Is your teen depressed … or just being a teen?

Carter’s always been a good kid. Your oldest is a strong, self-motivated student who makes friends easily and who has always been eager to go places and do things. But you’re not sure you recognize Carter. He seems to have been replaced by this moody man-child who doesn’t want to do anything with the family and spends most of his time in his room with the door closed. You can’t remember the last time you’ve had an enjoyable conversation with him, and his grades are slipping.

You’ve always heard the teenage years were challenging, but is this what people mean? Is this how all boys his age act, or is it something else? Is he just sad or unmotivated, or is it something to do with brain chemistry?

It’s hard to say. The teenage years are rough on nearly everyone (including parents) as the body and brain adjust to changing hormones and interpersonal roles. Changes in mood, behavior, eating, and other aspects of daily life are normal parts of adolescent behavior, so it’s important not to overreact. But at the same time, if a teen’s behavior has changed dramatically or appears to be intensifying, it’s a good idea to find out whether it’s something more serious, like depression.

Before you shut us out, please know, if you think your teen may be suffering from depression or another issue, it’s not because you’re a bad parent. In fact, if you’re concerned, it’s a sign of how much you care. Most often, depression and other mental health issues are tied to chemical changes happening in the brain. You’ve seen the physical changes of adolescence – like growth spurts, body hair, acne, and sweat. Changes are happening inside the brain, too, and sometimes they can turn a happy-go-lucky kid into someone entirely different. Teenage depression is common, and it can cause adolescents to struggle with feelings of sadness, despair, and anger.

When determining whether a teen is dealing with depression, mental health professionals look beyond mood and attitude to see whether there are unusual patters in their behavior. Among the most common signs of depression are:

  • excessive sadness, including unexplained crying spells,
  • sudden changes in eating and sleeping habits,
  • extreme frustration or anger over small problems,
  • withdrawing from friends and family or suddenly spending significant amount of time with new friends,
  • unhealthy actions, such as use of alcohol or other drugs, or becoming promiscuous,
  • sudden defiance or rebellion and out-of-character acts, like failing assignments, missing curfews, or talking about running away,
  • a sense of shame, self-hatred, or feeling worthless,
  • recent trouble thinking or concentrating, or
  • forgoing favorite activities.

If you’ve seen one or more of these symptoms (especially if they represent a major change from your teen’s normal behavior), your teen may be experiencing depression or another mental health issues, and it’s probably time to reach out for help from a trained professional. You’re welcome at Care to Change, and we can walk with you through this difficult chapter of your child’s journey. Care to Change is here to provide you with practical solutions for positive change that we all long for. Call us at 317-431-9979, or email

And, if you’re wanting to know more about teens and mental health we invite you to listen to our podcast on your favorite streaming app.

Please note: If your son or daughter mentions suicide, makes references to not being around, or is exhibiting self-harm such as cutting, please take it seriously. Contact your family doctor or a mental health provider such as Care to Change immediately. Yes, it’s possible they’re just being dramatic, but please don’t take chances. Many parents of teens who died by suicide will tell you they wish they hadn’t ignored warning signs.

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