Signs of Depression in Loved Ones and Children & Teens

Girl hiding her face in her legsDepression seems to be more apparent than it may have ever been. I do not have exact statistics with ages, gender, socioeconomic status and how depression has changed, but I do not think that it is necessary to go into that right now. At a time in any one person’s life, a person may or can experience depression. The severity of depression may be based on a number of factors such as: genetics, learned behavior patterns, environmental, family issues, individual perception of a situation and a person’s coping skills. These are the main ones that I particular see in my practice and in a hospital setting.

Sadness does not always lead to depression. When sadness is experienced, some people can address it and move forward. For others, it may be more difficult.

Some of the signs that will be listed can be for a child, a teen or an adult however in children and in teens identifying depression may be more challenging because a child or teen may not be able to fully put into words their emotions and the depression comes out through their behavior.

Depression: 5 or more of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2 week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure (DSM IV, Major Depressive Episode.

  1. Depressed Mood for most of the day or nearly every day
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day
  3. Significant weight loss or gain without change in diet
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia (more sleep) nearly every day
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day : restlessness or being slowed down
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness nearly every day
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death, Suicidal thoughts without a plan or a suicidal attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide

That is the overall signs for when a person may be depressed and that is what therapists and psychiatrists look for.

Some other signs may not be that direct but can definitely be a concern: isolation from family and friends, despondent, lack of emotion or maybe too much emotion, negative self talk or muttering under the person’s breath on their self perception, irritableness, increased defensiveness, easily led to tears, just to name a few.

With children and teens, the challenging part may be the inability to communicate that they are depressed because at those ages, they are not able to actually put their feelings into words. In children and teens, looking at a change in their behaviors will be a clue if they are having depression. A teen will have peer related issues and may not want to be around family because peers are more important but if the teen isolates self from peers and family, other activities, does poorly in school and says, “I don’t care” then those would be the signs to be concerned about.

With children, it can be challenging because when children do not get their way, some will have a tantrum to get what they want. Other behaviors still may be similar to a teen’s like, irritableness, does not want to do things with the family, more emotional, more angry and may be even more tantrums but not just when they are told no.

What to do when there is change:

  1. Don’t panic. If there is a change in the person’s behavior or mood, it may not always be related to depression or go further into suicidal thoughts.
  2. If there are suicidal thoughts that are being expressed, try not to panic. I know it will be hard but panicking may not be beneficial to you or to your family member.
  3. If need be, take the person to the local hospital to be evaluated for a psychological evaluation. This evaluation does not mean that the person will be automatically be placed on a 72 hour hold for a psychiatric hospital. It is one avenue that may be pursued if necessary.
  4. If you are able to watch the person and help them to get through that particular place of depression, then great. It would also be great to call the number on your insurance card to find a therapist to help the person through the depression and learn healthier coping skills.
  5. If comfortable try to ask the person what is going on, listen to what they are saying.
  6. Validate their feelings. This would not be a time to tell them how they are feeling is wrong. It is how they feel.
  7. Show support and ask what they would like for you to do to help them. You do not have to take away their depression because depression is something that needs to be addressed and worked through.
  8. Call and make an appointment for the person, if a child or a teen, to see a therapist. For an adult, you can help them with the number for a therapist, but they will need to make that decision for themselves.

Depression can be worked through and a person does not have to be depressed for the rest of their lives. It may be difficult but when the person is motivated, has family support, learning healthier coping skills, and if needed, on antidepressants, then the person will work through the depression and become stronger.

Some information that has been helpful to parents can be located at:

  • Google search: Depression in Kids/Teens, Symptoms of Depression, Medications for Depression, Treatment for Depression
  • www.loveandlogic.com
  • www.empoweringparents.com

Hope this information helps.

© Copyright 2011 by Kelly Sanders, MFT, therapist in Rancho Cucamonga, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 14 comments
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  • LUCY

    LUCY

    July 28th, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    Not to mention depression can occur due to such a wide range of things.I think it has to be one of the most common problems people face on a regular basis.depression is something that cannot be kept away forever but is also harmful if it stays with you for too long!

