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18 Reasons You Might Not Notice Your Child's Depression

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It can often be hard to differentiate between “normal” adolescent behavior — acting out, shyness, not listening, sleeping a lot — from signs that may mean your child is struggling with depression. Or maybe your child “seems fine,” but in reality, they’re hiding their depression behind good grades, having friends and being involved in extracurricular activities.

Sometimes depression in children isn’t so obvious. That is why we asked our Mighty mental health community what are reasons their parents may not have noticed their depression as a child. Because even the greatest parents can overlook their child’s depression.

So here are some things to consider so you don’t miss your child’s depression:

1. “Everyone mistook my depression, anxiety and struggles to connect with people as me being ‘shy.’ I would just internalize and was very introverted when dealing with things. It took me many years to realize I wasn’t actually shy like everyone assumed.” — Sarah C.

2. “Because nobody is perfect. It wasn’t my parents’ fault. They were working their asses off to provide for us. They were just too busy and too consumed by their own issues to take time to spend with us. And back in the day, we didn’t do that sort of thing, it wasn’t talked about. Mental health wasn’t as open as it is now. Things were different back then.” — Simon S.

3. “I was a ‘perfect child’ who had straight A’s and was involved with lots of extra things in my school. I hid my feelings and trauma from everyone by becoming absorbed in being a model student.” — Megan G.

4. “People thought I was just shy and preferred reading books to being with people. If I tried to talk about how I felt I was accused of overreacting.” — Katie S.

5. “I think part of it has to do with the fact that my own mother had a mental health problem and didn’t want to admit it. It’s hard to get help for others when you can’t even recognize it in yourself. My depression was also just excused as ‘attention-seeking,’ ‘overly dramatic’ behavior, laziness and shyness. When I became a teenager, my extreme tiredness and moodiness/anger was just ‘normal.’” — Lillie S.

6. “Because they thought it was ‘normal’ that from a young age I would hang around the adults instead of playing with the kids, or that I never brushed my hair because I was just ‘lazy and irresponsible.’” — Curstin C.

7. “Anger covers up sadness too well. Also in a weird way, we’ve been taught that anger is strength and sadness is a weakness, so too many people result to anger as a way of expressing their sadness.” — Billy C.

8. “I think I tried my best to fake it for the sake of others. I didn’t want my mom to hurt for me or with me; I didn’t want her to feel responsible or guilty for having a ‘broken child.’ I was really smart and cooperative; I wanted everyone to like me. My brother had a discipline problem and was always getting kicked out of school for drugs and fighting. I always tried to ‘make up for it’ for my Mom by being an easy, responsible, loving kid. The adults all thought I was so grown up, but I was always dying inside.” — Contessa M.

9. “I always kept my feelings silent and hid them inside. I remember it clearly from ages 6 to 11, but didn’t understand what it was or why. I would never talk about it to anyone and just chalked it up to me being ‘different.’” — Rachel A.

10. “I made up excuses for being sad or otherwise not happy, and others wanted to believe it, so they did.” — Jennifer B.

11. “Because I always said I was OK and I wasn’t.” — Linzi W.

12. “I would stay in my room for hours blasting my music so they couldn’t hear me cry myself to sleep. My mom always thought I was just shy. Or I would use laughter to hide my true feelings. It’s my way of protecting what I truly feel. I hate people knowing when I’m feeling down.” — Arlin G.

13. “Because I had friends. I would always rather be out doing something with them. Because if I wasn’t I was sitting home alone in my room realizing I was ‘different’ and didn’t know how or why.” — Jenn E.

14. “I hid my depression very well. It was almost as if I was two different people because I put up a front that I was always happy, very outgoing and very involved in school. But when I was alone, I was very depressed, lonely and anxious” — Megan K.

15. “It wasn’t ever considered a possibility as far as I’m aware. Any distress was put down to me being a quiet, shy boy rather than thought of as anything more serious.” — Martin H.

16. “It hides behind my smile with a fierce look. I was seen as a strong, jolly, independent kid — but I wasn’t. I thought it would be better to conceal whatever I was feeling.” — Ar S.

17. “I often felt I had to figure things out on my own and self-soothed with sleep, TV and food. Later I added work and exercise to that mix. Anything to stay busy. I didn’t know what was happening until I was in my 30s, and postpartum brought me to the lowest levels and I had to seek help. My therapist helped me realize a lot and looking back, I could see patterns and better understand.” — Megan S.

18. “People only saw the ADHD. When I was hurting myself, I was told I was looking for attention. They never truly saw that I needed help.” — Tay B.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Getty image via piyapong sayduang

Originally published: December 19, 2017
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