Clinical depression can be a debilitating disease, but mild depression — or dysthymia — can go undiagnosed much longer. Someone who has mild depression may be able to carry on in his day-to-day life, but he won’t find the same joy that others experience. Though it’s normal for teens to occasionally feel the blues, dysthymia is a more serious condition.
Teens with mild depression have a hard time concentrating, so you may start to notice problems in school. This may be in the form of lower grades, skipping classes or disciplinary problems.
Teens can be extremely critical of themselves and others. Though you should always encourage her to feel good about herself, it’s normal to hear the occasional complaint about a bad hair day or a new pimple; however, if you only hear negative comments coming out of her mouth, it’s a sign of a problem. These comments could be about her appearance, but can also be about her intelligence.
Changes in Eating Patterns or Weight
Some teens respond to mild depression by overeating, while others experience a lack of interest in food. Pay attention to the way your teen is eating at dinner — whether he pushes the food around on his plate or if eats a normal amount. Since you aren’t around your teen a lot of the times when he is eating, sudden weight gain or loss may be stronger signs of his changes in eating patterns.
Lack of Interest in Activities
A normal teen has a variety of interests from the latest movies and music to books, sports and theater. She should also enjoy spending time with at least one other person or participate in family activities. If you find that your teen has plopped herself down in front of the TV night after night or locks herself in her room and stays on the computer, she may be depressed.
A distinct change in sleep patterns can also be a sign of mild depression. Your teen may have a hard time falling asleep, leading to having a hard time waking up in the morning. Alternatively, she may want to sleep all the time, taking a nap after school, sleeping in on the weekends and always going to bed early.