5 Signs Your Teen May Be Depressed

The teen years are often a time of skyrocketing highs and abysmal lows. Hormones in both boys and girls can fluctuate wildly, making your formerly even-keeled child seem volatile and unpredictable. For the most part, the mood swings, changing interests and occasional bad attitudes are a normal part of teens learning to navigate both their physical and intellectual growth. But there are some changes that might be more than the typical ups and downs, and could actually be a sign of depression.

Studies show teen depression is on the rise and at least 20 percent of teens in the U.S. will experience depression at some point in their lives. It’s important for parents to be aware of any changes that indicate something more than normal growing pains and seek professional help for their teens if they think depression is even a slight possibility.

Here are five signs your teen may be suffering from depression.

1. Sleeping Much More (Or Much Less)

Teens definitely need more sleep than adults, and some even need more sleep than younger children. But if your teen suddenly starts sleeping much more than they usually do, or much less, it could be a symptom of a bigger issue. One of the side effects of depression is a deep-seated exhaustion that can make it difficult to function. And anxiety, often a sidebar of depression, can cause insomnia, early wakefulness or other disrupted sleep patterns.

2. Poor Personal Hygiene

While we might think it’s a good thing if our teen doesn’t spend so much time staring into the mirror or caring about the latest clothes or hairstyles, a sudden lack of interest in grooming or hygiene might mean they are depressed. They may also go from dressing well to wearing bulky, oversized or sloppy clothing that hides their bodies, which can signify body image issues.

3. Overeating Or Not Eating Enough

Food is often a comfort for many of us, and for teens with depression, overeating can sometimes be a temporary relief when everything else seems hopeless. On the flip side, depression can also kill the appetite, making it difficult to even enjoy the taste of what used to be a favorite dish. Gaining or losing a lot of weight in a short amount of time may mean there are more serious concerns, as depression often partners with things like bulimia, anorexia or binge-eating. 

4. Critical Self-Talk

Being hyper-critical of oneself is often an unfortunate part of being a teen, but when it turns to more severe talk such as “I’m worthless” or “Why am I even alive,” these comments shouldn’t be dismissed or ignored. Along with putting themselves down, teens may start to engage in self-harm, such as cutting, which can be extremely dangerous. Parents should be aware of general attitudes of futility or pessimism that seem extreme and different from their teen’s usual outlook.

5. No Interest In Former Passions

Depression makes it very difficult for a person to participate in all the things they normally enjoy. If your teen was once a huge soccer fan and abruptly leaves the sport behind, or lets go of other interests that they recently loved, they could be struggling with depression. If your teen isn’t taking up new interests to fill the ones left behind, or isn’t showing enthusiasm for any activities at all, it might be time to talk to him about how he is feeling.