Clinical signs of depression in teenage girls can vary just as they do in adults, and they can be psychological and physical. Many parents confuse the way their teen is acting with normal teenage behavior, and the consequences can be devastating.
Learning the Signs of Depression
According to WebMD, there is a five percent prevalence of depression in children and adolescents, and one out of 10 teenage girls suffer from depression.
In order for a teen girl to be diagnosed with clinical depression, she must experience five or more depression symptoms for at least two weeks. These symptoms will interfere in her normal everyday activities. If you are unsure how many symptoms the teenager is experiencing and for how long, a psychiatrist or other healthcare professional can perform an evaluation. This evaluation will determine the severity of the depression. Since teen depression can lead to suicide, learning to spot the clinical signs of depression in teenage girls is crucial.
Loss of Interest in Activities
When a teen is experiencing clinical depression, nothing seems fun anymore--not even activities she previously really enjoyed. Is she withdrawing from extracurricular activities or giving up on hobbies?
Change in Appetite
This could go either way; she could either be eating a lot more than usual or barely eating at all. Appetite changes can also show up as eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia.
Hostility, Irritability, or Anger
Is she more irritable than usual? Does she appear angry? Does she lash out unexpectedly or without warning? Does she seem restless? If so, these mood changes may be cause for concern.
Sadness or Despair
She may feel like she's worthless and that things will never get better. Does she seem more anxious or pessimistic than usual? Extreme sadness can be a sign of a serious problem.
Change in Sleep
Just as with changes in appetite, changes in sleep could go either way. She could either sleep more often and have trouble getting out of bed, or she may experience insomnia.
Does it seem like she can't remember details as well as she could before? Does she have trouble making decisions? These are also potential signs of depression.
Is she avoiding friends and social events? Teenage girls who once spent a lot of time hanging out with friends and family may begin to withdraw and spend more time alone.
Has the teen been more negative about the future? Often, a depressed teen may suddenly change from a "glass half full" type of person to someone who has trouble seeing the positive and hopeful aspects of life.
Sometimes depression will manifest as physical illness, like cramps, headaches, and digestive issues. These aches and pains will not subside with traditional treatments, so if they linger and are accompanied by other signs of depression you've noticed, speak up. A visit to the doctor for these symptoms alone will not necessarily raise suspicion of depression.
Loss of Energy
Fatigue is a definite sign of clinical depression. If she's lethargic and there's no good explanation, like a few late nights for studying, pay attention.
Does she seem down about her appearance, abilities, and self-worth? Girls who feel helpless and worthless suffer from low self-esteem, which is a factor in clinical depression.
Lowered School Performance
Because it's hard to concentrate, make decisions, and remember details and there's a loss of interest even in activities that used to be fun and engaging, many depressed teens struggle in school. If you see a teen's school performance dropping, this may be a sign of trouble.
Guilt can contribute to the sad, anxious, empty feelings that are signs of depression. There could be guilt associated with a traumatic event she recently experienced, as well. If a teen regularly makes comments about things being her fault, this could be a warning sign.
In some cases, girls will say things like, "The world would be better off without me." They could also flirt with death by doing dangerous things--reckless driving, experimenting with drugs, or just putting themselves in harm's way because they no longer care if they live or die. In some cases, there are even suicide attempts. Even if she's just making remarks that hint at thoughts of suicide, they should be taken seriously.
Self-mutilation is a physical demonstration of a deep internal pain. In most cases, the cuts or burns are done in spots that can be easily hidden, so don't think that if you can't see them, they aren't there. If you suspect there is self-mutilation occurring, don't be afraid to ask questions. Everyday Health lists this as a sign of depression in teen girls.
Acting Out Sexually
Everyday Health also mentions acting out sexually as a symptom of clinical depression in teenage girls. This is another high-risk activity, like drug use and self-mutilation, frequently seen in girls who are suffering from depression.
Risk Factors for Clinical Depression in Teen Girls
In addition to the signs of depression listed above, certain risk factors may indicate a possibility of clinical depression in teens:
- Negative social surroundings or social awkwardness
- Unhappy home life
- Parents or other family members who suffer from depression
- Recent traumatic events
- History of substance abuse
Treatment for Clinical Depression in Teenage Girls
The most effective treatment for adolescent girls suffering from clinical depression is psychotherapy. Many times, teenagers feel unheard by adults, but a therapist will listen to the girl empathetically and provide support. The therapist will also provide the clinically depressed girl with coping strategies for her depression symptoms, traumatic events, and social awkwardness.
What to Do If You Notice Signs of Depression
If you suspect a teen is suffering from depression, don't swoop right in as if you're going to attack the depression or as if you're accusing your teen of anything. Instead, be supportive and concerned while asking questions and making observations about her lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities or the way she seems so sad lately. Open the door for more conversation and get help for her as soon as you suspect something is wrong.