How to Tell If Your Child Is Just a Normal Teenager or Is Struggling with Depression?

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is your child just a normal teenager or struggling with depression

The negative effects of poor mental health and teenage depression are becoming more apparent every day. It used to be that a person who was ‘sick in the head’ was considered to be crazy.

Through much research and cultural acceptance, mental health issues have become a mainstream discussion.  Teenagers are among the most susceptible to mental health issues. The pressures they face are greater than ever. How do you know if your teenager is experiencing everyday angst or if the problem is more serious?

It can be hard for family members and relatives to recognize teenagers struggling with depression, but there are warning signs to guide you in the right direction.

Depression and Anxiety 

The first step in depression treatment and helping your teen starts with understanding depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities. It can lead to a range of emotional and physical symptoms, including changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and difficulty concentrating.

Depression affects one’s overall quality of life and can be a debilitating condition if left untreated. It often requires professional intervention, such as therapy and medication, to help individuals manage and alleviate their symptoms, ultimately regaining a sense of well-being and emotional balance. 

What causes depression in teens?

Depression in teenagers can be triggered by a combination of factors. Biological factors, like genetics, play a role, as having a family history of depression can increase susceptibility. Hormonal changes during adolescence may also contribute. Environmental factors, such as academic stress, peer pressure, and family issues, can be significant triggers of adolescent depression.

Other mental health conditions, traumatic experiences, substance abuse, and social isolation can worsen depressive symptoms. Identifying these factors and offering support, therapy, or counseling can help teens manage their depression effectively and develop coping strategies.

Symptoms of depression and what to look for include:

  • Child feels sad
  • Child feels hopeless
  • Child has lost interest in something they used to enjoy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased fatigue
  • Changes in appetite, possibly resulting in weight gain or loss

What is Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are quite common. This is when a person carries a feeling of anxiety around with them all the time. It is perfectly normal for one to experience anxiety. Normally, however, those feelings come and goes.

Anxiety becomes a disorder when it dominates a person’s daily life.

For example, if they struggle with a form of social anxiety, they may refuse to eat during the school day because they feel anxious eating in front of others. 

Signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Restlessness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Trouble concentrating


According to the National Institutes of Health, one in three teenagers suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. While that may be a staggering and slightly worrying statistic, it at least gives parents insight into the fact that this is a problem their child may be experiencing. 

Certain risk factors play into whether a person may suffer from a mental health disorder. They include biochemistry, genetics, personality, and environmental factors. Now more than ever, teens feel pressure to succeed. Additionally, the world seems like a scarier place, and they are taught this at a younger age. Social media and a teen’s self-worth are also closely tied.

Any of these possible factors can play a role in your teen’s mental health. 

Tips on How to Approach Your Child to Start a Dialogue 

Speaking to your child about their mental health can be scary for you as it is for them. As a parent, your goal is to get them to talk openly and feel safe. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Unconditional Approachability: Make sure your child knows that you are always there for them, without judgment or criticism. Reassure them that you are available whenever they need to talk.
  2. Validate Their Feelings: It’s essential to acknowledge and validate their emotions. Let them know that their feelings are valid, and it’s okay to feel the way they do. This can provide a sense of acceptance.
  3. Casual Conversations: Sometimes, direct eye contact can be intimidating. Engage in conversations while doing everyday tasks together, like washing dishes or going for a walk. This can help ease tension and make them feel more comfortable.
  4. Gentle Persistence: Gently bring up the topic without being intrusive. Show that you’re genuinely concerned, but respect their boundaries. Let them know that you’re available to talk whenever they’re ready.
  5. Non-Judgmental Approach: Avoid trying to solve their problems immediately or dismiss their concerns. Instead, listen actively and empathetically. Sometimes, all they need is someone to listen without offering solutions.

By following these tips, you can create a safe and supportive space for your child to discuss their mental health problems and concerns, fostering a stronger parent-child connection and helping them navigate their challenges more effectively.

How Can Online Therapy Help? 

Online counseling for teenagers may be an excellent way to address your child’s’ issues. Firstly, lots of online therapy can be completed at any time. A session can take place at a time that is most convenient for your child. Additionally, many teens feel more comfortable using technology rather than speaking face-to-face. Some counseling can even be done anonymously. Online counseling is also cost-effective and may be cheaper than visiting a therapist’s office. 

It is essential finding the right approach to conquering mental health in children. Depression in children is serious. Counseling can save lives. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches of therapy until you find the right one. 

Differences between Teen and Adult Depression

Depression manifests differently in teenagers compared to adults. The following indicators and manifestations are more commonly observed in adolescents:

  1. Irritability or Anger: In depressed teens, irritability often takes precedence over sadness. They may exhibit grumpiness, hostility, frequent frustration, or angry outbursts.
  2. Unexplained Aches and Pains: Depressed teenagers frequently report physical discomfort like headaches or stomachaches. When medical examinations find no underlying issues, these complaints may be linked to depression.
  3. Heightened Sensitivity to Criticism: Feelings of worthlessness make depressed teens exceptionally sensitive to criticism, rejection, or perceived failure, especially among those who strive for high achievement.
  4. Selective Withdrawal: Unlike adults who tend to isolate themselves, teenagers with depression usually maintain some friendships. However, they might socialize less than before, distance themselves from parents, or associate with a different peer group.

Indicators of Suicidal Thoughts in Depressed Adolescents

Teens grappling with severe depression, particularly when compounded by substance abuse, may contemplate, express, or even attempt suicide, and a disturbingly increasing number tragically succeed. It is imperative to treat any signs of suicidal ideation or behaviors with the utmost seriousness, as they serve as a distress call from your teenager.

Here are signs to be vigilant about:

  1. Conversations or jests about self-harm or suicide.
  2. Verbal expressions like “I’d be better off not alive,” “I wish I could vanish forever,” or “There’s no escape.”
  3. Expressing a morbid fascination with death or idealizing it, such as, “If I were gone, people might care about me.”
  4. Creating written works, stories, or poems centered on themes of death, dying, or suicide.
  5. Engaging in reckless actions or experiencing frequent accidents leading to injury.
  6. Giving away cherished possessions.
  7. Bidding farewell to loved ones as if it were the last time.
  8. Actively seeking out means to harm themselves, including weapons, pills, or other self-destructive methods.


There are ample online and in-person resources available to help manage your teenager’s depression and anxiety.

A few helpful resources include:


Society now realizes that mental health issues are common and should be addressed appropriately. It is no longer taboo to work with a mental health professional or admit to having a mental illness. If you suspect your teen is struggling, don’t shy away from the problem. There are many resources available that can help you help your teenager. 

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