Signs of Teenage Depression
How to Address Depression with a Teenager?

by Myriam
(Victoria, BC, Canada)

I am concerned about my 15year old son. He is highly intelligent and sensitive child, who never quite fit the stereotype of a 'boys-boy'. He always had a tendency to be somewhat introverted but is very relaxed around people he likes to socialize with. He has started high school in the fall of 2010 and is doing quite well in terms of getting used to the different people etc. His academic performance always has been and still is exceptional. He is considering to graduate early from high school to enter post-secondary education. As far as I can tell, there are no specific difficulties in his environment that may cause him distress. Even though he does well in school and also goes to school on a daily basis it seems that he is just 'going through the motions'.


The behaviours I have noticed in him over the past months (it has been a gradual decline)are: he appears to be tired most of the time, even though he seems to get enough sleep; he is unmotivated, nothing really catches his interest; he has various symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, bodily aches, lack of energy, but nothing really specific;

I have a history of major clinical depression myself, but am following medication treatment since many years. This is one of the reasons why I am concerned that my son may have a tendency to depression as well.

The problem I am currently facing is how to adress this problem with him? He is sensitive and I am concerned that he may think 'there is something wrong' with him. Also, he has a very negative opinion of therapists and doesn't see the point why people go to a therapist unless they have some severe behavioural problems. How can I start to adress my concern with him without 'labelling' him or giving him the feeling that he needs to be 'fixed'?

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Myriam,

As a parent myself I can understand what you are going through. It really sounds like you know your son very well and that you are able to relate to him based on your own experiences.

The symptoms that you are observing in him may very well be a form of depression. Some of the "classics" (for lack of a better word) are the lack of interest in what he used to enjoy, withdrawing, tired all the time, the headachesn and nausea. All of which can be signs of depression, particularly if it is atypical to his normal personality. And, the fact that there is a family history of it increases the chances.

Have you tried to reach out to him, just to say "Hey, I notice you aren't yourself these days. Are things okay?" Of course, timing of such a question is important but this would create an opportunity for some dialogue.

Also, have you shared with him your experiences with depression? Sometimes, opening up with him about your own experiences (without necessarily saying you see it in him too) can open a door that he might feel safe walking through, if not at the time...eventually.

Share with him your experiences, how you felt when you were going throught it and, more importantly, how you found help and have found a way to overcome it.

It's important to find a way to normalize it. Help him understand how common depression is and that it isn't anything to be ashamed of. You can look at my Signs of Teenage Depression, Teen Depression Statistics and Depression Among Teenagers pages for more info. Pages you might want to share with him.

Another option is to find a male figure in his life that can reach out in a non-threatening, loving way. Someone that he can trust to open up to. If this is not an option, a school guidance counselor is a good option if you can encourage him to go. They are professionally trained in these kinds of teenage challenges and may prove very helpful.

It is not surprising that he does not like therapists. Men are much more resistant when it comes to therapists. The stigma of a therapist is difficult for men to overcome sometimes. The goal is to find someone that he can truly relate to. For teenage boys, a male therapist is usually better.

I hope this was helpful. If you have other questions please reach out.

All the best,

Dana

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