Being a teenager is not easy at times. You are almost an adult, you can drive, people expect you to act like an adult even though the human brain is not fully developed until the early to mid 20’s. Some irritability, mood swings and acting out behaviors are par for the course. Other normal changes include identifying more with a type of music, trying out new hairstyles and involvement in politics. Today is a day of a great show of what impassioned youth can take on in an effort to literally change the world and raise attention regarding climate change. If your teen battles you on political or religious issues, this is considered quite normal as most parents would agree.
With all these new mood changes, when should a parent be worried that their child may be depressed?
Early Signs of depression include:
- Irritability that occurs MOST of the time
- Social isolation: they stop doing their favorite activities or sports
- Excessive sleeping or a lack of sleep
- Chronic Fatigue
- Body aches
Parents may notice that the mood of their teen does not recover quickly as it should and that they stay down or irritable for days. They start to show an increased pattern of isolation. Remember, teens want and need their space and independence, but, if there is a drastic change, be curious and engage. Click here for communication tips with your teen. Teens do tend to rely more on friends to disclose personal information and details about their lives. Dedicate time each week to be present and spend time with them in whatever they or you both enjoy. Stay engaged and involved with their lives, without being overbearing, but, always be attentive to their mood and ready to listen when they want to talk. Don’t be judgmental.
While teenagers naturally start to sleep more, to maintain a good state of physical and mental health, they need to have healthy sleep. Most teens need between 9-9.5 hrs of sleep per night. Allowing your teens to stay up an extra hour (or 2) on the weekend to see their favorite concert or to sleep in an hour or two on the weekend is part of allowing them to start to make grown up choices. Letting a teen sleep in till noon every weekend or stay up till 3 am Friday and Saturday is allowing them to set a bad habit that may stick with them for years. Click here to see ways to help them sleep better if they are having issues.
Fatigue and body aches
Is your teenager suffering from excessive fatigue or body aches? This is not normal. Take a look at what they are eating and how much physical activity they are getting. Athletes get better grades and the benefits persist into college! Physical activity boots the brains level of dopamine and natural endorphins that are protective of depression. Follow their lead on which physical activities they want to do, but, as a parent and psychiatrist I insist that both my children must do at least one physical activity. The neural networks that are build using the motor cortex and cerebellum bathe the entire brain in healthy neurotransmitters that keep all parts of the brain functioning properly. Click here for a great guide to activities that build the executive functioning parts of the teenage brain. For a guide to healthy eating, click here.
In summary, stay attentive and be proactive if you see signs of depression!