August 18, 2020
20% of teens suffer from depression during their adolescence. So if you’ve been wondering “Is my teenage daughter depressed?”, you probably have a reason. But teens are known for their rebellion, mood swings, and tendency to take risks, right? Although this may be perceived as an overblown stereotype, there’s some truth to it.
How Do You Tell the Difference Between Depression and “Just Being a Teenager?”
Your normal real-life teen has mood swings, gets frustrated with her parents, and probably cops an attitude every now and then. But a healthy teen also gets excited by life, enjoys being with her friends, and has hobbies or interests that she’s passionate about.
If you’re not sure if she’s depressed, it’s okay to get a professional opinion
If you think something is wrong, it’s okay to seek out a mental health professional. You know your daughter better than anyone else. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, listen to it.
If she’s coping with depression, a visit to the therapist’s office is a good place to start from. If she’s clinically depressed, the therapist can assess if she’s suicidal. Confidentiality issues are involved, but a therapist can help you determine if she needs inpatient care.
If she’s not clinically depressed, she might still benefit from the experience, and it will reassure you that she’s not at risk. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a healthy, normal teen and one who is showing signs of depression, so here are a few things to look out for:
5 Signs Your Daughter Could be Depressed
“Change” is the keyword when trying to tell if your daughter is clinically depressed. A child who prefers a few friends or a quiet book isn’t depressed if that’s always been a norm in her life. If she’s never been a great student, poor grades aren’t an accurate indicator. But if she was previously socially outgoing or a great student and now she’s not… that is when red flags start to raise.
1. Changes in mood
In teenagers, depression doesn’t always look like sadness. She could frequently burst into tears or feel down, but teens are also more likely than adults to be irritable or have angry outbursts.
2. Changes in her interactions and interests
Unlike adults, teens can become selectively withdrawn. Your daughter may withdrawn from certain friends but still interact with others. Some family activities might be fine, but others may feel overwhelming.
Someone who is feeling depressed or anxious might use technology, alcohol, or drugs to self-medicate. If you’ve discovered substance abuse or have noticed big changes in internet or video game use, definitely consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
3. Changes in sleeping and eating habits
Teens need a lot of sleep—up to ten hours a night. But if your daughter is sleeping longer than that—or isn’t getting much sleep at all, be aware. Take her schedule into consideration, but if her schoolwork and activities are keeping her from getting a healthy amount of sleep, it might be time to consider an adjustment.
Depression or anxiety can trigger changes in your daughter’s eating patterns—either more or less than she normally would. Depressed teens sometimes show a preference for sugary foods because sugar gives a temporary mood lift.
4. Changes in self talk and how she interprets criticism
Depressed teens struggle with feelings of worthlessness. These feelings incorporate how your daughter takes criticism and feedback. She may respond to a simple suggestion as an attack or feel like a failure when that wasn’t the message you intended.
She also might get pretty harsh with how she views herself, either in her thoughts or out loud. As a parent, it can be hard to hear.
5. Changes in her sense of hope
Like the Dementors in Harry Potter, depression sucks the hope right of a person. It can seem like nothing is going to change — like how she feels now is how she’s always going to feel.
If she says things like “I’d be better off dead” or “I wish I didn’t exist,” these aren’t passing moods. They’re cries for help. If she talks about suicide or even romanticizes it, seek help immediately.
6. If she’s talking about harming herself…
Don’t hesitate. Get help. If she’s in immediate risk of harming herself, call 911. If the risk doesn’t seem immediate, you still don’t want to hesitate. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or engage one of their counselors on chat on their website.
If you’re outside the U.S., find other helplines by going to www.suicide.org
If Your Daughter is Dealing with Depression, Let Us Help
If your daughter isn’t in high-risk, but you still suspect she’s dealing with depression, our short-term residential program for teen girls is a safe environment to help her work through the underlying causes of her depression.
We invite you to contact us. We’ll help you assess whether she needs professional help and if she’d benefit from a residential, evidence-based therapy program like ours.