Barb's Blog


Is My Daughter Sad or Depressed?

This can be a tricky one because we often use the word depressed when we are feeling sad. So, we know that sadness is a “normal,” healthy emotion and we want our girls to get comfortable feeling it. We want to encourage them to take a break from doing and allow themselves to be, to feel. 

I heard once that an emotion, if allowed to be felt, lasts for 4.5 seconds. That’s quick! Most of us are scared to feel a “negative” emotion like sadness because we feel like it will overcome us. It won’t. Let your daughters know that they are strong enough to feel their feelings. Encourage your daughters to listen to sad music, watch a sad film, lay in bed with a pet and just let themselves feel. Then it will be over and they can decide what they want to do now that they have felt.

What does depression look like in teens?

According to the CDC, depression affects one in twenty teens. 

When your child can be struggling with a mood disorder, like depression, and it can be misinterpreted. Many of the signs of depression look a lot like a typical teenager who can be moody and distant.  Depression goes beyond normal teenage doldrums and moodiness.

Depression manifests differently in teens than in adults. In teens, you may see these symptoms:

  •   Withdrawing from some, but not all people
  •   Irritability or agitation
  •   Self-criticism, extreme sensitivity to criticism
  •   Frustration
  •   Anger
  •   Unexplained pain
  •   Whininess
  •   Changes in sleep (teens require more sleep than adults and typically have trouble falling asleep early)
  •  Changes in appetite
  •  Clinginess
  •  Changes in relationships
  •  Difficulty concentrating
  •   Changes in school performance

Depression can have serious consequences: drug and alcohol abuse, drunk driving, internet addiction, running away, problems at school, eating disorders, cutting, abusive relationships and high risk sexual behaviors.

How can I help my daughter if she is depressed?

  • Listen more than lecture, build empathy and understanding
  • Sit in silence with her instead of filling the void
  •  Be compassionately curious, ask questions about her mood gently
  • Validate feelings (Ex. “It seems like you have been really down lately. Is that true?”)
  • Acknowledge her feelings instead of trying to talk her out of them (Ex. “I’m so sorry that you are feeling this way. How can I help?”)
  • If she avoids talking and your gut tells you something is off, try to pursue it
  • Try talking with her in the dark on her bed before she falls asleep – a particularly vulnerable time when teens tend to open up
  •  Avoid judgment or problem solving for her
  • Notice the positive things she is doing and let her know you notice

When to act:

If depression lasts more than two or three weeks, you may want to reach out for professional help. We have a list on our website of professionals in the Austin area that can diagnose and treat for depression. For some girls, teen life coaching can be a form of treatment that helps them to take steps to relieve the pain.


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