Information for parents of adolescents

If a child or adolescent is acting distressed or disturbed, it is important to seek a meaningful and calm conversation with them. If you think that a depressive disorder might be present, you should seek professional help.

The diagnosis has to be made by a physician: this includes examining possible differential diagnoses to rule out physical problems (e.g. dysfunction of the thyroid gland) and the exploration of potentially accompanying psychiatric disorders (e.g. anxiety disorders).

Experienced doctors are also trained to handle the commonly seen tendency in adolescents to deny and to address possible feelings of shame around depressive symptoms.

A diagnosis of depression can only be made by doctors and mental health professionals but it is important that you know how to recognise depression.

Recognising depression as such is a critical step in coping with depression. Parents, relatives, friends and teachers play an important role in this process.

But at what point does abnormal behaviour become a problem?

If the age-specific depressive symptoms persist over an extended period of time (several weeks or even months) and if there is no stabilisation towards a regular mood, it is likely that one is experiencing depression, instead of a “normal” age-specific change or a temporary reaction to external stress (e.g. situation of loss, bereavement).

In addition to the age-specific symptoms, relatives, friends and teachers can look out for the following alarm signs:

  • Withdrawal from hobbies and age-typical activities;
  • Extreme decline in school output;
  • Extreme changes in behaviour and appearance;
  • Running away from home;
  • Alcohol and drug abuse;
  • Self-isolation from family and/or peer group;