  • Madison

    Madison

    July 28th, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    My daughter said that she felt as if she was in a dark hole. I am so glad that we got her to a therapist and started work with her as soon as we did. As we have gone forward we have experienced many issues that without the therapeutic benefits we have seen could have turned very poorly for my daughter, myself, and my husband.This is a major concern for children and very hard to diagnose.

  • marti m

    marti m

    July 29th, 2011 at 4:30 AM

    Please be on the lookout for these symptoms.
    Many can’t speak what they feel, especially the younger set, and it is up to us to be able to recognize what is going on.
    Don’t let this chance to make a real difference for them pass you by.

  • henry

    henry

    July 29th, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    it’s just so important to e on the look out for symptoms and signs like these in young adults and kids because it may well go on to affect their entire lives.parents need to get more involved in things like these if they want to enrich their kid’s lives and take care of them in the complete sense.

  • Jason Martin

    Jason Martin

    July 30th, 2011 at 5:07 AM

    Depression can strike at such an early age and I think it drives a lot of the social concerns that we have today with youth. Once in a depressed state many of our youth are turning to other avenues to get out of the situation. Drugs and alcohol become cures or salves from the feelings many young people have. Teenagers are acutely affected as their hormones rage and they transition from feeling lost to euphoria and back again. If you notice one of them staying in a state of lost please see if you can help as this may be the start of depression. We don’t want them trying to self medicate with street drugs.

  • BENNY

    BENNY

    July 30th, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Depression is something that is relative to a person and his nature.What’s depression for me may not be such a big thing for you and what’s a fairly common thing for somebody may be a depressive thing for you.Its all about our nature, what we’ve been used to and how we’ve lived so far that actually matters.

    Depression cannot be measured and its a state that is very very close to a stressed state.

    If we have Normal->Stressed->Depressed states then there really is no fixed scale to measure each of these states for everybody.It comes down to the individual.

  • Joellen

    Joellen

    July 30th, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    It is so easy to turn a blind eye to these kinds of experiences. . . but think of the life that may be losing out just because we may think that it is not our place to get involved or to say anything. These are the people that we love and that we care about. Why let them go down this path when sometimes all it may take is a kind word of encouragement to help them to the path of recovery? Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you?

  • Kelly

    Kelly

    August 9th, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    all very good points. Thanks for the comments!

  • keith fulton

    keith fulton

    August 13th, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    There’s nothing more upsetting when you’re depressed than hearing a friend or family member say “no you’re not” dismissively when you know you are and voice that. Point #6- “Validate their feelings. This would not be a time to tell them how they are feeling is wrong. It is how they feel.”- is very important. Thanks for giving us a place to direct them to that shows that’s not helpful.

  • Jim Ritchie

    Jim Ritchie

    August 17th, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    This is mandatory reading for anyone who has any kind of relationship with a child of any age. It’s easy to tell when an individual’s mood is foul, but actual depression and a bad mood are almost indistinguishable from one another to the untrained eye. Having such information at our fingertips is invaluable.

  • h singh

    h singh

    August 17th, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    The first point is the most important. The man or woman might just be having a bad day and will be fine later on, so allow them breathing room. Pushing them into telling you everything that’s bothering them is only going to get them more upset and may be the trigger for the depression you were trying to prevent if you don’t back off.

  • Graham Cohen

    Graham Cohen

    August 17th, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    @h singh: So true! I once had a row with my wife because our son was feeling upset and said that he didn’t want to talk about it right now, but she kept pressing and wouldn’t let him get his thoughts together. It eventually ended with her screaming at me for interfering while I was telling her very politely to give him some space.

    No wonder he’s stressed. Like father, like son.

  • Caroline Rudd

    Caroline Rudd

    August 19th, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    You shouldn’t force them into therapy either. It’s not helpful if they don’t want to cooperate. Make it a joint decision. Kids can refuse to talk to the therapist beyond stating they won’t when they go in, and the therapist can’t tell you the child said that because of confidentiality (I think).

    Is that right or do different rules apply because it’s children? That’s my understanding of it anyway.

  • prudence s.

    prudence s.

    August 20th, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    Sometimes all you need to do to help a loved one is simply ask them how they are feeling. If they don’t want to talk, then leave it as that. As least when you ask that lets them know that you care and noticed they are not their usual self.

    That makes the biggest difference to many people. It’s so simple to do it yet gets completely overlooked.

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