expat teenager health

Spot the signs of teenage depression.

Withdrawn, irritable, sleepy. This could be any teenager at some point, but these signs are also symptoms of teenage depression. “The difference between normal teen moodiness and clinical depression is very hard for lay people to discern,” says Ken Duckworth M.D., medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Teen depression is more common than people think, according to Dr. Duckworth. It’s estimated around 11% of teenagers experience depression during adolescence. Teen depression is often overlooked as it doesn’t always present in the same way as adult depression, and a certain degree of acting out or moodiness is expected of teenagers.

Although depression is highly treatable, experts estimate only 1 in 5 depressed teens receive help. Unlike adults who can seek help on their own, teenagers often rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognise symptoms and get them the treatment they need.

A move abroad, away from friends, family and school can trigger depression among teenagers, who place a lot of importance on social interaction in their daily lives. For parents moving abroad with teenagers it is especially important to pay attention to any of the following depression signs and symptoms:

  • Sleep disturbance: Teenagers naturally need more sleep than adults but sleeping much more or less than usual could be a symptom of depression.
  • Social changes: Your teenager isn’t interested in seeing friends, sports, or any of the things they usually enjoy.
  • Physical symptoms: Depression can manifest as physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, or weakness.

These are just some of the symptoms of depression, but not all may appear in every case. Most of these are also typical teenage behaviour, especially if you’ve recently moved abroad. The key for parents, is to consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. Any dramatic, long-lasting changes to personality, mood, or behaviour should be taken seriously.

To help people recognise the signs of teenage depression, besmartbewell.com has released a video in which Dr. Duckworth offers advice for parents on how to spot teenage depression.