How To Help A Depressed Teenage Son

How do I help my teenage son with depression? Sounds scary? Well there are some things we can do.

help a depressed teenage son

It amazes me and concerns me a bit how much everyone get questions about teenage depression and we know that this is an issue now. In fact, I was looking over the statistics for teen depression. When kids reach the age of 12 or 13, the statistics start to really skyrocket, maybe skyrockets the wrong word for it, but they increase significantly as kids get into those teenage years for depression and the related problems that come along with depression.

We see it in both boys and girls, tends to be a little more prominent for girls in those teen years than it does for boys. The statistics I saw were from about 5% of the population up to about 8% are experiencing some kind of significant diagnoseable depression.

Now depression is only diagnosed when it becomes severe enough or prolonged enough to cause some significant impairment in that person’s life so beyond the clinical depression, I think there’s a sub clinical depression going on with our teenagers that is probably far more prominent than these numbers that I’m sharing with you.

I thought as we were approaching this particular topic today, that it might be helpful to just give you some of the things to watch out for. Sometimes you’re going to pick up on some of these signs and symptoms of depression, where your son is fine but having some challenges.

You might pick up on these signs and symptoms as an indicator that there’s actually a clinical depression going on that’s going to need some more intensive treatment or response.

Let’s just talk about what we’re looking for to begin with. So I’m going to go clinical on you here.

Depression, regardless of age includes a depressed or irritable mood and for kids, irritable is probably more common than depressed in terms of what kind of an observable mood that you see, okay.

So irritability is one of those things, we’re just going to be sensitive to and it lasts for at least two weeks with at least five of the following symptoms.

12 Signs And Symptoms of Depression

I know you’re not a psychologist and it’s not your job to diagnose your kids but I’m sharing this clinical information with you so that you’ll be better informed and you might choose to engage a professional, a psychologist or a therapist or a counselor who can help you to get an accurate diagnosis, even your family doctor can help with this.

So here’s the symptom list, remember, it has to be at least two weeks of that depressed or irritable mood with at least five of the following clinical signs and symptoms. Here we go.

1 – Feeling Sad Or Blue

Feeling sad or blue. Now that makes sense, right?

2 – Crying Frequently

Crying frequently. Now, may I add also that it’s particularly concerning if these are something that’s not typical of your child?

If your child always cries easily and always has then we’re not going to use this as a symptom, do you see what we’re saying? But if it’s something that’s a change or something that’s new for your kid then that’s something you want to pay a little more attention to.

3 – Loss Of Interest Or Pleasure In Usual Activities

A loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities. So, the things that they normally enjoy doing yeah they’re not so interested in them anymore. That’s usually something to pay attention to.

4 – Significant Increase Or Decrease In Appetite

A significant increase or decrease in appetite. Now here’s another little disclaimer, okay, because we’re talking about teenagers specifically. When kids get into their teenage years, there’s all kinds of factors that are making this more complicated including hormonal changes.

And changes in their body and changes in their brain and in their interests and in their socialization. I had a guy come in to see me once and he said, this is just not like my kid at all. As we got further into it, it’s not his kid, it’s his teenager.

Here is the difference? Yeah, so there will be some natural changes that are going to occour and it makes it a little tricky because we have to kind of balance out. Alright, how much of this is attributable to just becoming a teenager versus how much of this is something that we should pay a little more close attention to? Continuing with the list.

5- Significant Weight Loss Or Gaining Excessive Weight

A significant weight loss or failing to gain weight appropriately or gaining excessive weight. So it’s out of the ordinary in other words, not what you would expect.

6 – Change In Sleep Pattern

A change in sleep pattern including an inability to sleep or excessive sleeping. On the note of sleep, teenagers need more sleep than kids or adults, it’s just a developmental requirement that they have and usually eight to ten hours of good solid sleep time is pretty typical for what teenagers are needing.

So outside of that though, if they’re sleeping all day or if you’re finding that it’s excessive then that might be a sign or symptom.

7 – Agitation, Irritability Or Anger

Agitation, irritability or anger. Again, common in teenage years but we’re looking for something that is more than you might expect to be normal.

8 – Fatigue Or Loss of Energy

9 – Tendency To Isolate From Friends And Family

A tendency to isolate from friends and family.

10 – Trouble Concentrating

Trouble concentrating. In my earlier career, when I was just starting out as a psychologist and I had a traditional psychotherapy practice, this was one of the most troubling things for me in my practice because diagnosis is so complicated.

I just shared with you trouble concentrating, well that’s also the primary symptom of attention deficit disorder and sometimes you’ll get depression together with other diagnoses like ADHD or conduct disorder or some of the other common childhood disorders that we see. So it’s hard to pick it apart sometimes. The next one on the list.

11 – Feelings Of Worthlessness

feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and then finally

12 – Thoughts Of Suicide

thoughts of suicide and incidentally, sadly, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 12 to 25. That’s an alarming statistic, that’s something that we want to change an impact if we can and there is a lot that we can do about it, that’s why I’m sharing with you this list.

Now what can be done?

Let’s say that you’re seeing some of those signs and symptoms and that it’s more than would be expected for a typical teenager and oh, by the way, if you’re not sure, if this is your only teenager, you might want to talk to some other parents, you might want to go online and get into a community where you can kind of get a sense of what’s the norm, not that the norm is always healthy, okay?

Because maybe you still want to do something about some of these things even if it doesn’t reach the level of clinical depression but what if you’re seeing some of these signs and symptoms and it’s severe enough that you think that there might be an issue?

What can you do about it?

Therapy is helpful and the clinical research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, some of these therapy modalities have a lot of good track record for making some significant impact on a depression kind of a manifestation. Get some help, talk to some counselors, talk to a psychologist or a mental health professional that can help you to nail that down, tends to be very helpful.

Changes in lifestyle and behavior including diet, exercise, sleep patterns, sometimes a little adjustment in those makes all the difference. Oh, and on the front of exercise, we have tested, exercise, put it up against antidepressant medication, in the clinical trials, exercise usually wins and teens tend to be very active for the most part. If they’re not, that’s something that is going to help their mood significantly to get active and to have that exercise in place.

I mentioned medication. Sometimes just the right medication is helpful. Now, get with a professional, talk to your doctor about this or a psychiatrist who’s experienced in treating adolescents because their particular chemistry requires a little bit of yes with all the other changes that are happening in their body and in their life.

Other kinds of treatment, complementary therapies, groups. So in addition to traditional therapy and medication, there’s all kinds of other supportive things that can help like yoga or meditation or interest groups where they get to get involved with other people their age, engaging in something that they’re interested in, all of these kinds of things can be helpful.


I think the main thing is, let’s open a conversation here with our teenagers about what’s really going on in their life, we’re going to watch for those signs and symptoms.

There are a lot of resources, even right here on this website, look for the magnifying glass because YouTube, I don’t know if you knew this, YouTube is one of the largest search engines on the planet and other content creators who are putting some information out there to help you as a parent. We can do something about this.

I am so glad, you’re here and teaming up with us to take on depression. I think we can help each other as we share these Article.

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