining Performance in School
A drop in grades is often one of the first things parents and teachers notice when a teen becomes depressed. Good students may start to get average or poor grades on assignments. They may struggle to pass tests, and they may drop out of clubs and sports teams.
There are a couple of reasons why depression may lead to poor performance in school. Depressed teens may find their schoolwork overwhelming. The illness can disrupt their focus and sap their energy to the point that simply functioning is all they can do. There’s nothing left for homework and paying attention in class.
Teens who know their parents and teachers expect good grades may see declining school performance as the best way to ask for help. They know it will be noticed, and they may be counting on the adults to reach out. It’s important for teachers and parents to recognize this as a symptom of depression. If they think the teen is being rebellious or just slacking off, they may attempt to discipline or shame him into doing better. This won’t be effective and may make the situation worse.
Poor Personal Hygiene
It’s very common for depressed teens to neglect their personal hygiene. Of course, many parents think their teens should cut their hair and stop pulling their favorite shirt out of the laundry hamper, but this isn’t depression.
Depression may cause teens to stop washing their hair for a couple of weeks at a time. They may not shower or brush their teeth regularly. They may wear clothes that are visibly soiled. Teens that used to care about wearing fashionable clothes and presenting themselves well may completely lose interest in how they look.
The low energy that characterizes depression is likely the cause for these types of behaviors. A simple act like taking a shower is just too hard. To depressed teens, it can seem like a huge task that they simply can’t do.
It’s important that adults don’t dismiss this as “just a phase.” Sure, teens that used to care about clothes can decide that’s all superficial nonsense, and they may skip brushing their teeth once in a while because they don’t feel like doing it. However, if you find yourself thinking more and more often that your teen just doesn’t look okay, you may have cause for concern.
Change in Eating or Sleeping Habits
It’s normal for healthy teens to change their eating and sleeping habits. They’re going through physical and cognitive changes that require plenty of food and rest. On the other hand, they may be asserting their independence by staying up late and adopting odd diets.
Depressed teens take these normal changes to extremes. Some sleep all night and take naps whenever they can during the day. Others have the opposite problem and find it difficult to sleep at all, even though they’re exhausted.
Depression may cause changes in eating behavior at the two extremes, too. Some depressed teens eat as often and as much as they can, and they may put on a great deal of weight. Others lose their appetite and get no pleasure from eating foods they used to enjoy.
Recognizing these changes as signs of depression helps you respond in the most helpful way. You can understand that the teen is struggling with depression, and you can help her find treatment. Early intervention may make treatment more effective, and it definitely means teens will lose fewer days of their lives to depression.