How To Help A Depressed Teenage Son


I get the call almost every week. How do
I help my teenage son with depression? Sounds scary?
Well there are some things we can do. It amazes me and concerns me a bit how
much I get questions about teenage depression and we know that this is an
issue now. In fact, I was looking over the statistics for teen depression. When kids
reach the age of 12 or 13, the statistics start to really skyrocket,
maybe skyrockets the wrong word for it, but they increase significantly as kids
get into those teenage years for depression and the related problems that
come along with depression. We see it in both boys and girls, tends to be a little
more prominent for girls in those teen years than it does for boys. The
statistics I saw were from about 5% of the population up to about 8% are
experiencing some kind of significant diagnoseable depression. Now depression
is only diagnosed when it becomes severe enough or prolonged enough to cause some
significant impairment in that person’s life so beyond the clinical depression, I
think there’s a sub clinical depression going on with our teenagers that is
probably far more prominent than these numbers that I’m sharing with you. I
thought as we were approaching this particular topic today, that it might be
helpful to just give you some of the things to watch out for. Sometimes you’re
going to pick up on some of these signs and symptoms of depression where your
son is fine but having some challenges. You might pick up on these
signs and symptoms as an indicator that there’s actually a clinical
depression going on that’s going to need some more intensive treatment or
response. Let’s just talk about what we’re looking for to begin with. So I’m
going to go clinical on you here. Depression, regardless of age includes a
depressed or irritable mood and for kids, irritable
is probably more common than depressed in terms of what kind of an observable
mood that you see, okay. So irritability is one of those
things, we’re just going to be sensitive to and it lasts for at least two weeks
with at least five of the following symptoms. I know you’re not a
psychologist and it’s not your job to diagnose your kids but I’m sharing this
clinical information with you so that you’ll be better informed and you might
choose to engage a professional, a psychologist or a therapist or a
counselor who can help you to get an accurate diagnosis, even your family
doctor can help with this. So here’s the symptom list, remember, it has to be at
least two weeks of that depressed or irritable mood with at least five of the
following clinical signs and symptoms. Here we go. Feeling sad or blue. Now that
makes sense, right? Crying frequently. Now may I add also that it’s particularly
concerning if these are something that’s not typical of your child?
If your child always cries easily and always has then we’re not going to use
this as a symptom, do you see what we’re saying? But if it’s something that’s a
change or something that’s new for your kid then that’s something you want to
pay a little more attention to. A loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities.
So the things that they normally enjoy doing yeah they’re not so interested in
them anymore. That’s usually something to pay attention to. A significant increase
or decrease in appetite. Now here’s another little disclaimer, okay, because
we’re talking about teenagers specifically. When kids get into their
teenage years, there’s all kinds of factors that are making this more
complicated including hormonal changes and changes in their body and changes in
their brain and in their interests and in their socialization. I had a guy come
in to see me once and he said, this is just not like my kid at all. As we got
further into it, it’s not his kid, it’s his teenager. Hear
the difference? Yeah, so there will be some natural changes that are going to
occur and it makes it a little tricky because we have to kind of balance out.
Alright, how much of this is attributable to just becoming a teenager
versus how much of this is something that we should pay a little more close
attention to? Continuing with the list. A significant weight loss or failing to
gain weight appropriately or gaining excessive weight. So it’s out of the
ordinary in other words, not what you would expect. A change in sleep pattern
including an inability to sleep or excessive sleeping. On the note of sleep,
teenagers need more sleep than kids or adults, it’s just a developmental
requirement that they have and usually eight to ten hours of good solid sleep
time is pretty typical for what teenagers are needing so outside of that
though, if they’re sleeping all day or if you’re finding that it’s excessive then
that might be a sign or symptom. Agitation, irritability or anger. Again,
common in teenage years but we’re looking for something that is is more
than you might expect to be normal. Fatigue or loss of energy. A tendency to
isolate from friends and family. Trouble concentrating. In my earlier career, when
I was just starting out as a psychologist and I had a traditional
psychotherapy practice, this was one of the most troubling things for me in my
practice because diagnosis is so complicated. I just shared with you
trouble concentrating, well that’s also the primary symptom of attention deficit
disorder and sometimes you’ll get depression together with other diagnoses
like ADHD or conduct disorder or some of the other common childhood disorders
that we see. So it’s hard to pick it apart sometimes. The next one on the list,
feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and then finally thoughts of
suicide and incidentally, sadly, suicide is the third leading cause of death
for people ages 12 to 25. That’s an alarming statistic, that’s something that
we want to change an impact if we can and there is a lot that we can do
about it, that’s why I’m sharing with you this list. Now what can be done? Let’s say
that you’re seeing some of those signs and symptoms and that it’s more than
would be expected for a typical teenager and oh by the way, if you’re not sure, if
this is your only teenager, you might want to talk to some other parents, you
might want to go online and get into a community where you can kind of get a
sense of what’s the norm, not that the norm is always healthy, okay? Because
maybe you still want to do something about some of these things even if it
doesn’t reach the level of clinical depression but what if you’re seeing
some of these signs and symptoms and it’s severe enough that you think that
there might be an issue? What can you do about it?
Therapy is helpful and the clinical research shows that cognitive behavioral
therapy, interpersonal therapy, some of these therapy modalities have a lot of
good track record for making some significant impact on a depression kind
of a manifestation. Get some help, talk to some counselors, talk to a psychologist
or a mental health professional that can help you to to nail that down, tends to
be very helpful. Changes in lifestyle and behavior including diet, exercise, sleep
patterns, sometimes a little adjustment in those makes all the difference. Oh, and
on the front of exercise, we have tested, exercise, put it up against
antidepressant medication, in the clinical trials, exercise usually wins
and teens tend to be very active for the most part. If they’re not, that’s
something that is going to help their mood significantly to get active and to
have that exercise in place. I mentioned medication. Sometimes just
the right medication is helpful. Now get with a professional, talk to your
doctor about this or a psychiatrist who’s experienced in treating
adolescents because their particular chemistry requires a little bit of
yes with all the other changes that are happening in their body and in their
life. Other kinds of treatment, complementary therapies, groups. So in
addition to traditional therapy and medication, there’s all kinds of other
supportive things that can help like yoga or meditation or interest groups
where they get to get involved with other people their age, engaging in
something that they’re interested in, all of these kinds of things can be helpful.
I think the main thing is, let’s open a conversation here with our teenagers
about what’s really going on in their life, we’re going to watch for those signs
and symptoms. There are a lot of resources, even right here on this
channel, look for the magnifying glass because YouTube, I don’t know if you knew
this, YouTube is one of the largest search engines on the planet and you
will find enormous resources here, front right here on this channel but also from
some of my colleagues and other content creators who are putting some
information out there to help you as a parent. We can do something about this. I
am so glad you’re here and teaming up with us to take on depression. I think we
can help each other as we share these videos.

5 comments

  1. What if your kid is not willing to try anything…how do you help someone that doesn't want to be helped?

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