Sadness doesn’t always mean depression and depression doesn’t always mean sadness.
I am writing about this today because it’s important for parents to understand depression doesn’t always look like what we would expect to find. Most of us are taught to look for overarching sadness and if we don’t see it we may miss the warning signs.
In working with numerous teens, I found that most were not clinically sad rather they were simply lacking in joy or enthusiasm. Nothing got them excited. They were living on autopilot with no real ups and downs. Plodding along feeling somewhat empty, somewhat ho-hum, somewhat restless but couldn’t figure out why. Some were bothered by these feelings and some felt this way so long they identified it merely as their personality.
They may have little motivation to care for themselves. Taking a shower is effort. Eating healthy and working out are not even a thought. They may feel slowed down. Always tired. Not sad just exhausted. Not sad just highly irritable and reactive. Not sad just indifferent.
It’s also important to remember the teenage years are an emotional time for most filled with mood swings and healthy detachment from family. Your child may cry easily and may express sadness but that does not necessarily indicate depression. Some individuals are simply more comfortable in showing their feelings and that is okay. We don’t want to make normal behavior in teens an illness. Negative feelings exist and should exist because young people like old people live on a continuum of emotion. So what does a parent do when confronted with the question of depression?
You look for a departure in behavior. Pay close attention to a change in sleeping patterns, eating cycles, a change in grades, or a change in socializing behaviors. I encourage parents to be as involved if not more involved in their teen’s life as they were when they were a small child. Know their teachers and their friends. Know their interests and their dreams. Learn what motivates them as people. Ask questions even when they close the door on you.
I will always encourage a parent to dig deeper. Because many will always answer the question – Are you depressed? – with a resounding no. And this incorrect definition of depression as only a state of sadness may keep them from seeking intervention because they do not recognize their symptoms or thoughts, feelings and behavior as those of a depressed person.
Children, teens and adults alike must know that feelings and thoughts are temporary and because feelings and thoughts are temporary this means depression is temporary. It is highly treatable with natural interventions. Seek help from a licensed therapist in your area. Cognitive behavioral therapy along with healthy lifestyle changes can make a lasting impact. Depression isn’t about suppressing the symptoms. It is about getting to the root of your brain health. You and your family deserve to live your best life full of joy and enthusiasm.
If you are concerned about your teen, please learn more about depression in the following articles:
Boys Vs. Girls: The Gender Differences In Depression
A Conversation About Childhood Depression With Grace Lester, LMFT
3 Lab Tests Needed When Confronted With Anxiety and Depression
If you or a loved one is having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, please contact a health care professional in your area immediately or contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Trained professionals are there to help you 24 hours a day- 7 days a week!