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What Depression Looks Like in Introverted Teens

Every teenager is different, and everyone falls on a different place on the spectrum between introverted and extroverted. Some teens love spending time with friends every day, but just don’t like crowds. Others prefer to be alone for the majority of the time and hang out with friends only a few times a week. Because introverted behavior is more withdrawn than extroverted behavior, they can be hard to tell apart from the more commonly recognized signs of depression. This is a great concern among many parents of teenagers, as depression is so prevalent in today’s society and so serious when left unaddressed. Here are a few tips to help you navigate this the subtle differences and know when your child needs professional help.

Knowing Your Teen’s Normal 

The first and most important step in knowing whether your teen is showing signs of depression is to understand what their normal behavior is. While things like cynicism and long hours spent isolated in their room can be signs of depression, this can also be perfectly normal behavior for a large majority of teens. Introverted teens find happiness doing different things than extroverts enjoy. To best understand your introverted teen’s psychological state, you need to get to a point where you know your teen’s likes, dislikes and normal behaviors. The better you understand what is normal behavior for your teen, the easier it will be to recognize changes in that behavior that can indicate depression or distress.

Eating Habits 

Often a change in mood can have a significant impact on a person’s diet. Changes in eating habits often expose that something is mentally impacting a child so much that their interest in eating disappears or, alternatively, it may increase considerably. If your introverted teen likes to eat a lot, for example, then a sudden reduction in food consumption can be an indication that something is bothering your teenager. On the other hand, other introverts simply are forgetful about eating regularly, because they are engrossed in their own creative activities. In this case, a dramatic increase in eating may indicate depression. If things that normally bring them pleasure, such as creative activities, no longer do so, they may try comfort food instead. It is important to remember that increasing food consumption can be a comforting way for introverted teens to cope with their problems, anxiety or other forms of stress that may accompany mild depression. The key is to look for dramatic changes that last for more than a week.

Changes in Sleeping Habits 

Just because your introverted teen stays up most of the night, this does not mean they are experiencing depression. However, if your teenager breaks from their usual sleeping schedule, this may be a sign that something is wrong. They may sleep more than usual, because they are not excited about activities that come in waking hours. On the other hand, they may be worried and depressed, which makes it difficult for them to sleep. If your teen has shown a significant change in their sleeping habit, it is important to talk to them and ask about what may be causing it. Often teenagers will complain when they are having trouble sleeping or are feeling more tired and withdrawn, so it is important that you don’t brush it off when they do. Any time that your teenager opens up about something that is causing them distress, especially to the point that their regular schedule is disrupted, you need to pay attention. Ask questions, offer support, and if you don’t see any improvement in their emotional condition, get them professional help.

Suicidal Thoughts 

Since introverted teens tend to be more critical of themselves, this can sometimes lead to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. While a cynical, sarcastic, or even dark-humored teen is perfectly normal, there is a line. If your teen is jokingly using phrases like “maybe I should just kill myself” or “I bet you wish I were dead,” these are warning signs that they have suicide lingering in their thoughts. Phrases like “well you won’t have to worry for much longer” and “it’ll be better when I’m gone” are even worse, as they are signs that your teen has already made the decision to commit suicide and is in critical need of psychiatric help. Organizations like Lifeline can be an important resource should your teen reach these stages. Even if they have not yet reached crisis level, getting professional counseling and help during hard times can be a great benefit to your child and give them the guidance they need to avoid suicidal mindsets entirely.

While most introverted behavior is nothing to be concerned about in a naturally introverted teen, it is important to be aware of their habits and preferences so that you can identify changes. Extreme changes in behavior do not always indicate depression, but they do generally indicate certain levels of distress, anxiety, and uncertainty about a teen’s personal identity. Speak often with your teen so that you know what is going on in their lives, and take their concerns seriously. Doing this will put you in the prime position to catch problems early and get them help before they can reach a crisis point.

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