What to Do if You Think Your Child is Depressed

It can be incredibly painful to realize that your child may be depressed. It’s awful watching someone you love suffering, and many people experience strong feelings of self-blame. They can become isolated, and some even become depressed themselves.

If you seek treatment for your child as early as possible, you give them the best chance at recovery and at living a normal and happy life.

What is depression?

Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a diagnosable mental health condition that can go on for months or even years at a time.

When people are feeling depressed, they can lose all motivation, and as a result, struggle to take care of themselves or to take any positive steps to improve their lives. Left untreated, people with depression are at a serious risk of suicide or other self-harming behavior. Luckily, however, there are a lot of treatment options available.

Symptoms of depression in teenagers

Depression can be hard to spot in teenagers. It’s a time of life where mood swings can be quite commonplace. However, if you feel that your teen is spending more of their time feeling bad than they are feeling good, or you notice the development of any of the following symptoms, it may be that they are depressed:

  • Sadness and anxiety

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Joking about death and dying, or making statements like ‘everyone would be better off if I were dead.’

  • Memory loss

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Failing to take care of themselves, for example, not eating properly or not paying attention to personal grooming

  • Disrupted sleep patterns

  • Withdrawal from their friends

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Pains in the lower back, headaches, stomach ache

  • Fatigue

If you notice these symptoms, it is important that you speak with your child and seek a diagnosis from your physician as soon as possible.

How to treat depression

Once you have a diagnosis, there will be a few treatment options available to you. Some of the most powerful options are around encouraging a healthy routine in the home, with plenty of exercise and time outside, as well as nutritious meals. These small measures can go a long way to helping someone with depression.

Medically treating teens for depression may be approached in a number of ways:

  • Medication. Your doctor may recommend a medication to help with the symptoms of depression. Medications used to treat depression can often cause side effects, and it can take some time to find the right medication. Be sure to find out as much as you can about any prescribed medication and keep talking with your doctor - especially if you think that the medication isn’t working as you’d hoped.

  • Psychotherapy. This is a general term for talking about your condition. Psychotherapy is useful for getting to the root cause of the issue and coming up with strategies for dealing with problematic situations in the future. Psychotherapy is a supportive way to set goals for your life and build positive habits and behaviors. 

  • Alternative therapies. There are many alternative treatment options available, such as mindfulness apps or art therapy classes. These aren’t for everyone, but some people find them very helpful.

  • Inpatient therapy. If your child has depression that is quite severe, it can be beneficial to treat them in a secure environment where you know that they will be safe. They will have the opportunity to work intensively with doctors and therapists without the distractions of everyday life.

Get support for yourself

Supporting someone with depression isn’t easy, so be sure that you get some support for yourself, too. That could be in the form of talking with a friend over coffee, or you could even seek out counseling for yourself. Just remember that you can’t help anyone if you burn yourself out!

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