By Savannah Winters, CSW
Based on our parent night in January, I thought I’d recap what we discussed for those who could not attend. One of the big topics we covered was knowing the difference between normal teenage ‘down’ days and actual depression.
Teenagers are especially susceptible to depressed emotions as they try to figure out who they are as an individual. It is a trying time as teens gain more independence from parents and form their own identity. There are a lot of moving pieces pulling teens from one spectrum of lifestyle to another, and it can be overwhelming at times for teenagers to find where they want to fit in.
Here are three of the signs of normal emotional range versus clinical depression to help you understand where your teen is operating.
-Depressed Emotion vs. Depressed Mood
Everyone knows what it feels like to be sad, down, and low. It is actually healthy to feel these emotions in times of grief such as the end of winter break from school, a bad grade after studying hard, or breaking up with a boyfriend. Allowing ourselves to feel down at times is a normal reaction to triggering events, and allows us to build resiliency and coping skills for the future as we process our emotions. These emotions come and go with various events.
Depressed mood is when sadness or feelings of being low does not go away. This is often visible in a person’s general countenance and energy level. According to clinical diagnosis, depressed mood should be present for more days than not for two weeks to be considered actual depression.
-Specific Interests vs Loss of Interest
It is normal for teens to experiment with new hobbies, friend groups, and value systems as they grow. This can be difficult for families because it often means that teenagers would rather spend time with friends than parents or siblings. However, loss of interest in activities that once gave your child joy coupled with a resistance to try new things that seem like activities they would normally like to do may point to deeper depression.
-Alone time vs Isolation
It is important for everyone to take time for themselves, including teenagers. It is part of understanding who we are and who we want to become. If a teen is upset or angry, taking some time alone can also be a healthy way to calm down. Also consider if your teen is really ‘alone’ when they are on their own. Often, teens are still interacting with others through instagram, text, or other social medias even though they appear to be alone in a room. On the other hand, isolation entails distancing oneself from social contact at all. This can be seen in avoiding interactions with family, friends, and other social groups.
So, what can you do about it?
If you are concerned about your teen being depressed, talk to them. Create frequent moments where open communication would be welcome. This would ideally be in a quiet place without distractions from others. On a car ride to the grocery store, making dinner together, or taking a few extra minutes to recap the day before saying goodnight. It does not need to be formal, and if your teen is hesitant to say anything, don’t force it. Talk about yourself and how your day went. Building trust and showing open communication on your end will help build a safe relationship for your teen to confide in you when they feel ready. Parents have more influence on teens than they let you believe. If you feel like your son or daughter needs official counseling, call us at 801-789-7780.