Uncovering depression in teen boys is not always easy. The teenage years can be particularly difficult for your son, as he is navigating hormonal changes as well as changes and inconsistencies with how he is perceived. As an example, some people treat teenagers like children, while some treat them more like adults; this discrepancy can cause confusion and frustration for your child. It can be a difficult time, and having some emotional ups and downs is perfectly normal. You may discover, however, that these ups and downs are more than just a bad mood or a bad week.
Your child could be battling depression.
Depression in teens is very similar to depression in adults. The difference is that teenagers often lack the necessary life experience to put things into context, so they can have a more difficult time managing their emotions on a day-to-day basis as a result. It can lead to long-term feelings of sadness or in more severe cases, teen suicide.
Your teen may be experiencing depression for a number of reasons, including everything from poor grades, bullying, romantic rejection to confusion over sexual orientation. To make sure your child gets the help that he needs and deserves, it’s important to be able to identify the symptoms and understand what measures to take to resolve his issues, whether minor or life-threatening.
Identifying depression symptoms
Identifying depression in your teenage son can be difficult if he doesn’t want to talk to you about his problems. It may be up to you as a parent to make observations yourself to see if your child may be suffering from depression. Mental Health America has a comprehensive list of symptoms, which is included below:
- Poor performance in school
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Sadness and hopelessness
- Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
- Anger and rage
- Overreaction to criticism
- Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
- Poor self-esteem or guilt
- Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
- Restlessness and agitation
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Substance abuse
- Problems with authority
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
The difficult part is determining the severity and frequency of your child’s symptoms because what teenager hasn’t displayed at least a few of these characteristics before? If your teenage son is engaged in any of the above behaviors consistently -- or any of the more severe behaviors like suicidal thoughts or substance abuse -- then you may want to explore treatment options or consult a professional. If your child is displaying a few of the minor behaviors occasionally, then he might be more in line with a normal spectrum of emotions.
Treating depression in teen boys
When dealing with your teenage son’s depression, it’s important to know that not all depression is the same. Your son’s disposition could improve with just a few small adjustments, or you may have to explore more substantial options like a residential treatment center if you notice more extreme warning signs like suicidal thoughts or violent outbursts.
Level 1: The parental level
While at times it may feel like your teenager no longer listens to what you say, the truth is that you are one of the biggest influences in his life. By encouraging your son to participate in healthy activities, you can help guide him in the direction of behaviors that may help them pull him out of depression naturally or help him cope. A parenting style based on positive reinforcement tends to produce higher self-esteem than if you focus more heavily on punishment and inciting feelings of guilt or shame. A few behaviors that promote healthy self-image and self-esteem include:
- Having a job
- Participating in after-school activities
- Playing sports or exercising regularly
- Making friends
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating nutritiously
These behaviors are just a sampling of a what you could encourage your son to do to create a healthy lifestyle. They combat social isolation and encourage feelings of well-being, self-esteem, and independence. Try to discuss these activities with your child in a non-judgmental, open way.
Level 2: The health care level
If you find that your son isn’t responding to your encouragement -- or he is but isn’t experiencing noticeable benefits -- you may want to consider seeking the services of a psychiatrist or psychologist who can conclusively diagnose your son. He could have depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, or any other number of psychological disorders that may require therapy and medication to treat effectively.
There are many different types of therapy available and many different therapists to administer them. Try to get your child’s input as you make decisions. The more committed your child is to treatment, the more likely he is to experience relief. Including him in the decision-making process is a great way to encourage a higher level of commitment.
Level 3: More urgent cases
Teen suicide is a very serious concern. It’s the second-leading cause of death among teenagers, and if your teenage son is exhibiting symptoms of depression, then he is at an increased risk. If your child is battling with depression and begins to exhibit any of the following symptoms, seek immediate professional help:
- Joking about suicide
- Threatening suicide
- Obsession with death
- Overwhelming negative emotions
- Large downturn in grades
- Violent outbursts
- Withdrawing socially
If therapy and medication alone don’t seem to solve your child’s problems, you may want to consider a residential treatment center such as the Liahona Academy, where your child can receive comprehensive care and supervision in order to create the best possible long-term recovery plan for your child.
Remember that it’s a process
Teen depression can be an incredibly overwhelming challenge for a family. It’s important to keep in mind that treating your child is a process. He may not get better overnight, and it’s important to stay positive, patient, and understanding. By identifying depression symptoms, developing a parenting style that supports depression recovery, and by seeking professional help when necessary, you can ensure your child gets the best-case outcome as he battles with depression.