April 27, 2018


Our teenager’s behavior can be hard to understand. They avoid doing their homework. They fail to get out of bed. They isolate themselves and disengage from the family and can spend all their time playing video games or on social media. A parent may never suspect depression.

Worse yet, they may do things that sound utterly crazy to us. For example, we have been told a number of times that a teen has posted a naked selfie of themselves to get attention from the boy they liked. Or begin having sex in order to feel loved. We also hear that when teens are bored or need to have fun and fit it or when dealing with emotional pain, they may experiment with drugs or alcohol.

What parent would not get upset at these behaviors? You probably have gotten into a few verbal exchanges and called each other things you both regret later. It is important to understand what drives your teenager’s behavior. Are they just being lazy, are they just unmotivated, or are they clinically depressed? If your adolescent is clinically depressed, then all the typical parenting approaches may be doing more harm than good. You can’t discipline a depression away, you cannot lecture discipline away, and you can’t set up your typical punishment/rewards systems.

Most parents are NOT trained to deal with this type of depression. It is far worse than just having a really bad day. In fact, if you’ve never been through it, you might never fully understand the pain of this kind of depression.

Think of a simple menial task, like filling out a job application. Frustrated parents will say, if you refuse to do your homework, at least get a job. Some types of clinical depression are so difficult, that even feeling out a job application can feel like solving calculus problems.

One irony is that even though your teen’s behavior may be shocking and feel crazy, what’s really needed first is empathy and understanding. They need someone who can help put words into the crushing feelings they go through on a daily basis and maybe even feel the same pain that they are going through themselves.

To add to the confusion, sometimes your teenager’s feelings may not be overwhelming; they might numb down and not feel anything. These are the hardest situations to diagnose. A quality therapist who has experience with depression can provide the understanding and create a treatment plan to help your teen break through this terrible condition.

Your teenager’s everyday emotional issues can normally be worked out by the family without getting professional help. However, clinical depression left untreated can get worse through time. If your adolescent can’t concentrate which is another symptom of depression, they won’t be able to finish their homework and can fail their classes. Failing classes can lead to poor self-esteem.  Poor self-esteem can lead to poor relationships and friendships. If they numb down pain with drugs or alcohol, it can lead to addiction. The worst case scenario is that a teen may become suicidal and to make matters worse, not tell anyone.

If you start noticing symptoms like irritability, rebellion, withdrawing from the family, difficulty concentrating, grades dropping, strange behavior or any of the behaviors listed earlier, then you need to consider putting your teenager in counseling.