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

Peg Rosen has written for numerous digital and print outlets, including ParentCenter, WebMD, Parents, Good Housekeeping, More, Fitness and Martha Stewart.

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Reviewed by Laura Tagliareni, Ph.D. Apr 20, 2014 Apr 20, 2014

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