Have you ever called your teen lazy or thought them unmotivated? You are not alone. But it could be more than just apathy. The lack of drive and motivation are also symptoms of depression, and those with depression are often perceived as lazy at first glance. Do you believe depression is real? Do you wonder if it looks the same in teens as it does in adults?
As a therapist, I frequently see teens suffering from depression. Often the biggest struggle is getting the teen, as well as their parents, to understand what is going on--what depression is, what it is not, and what to do once it’s diagnosed.
Let me begin with a story of a 15 year old girl who is having a hard time in school. She is unmotivated and irritable. Her parents can’t seem to ever say the right thing to her. She hates going to school, and seems annoyed all of the time. She spends a large amount of time alone or in her room, withdrawn from those around her despite having many friends who want to socialize. She spends a lot of time crying but never talks about what is bothering her. She doesn’t seem to care about anything that used to be important to her like hanging out with her friends, or playing sports. Her parents wonder, “What happened to our sweet, fun-loving daughter?”
Depression, like the flu, has symptoms. These symptoms can be no more willed away than the muscle aches or fever that come with the flu. Before you diagnose your child with depression, there are specific criteria that need to be met. Here are some warning signs:
Additionally, research has shown that young teens and young adults suffer from depression more than older adults. Here are a few reasons why, often circling around the normal physical and social development of adolescents and the stress that comes with it:
Moreover, teens with low self-esteem, who are highly critical of themselves, or have a family history of depression are at a greater risk for depression.
If you are concerned that your teen may be showing signs of depression, breathe, and then have a talk with them. Identify any changes in their environment that may have contributed to their change in mood. Let them know that you love and support them and that they can talk with you at any time about anything.
Finally, do NOT diagnose your teen; get real help. Schedule an evaluation and assessment with a qualified therapist in your area. God works powerfully through gifted professionals. The 15 year old in the example above was suffering from depression and in talking with her therapist, she learned healthy ways of coping with and managing her depressive symptoms and started to re-engage with her friends and family over time. Depression is a medical condition; with a professional's help, it can be treated! God is faithful to walk with us through every season of life and there is no challenge beyond his capacity to heal.