When to Seek Treatment for Depression

According to data provided by the National Institutes of Mental Health, approximately seven percent of adults in the United States will experience symptoms of a major depressive disorder in any given year. Many of these individuals will only experience these symptoms once in their lives, typically directly related to a specific event.

However, others with major (or clinical) depression will experience an ongoing battle of health and relapse that will occur throughout their lives. It can be challenging to determine if the symptoms your teen is experiencing are related to passing sadness or related to teen clinical depression. Below we have listed several signs that can serve as a guide to help you determine if it may be time to seek depression treatment for your teen. According to the most recent publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), one should seek treatment if any of these symptoms have been present for a period of two weeks or longer.

Feelings of Hopelessness

It is not uncommon for teens to feel sad as a result of a specific event such as grief from a relationship breakup, loss of a family member, or other difficulties they may be experiencing in their day-to-day lives. These feelings are normal and usually temporary for most people. However, unrelenting hopelessness or consistent depressive emotions such as crying, feelings of emptiness, and ongoing day-to-day misery for more than two weeks may be indicative of a deeper problem. When these emotions and symptoms are present daily and affect your teen’s typical daily lives, there is a strong possibility that they could be experiencing clinical depression. It may be best to consider professional assistance at an adolescent treatment center in Southern California.

Persistent Inability to Concentrate

Everybody has moments where we forget things that we should remember. For example, you may forget where you put your keys, leave the remote control in the refrigerator, or be completely unable to recall your sister’s husband’s name. Everyone has days where they experience brain fog or feel completely scatterbrained. However, clinical depression involves a lack of concentration and difficulty making decisions that may affect your teen’s performance at school or in any other responsibilities that they may have. You may notice that they are finding it more difficult to concentrate or have a hard time remembering things that they typically can recall with ease. Your teen may also experience trouble making decisions to solve problems that under normal circumstances would not be particularly stressful or difficult. Depression and its associated symptoms can slow down a person’s thinking process, making it hard to stay on track both personally and academically.

Unexplained, Persistent Aches and Pains

For decades now, it has been well known that depression is not just a mental disorder. Depression could also take a toll on your physical health. A recent study of clinical depression patients showed that nearly 69% of people who met the depression criteria also consulted their primary care provider for chronic, unexplained aches and pains throughout their body. Examples of these aches and pains could include sore muscles, headaches, stomach aches, and chest pains. Interestingly, many mood disorders also present with a surprising array of symptoms, some of which are physical in nature. If you notice that your teen is having more headaches or is experiencing pain and discomfort throughout their body without a logical explanation, it may be time to consider talking to their primary care provider or therapy provider about clinical depression.

Apathy or Lack of Interest in the Things They Liked to Do

One early indicator of depression is often a loss of interest in things your teen once found pleasurable. For example, maybe they were a person who loves movies, music, or a variety of other hobbies. When someone is experiencing depression, even forcing themselves to engage in their favorite activities or hobbies feels like a chore. Once enjoyable experiences now do not provide the same pleasure that they used to. This kind of apathy to the things that once brought joy or excitement is a significant red flag for depression. If you notice that your teen is much less excited about attending sporting events or going out with friends, consider consulting with their doctor as soon as you see these changes. Ongoing apathy or lack of interest can negatively affect not only your teen but those around them and increases the risk for a significant depressive episode.

Alcohol or Drug Abuse

According to various studies, roughly 20% of those with anxiety or another mood disorder such as depression, also have a substance abuse disorder. Conversely, about 20% of those struggling with a substance abuse disorder also have a co-occurring anxiety or mood disorder. If you notice any of the common signs or symptoms of increased substance use in your teen, it is essential that you seek help immediately.

Changes in Sleep Habits and Fatigue

Another primary symptom of depression is disturbances in your teen’s typical sleeping patterns. These changes in sleeping habits are not the same across the board. For some, they may sleep too little and have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Others may sleep too much and have trouble staying awake or even getting out of bed. Sleep disorders in and of themselves do not cause depression; however, insomnia, irregular sleep, and oversleeping can play a significant role in the fluctuations in mood so common in depression and other mood disorders.

Ongoing changes in sleep patterns can also lead to exhaustion an abnormal feeling of fatigue. These feelings can occur even if your teen isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. You may notice that they like the energy out of bed and find simple things like going to school or doing homework overwhelmingly exhausting.

Changes in Appetite and Weight

Changes in appetite and, consequently, changes in weight are a prevalent symptom of depression. Depending on how an individual handles their depressive symptoms, they may binge eat on everything from Donuts, ice cream, and pizza in an effort to relieve the pain associated with their depressive symptoms. On the other hand, others will simply stare at the dinner plate with no appetite or interest in food whatsoever. Either way, a significant change in appetite and body weight (of more than five percent) in under one month can signal chronic depression.

Irritability, Agitation, and Moodiness

Another red flag of depression is heightened irritability, agitation, and moodiness. While many teens experience some or all of these emotions with relative frequency, depression makes little things all the more frustrating. Perhaps you have noticed they are bickering with family members more often or more likely to lash out at friends or significant others. Depression often hides behind the veil of anger or frustration. Also, anger can present as thoughts of self-harm or the desire to harm someone else. If you notice any of these symptoms in your teen, it is vital to seek treatment at a center specializing in teen mental health such as Hillcrest.

Feelings of Worthlessness and Guilt

Feelings of guilt and worthlessness often creep in at the onset of depression. Teens who struggle with depression often find it quite challenging to turn off their personal criticisms of themselves. They may also feel preoccupied with their perceived lack of achievements or spend too much time focusing on imagined failures and flaws. These chronic thoughts centered around why they think they are “not good enough” can sometimes trigger a dangerous spiral of negative emotions that at best worsens mood and, at worst, can lead to self-harm.

Thoughts of Death, Suicide or Self-Harm

Depression - Hillcrest

If you notice signs of self-harm, seek help for your teen immediately. A few things to watch for include visible signs of cutting or burning. Also, look for changes in your teen’s dressing habits. If sweatshirts and long-sleeve tops have replaced t-shirts and tank tops, it may be a sign they are attempting to cover up signs of self-harm. Beyond self-harm, if your teen begins to talk of suicide or death with frequency, you should seek treatment immediately. If you notice they’re using phrases like “things would be better if I weren’t here,” “nobody cares if I live or die,” “I would be better off dead” or similar, these are significant warning flags of depressive symptoms and accompanying suicidal ideations for which treatment is vital for the safety of your teen. One other sign to watch for along these lines is talk of harming others. Sometimes, the anger and frustration associated with depression can lead people to act out in ways they would not, if not for depression. If you notice your teen talking of death or harming or hurting others, it is time to speak to someone about their symptoms and seek treatment for their mental health needs.

At Hillcrest, we understand how difficult it can be to watch your teen struggle with depression. Your once happy, active child has slowly grown isolated and disinterested in those things that once brought them pleasure. You may also notice physical symptoms associated with the onset of depression that are disturbing and bring about worry and fear for both yourself as a parent and your teen. Depression comes in different forms. For some, it is a short-lived, one-time event. However, others may struggle with depressive episodes for many years. But, on a positive note, depression is treatable. With an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan designed around your teen’s needs, our treatment team at Hillcrest can help your teen and your family develop a better understanding of their illness. Through treatment, we can help your teen learn healthy and positive coping strategies they can use when experiencing events or emotions that could trigger a relapse in their symptoms. If you are curious about Hillcrest and how our programs can help your teen, contact us today.