Many depressed teenagers exhibit similar attitudes that reflect emotional of hopelessness and self-blame. Their behavior may be seen as delivering messages about their depression.

I don’t care.

Some of the signs of depression are a pervasive “I don’t care” attitude and significant changes in behavior. A teen experiencing symptoms of depression usually has difficulty completing assigned tasks both at home and at school and has cut himself off from friends and family. He is no longer interested in things that used to be important to him.

I can’t do it.

One of the most observable characteristics of depression is a lack of energy, which may be accompanied by a change in eating or sleeping patterns. A depressed teen might have trouble getting up in the morning, come late to school, be constantly tired, or even fall asleep in class. He often looks tired and accomplishes a lot less than he used to. His concentration tends to be impaired, and he has difficulty making decisions. A depressed teen may become so absorbed by his negative feelings and thoughts that he can’t pay attention to schoolwork at all. It’s important to realize that this lack of concentration is not deliberate and is very often a source of further distress to the teen. I’ve heard over and over again from the teens I see, both in school and in private practice, how upset they are about not being able to complete work in school or concentrate at home.

I won’t try that.

A teen who exhibits symptoms of depression tends to be rigid and inflexible, not only in his ability to solve problems but also in many other aspects of his life. It’s hard for him to deal effectively with changes in his daily routines. Depressed people are seldom easygoing. A depressed teen is likely to have low self-esteem and make many negative comments about himself and others. Not surprisingly, the cycle of bad feelings leads to behavior that gets a negative response, and this adds to the tension.

It’s all my fault.

What a healthy person perceives as a little problem may be a traumatic event to a depressed teen. It’s important not to impose adult interpretations and values on the experiences of a depressed teen. He sees the world as a dark and unhappy place where bad things keep happening to him. Sometimes he might take ownership of problems when, in fact, he’s done nothing to cause them. Depressed teens, particularly younger ones, are hard on themselves in part because they tend to feel that they have more control over a situation than they really do. A young teen may even blame himself for his parent’s divorce. He’s convinced that if he’d been a better teen, his parents wouldn’t have split up. Many depressed children have expressed great relief when they realize that the bad things happening in their lives aren’t their fault.

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