Adults are currently overwhelmed with aggressive politics, climate change, and the ongoing pandemic, so what is happening to our teenagers? Teen mental health studies have revealed that the influence of social media and general uncertainty is creating much higher rates of teen anxiety, depression, violence, and suicide.
Many parents don’t know the warning signs for depression or anxiety in teens and frequently experience denial about the symptoms. Unfortunately, that means that parents don’t usually look for help for their kids until the problem has become intrusive, which will take more work to correct.
We’ll talk about a few common signals that your teenager may be struggling with anxiety or depression. The following are common indicators, but there are more. Keep in mind that a doctor will often require at least five ongoing symptoms for two weeks to offer a diagnosis.
- Significant Change in Appetite
Changes in appetite include eating too little, binging, eliminating food groups, or obsessing over specific foods. Junk food isn’t the only culprit― many anxious teenagers may suddenly obsess over “healthy food” in unbalanced ways. Poor nutrition can be one of the signs of depression in teens as a lack of motivation or feelings of worthlessness. It can also be a sign of anxiety in teens as a form of control.
- Significant Disruption in Sleep
Sleep disruption refers to either sleeping so much or so little that your teen regularly misses important activities, misses meals, or doesn’t complete schoolwork. General fatigue is a common symptom of poor quality sleep. Even if your teenager seems to be sleeping the average amount, they may not feel well-rested because their brain is processing complex thoughts and emotions.
- Withdrawing from Human Connection
Teenagers are stereotyped for wanting to be alone. While some of this behavior is normal, you should watch for teens withdrawing from all forms of direct human interaction. For example, if they no longer hang out with friends and family members, this may be linked to a sense of worthlessness or be a form of social anxiety.
- Uncharacteristic Outbursts of Anger
Again, teenagers are often characterized as bigger, moodier toddlers. However, if your teen has generally been sweet, kind, or happy and is suddenly angry and yelling regularly, this may be a red flag for mental health.
- Grades Dropping
Most kids have a predictable grade average― if their grades drop suddenly, they may be suffering from mental health issues.
- Sudden loss of interest in Hobbies
Abruptly losing interest in hobbies is one of the top signs of depression in teens. It can also reveal anxiety, particularly social or performance anxiety.
How Do You Help?
Focus your efforts through the principles of empathy and support― this mindset will help you determine what will best help your unique teenager. Some ideas include:
- Ask open questions before pointing out new behaviors.
- Share times where you have felt overwhelmed, scared, afraid, or angry.
- Do an activity while you talk to ease the pressure of the conversation.
- Listen to what they say. It may not be what you thought.
- Research teen depression and anxiety.
- Talk with your family doctor.
Remember that mental health is a common problem― many families suffer together, and help is available.