Recognizing & Acknowledging Depression in Adolescents

May 30, 2020

by Megan Teperman

Author: Megan Teperman, MS, LAC, NCC – Primary Therapist at Center For Wellness (with additions by Gagandeep Singh, MD – Founder/Medical Director at Center For Wellness)

“High school is supposed to be fun, and it can be, but for too many of my peers, it’s a daily battle just to get through the day” (Beach, 2018).

Adolescence can be challenging in many ways, and can become more complicated when mental health struggles are thrown in the mix! As therapists, acknowledging these struggles as reality for our clients is important to help build the therapeutic relationship which can allow for adaptive, healthy growth and healing. Assisting young children and teenagers with learning about depression and anxiety in ways they can understand is instrumental in attaining the strength and tools needed to attain a healthier sense of mental health.

Young clients sometimes struggle with everyday life due to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Inability to go to school, difficulty with completing schoolwork, low motivation, limited ability to focus, low ability to communicate, limited insight, and emotional dysregulation are just some of the ways therapists witness young clients suffer from unmanaged/unhealthy mental health.  These can be in addition to the more overt symptoms of sadness, loss of interest, poor concentration, sleep and appetite changes, and isolation.  At an extreme, thoughts of hopelessness and self-harm can occur. Many times, young children and teens are unable to recognize that what they are experiencing is much more common than they originally thought.

The stigma against mental health is beginning to change, more young children, adolescents, and teenagers are willing to come out to talk about their mental health struggles, creating a new ‘norm’ in which the environment to grow and heal is much more available to young people struggling with these symptoms. Gaining the perspective that they are not alone in feeling a certain way, thinking certain thoughts, or acting out through certain behaviors, allows young clients to become more comfortable with becoming vulnerable and to allow others to help them.

It can be difficult for a parent to recognize symptoms or to approach the conversation with an adolescent that might be struggling. “Most parents, 85%, thought their child would ask them for help if feeling depressed … The best way to get kids to talk is to just be present” (Pawlowski, 2019). Getting the conversation started can be the hardest part, but making the effort to be there is a big sign for an adolescent, who might be struggling with ‘being heard’. Every adolescent is unique and might require a certain therapeutic approach, and hopefully the conversation can be had to help get to that point!  Please reach out to Center For Wellness if you are struggling with the symptoms of depression noted above.

Additional information can be found on our Depression page.