It's a familiar tale: A once lively and connected teenager suddenly becomes distant. Maybe they spend more time with their friends than with you. Or maybe they start to spend more time in their room, or seems more angry, irritable, and argumentative. Maybe their grades start to slip, or they are suddenly dressing or grooming themselves differently. Caregivers may wonder if something is wrong, or if their child has simply come down with a sudden case of adolescence. How can caregivers know when a child has moved beyond the normal behavior of adolescence into depression?
A therapist can help assess for depression and other diagnoses. In the meantime, you may find it helpful to know information about developmentally appropriate behavior in teens, as well as information about depression.
During adolescence, teens are expected to separate somewhat from their parents, transfer their focus onto social relationships, develop a unique sense of self, and desire autonomy. Adolescents also experience changes to their sleep cycles and may need to stay up (and sleep in!) later. These changes, along with the physical changes occurring during adolescence, often come hand-in-hand with some irritability and arguing.
Depression, on the other hand, is characterized by a number of specific criteria that are listed in
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association:
Sad or depressed mood (often expressed as irritation or anger in children and teens)
A loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities