At a Glance: Signs of Depression in Your Middle-Schooler

By Peg Rosen

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Recognizing the signs of depression is the first step to getting your middle-schooler the help he needs. Here are common symptoms of depression in adolescents.

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At a Glance: Signs of Depression in Your Middle-Schooler

Depression in tweens is more common than most parents realize—especially among kids with learning and attention issues. If your middle-schooler is struggling with this mood disorder, here are some of the symptoms you may see.

Loss of Joyfulness
What it looks like: Your son has decided that everything is “boring.” Instead of hanging out with his friends or shooting hoops, he sits on the couch playing endless video games.
Why it matters: Withdrawing from friends and social events, losing interest in favorite activities and not having much energy are all red flags for depression.

Unexplained Aches and Pains
What it looks like: The school nurse calls—again. Last time it was a headache; this time your child’s stomach hurts. And, yet again, the doctor can’t find anything physically wrong.
Why it matters: In kids, signs of depression are more likely to appear as physical symptoms than they are in adults.

Loss of Skills
What it looks like: Your child’s teacher calls to say he’s having more difficulty focusing than usual.
Why it matters: Depression can worsen existing learning and attention issues. (Decreased ability to think or focus can also be a sign of depression, even without learning or attention issues.)

Changes in Daily Habits
What it looks like: Your child can barely get out of bed on school days. On weekends, he sleeps until afternoon.
Why it matters: Eating or sleeping more—or less—than usual is frequently a symptom of depression.

Reckless Behavior
What it looks like: A neighbor calls and says she saw your child smoking.
Why it matters: Substance abuse and other self-damaging behaviors can be a depressed tween’s way of distracting himself from his emotional pain.
Graphic of At a glance: Signs of depression in middle school
Graphic of At a glance: Signs of depression in middle school

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About the Author

Portrait of Peg Rosen

Peg Rosen writes for digital and print, including ParentCenter, WebMD, Parents, Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart.

Reviewed by

LPortrait of aura Tagliareni

Laura Tagliareni, Ph.D., is a pediatric neuropsychologist in New York City and a clinical instructor at NYU Langone Medical Center.

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