Motivating a depressed teenager can be extremely difficult- even a teenager without depression can be hard to motivate. Think back to your teenage years… chances are, emotions were high! You might have thought life was hard or unfair, school was stressful, you dealt with puberty, maybe there was some peer pressure, and things were overall an up and down roller coaster. The teenage years can be tumultuous. 

Depression adds a separate set of trials that can affect the whole family. You are not alone, and neither is your teen; it’s estimated that one in five adolescents struggles with depression in any given year. If you think your unmotivated teenager may be depressed, this is the article for you.

Depression can be very serious, but there is hope! Keep reading to learn more.

Let’s talk about a few questions you might have: 

  1. What is Depression?
  2. Is My Teenager Depressed?
  3. How do I Communicate With a Depressed Teenager?
  4. How Do I Motivate a Depressed Teenager? 
  5. What Are the Treatment Options For Depression?

sad teen by himself | The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center

What is Depression? 

If someone is depressed, it just means they are super sad, right? Wrong.

Depression is a complex mood disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is persistent sadness that lasts for weeks, months, or even years. It affects the way a person feels, acts, and may result in suicidal thoughts. If you have depression, you cannot simply just snap out of it. Simple everyday tasks may become extremely difficult, and things you once found joy and pleasure in become mundane. 

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Is My Teenager Depressed? 

Before we dive into how to motivate a depressed teenager, we have to know what depression might look like. Depression is complex and can change your teens, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Are you having trouble knowing whether or not your teenager is depressed?

Here are some common signs of depression, especially in teenagers: 

  • Persistent sadness
  • irritability
  • Angry outbursts or reckless behavior
  • Fatigue 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities 
  • Hopelessness/guilt 
  • Isolation
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Drug and alcohol use 
  • Self harm or thoughts of suicide 

It is important to know that depression can manifest in different ways. It is often an invisible struggle, so your teen may hide their feelings. Symptoms of depression can also overlap with “typical” teenage behaviors. It is important to communicate openly with your teen if you suspect that they are depressed.

Having a teen struggling with their mental health can be painful for the whole family. Once you can spot the warning signs, you can take the next steps toward healing.

depressed teen laying in bed | The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center

How Do I Communicate With a Depressed Teenager? 

When someone is hurting badly on the inside, it can be hard to communicate with them. Specifically with teenagers, and especially if you are their parent! You are going to need to exercise patience, empathy, and a willingness to adapt. 

It may be difficult to motivate someone if you don’t understand them and their point of view. Make sure your teen knows that you are here for them! Start by having open and nonjudgmental conversations. Maybe you can open up about your own struggles and see if they open up in return. 

Create a supportive and safe environment within your home and family. Your teen will benefit from a space they feel comfortable expressing themself in. Depression is often accompanied by guilt; your teen may feel guilty about the way they feel. Do your best to not make that guilt worse.

Avoid trying to fix all of their problems right away. Sometimes, you just want someone who will listen and tell you that they are here for you.

mom talking to teenager son | The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center

How Do I Motivate a Depressed Teenager?

It is important to note that everyone is unique, so what works for one might not work for another. You know your teen, trust your instincts. Lead with love and don’t judge. This may be a slow and painful journey, but you got this! Here are 8 ways to motivate a depressed teenager:

  1. Set Realistic Goals:

    When someone is depressed, even the simple tasks can seem impossible. You can help your teen break down their day into simple, easy to manage steps. 

  2. Celebrate their achievements:

    Even if the achievement is just making the bed that day or completing a homework assignment. Do what you can to boost their self esteem! 

  3. Use Affirmations:

    We all need a little affirmation. Try telling your teen things like, “you are valuable, even if you aren’t feeling productive” or “you are capable and strong”.

  4. Take Away The Stigma:

    Let them know that depression and mental illnesses are common. Remind them that they are not broken or abnormal. 

  5. Encourage Social Interactions:

    Depression can lead to social withdrawal, which can unfortunately make things even worse. Encourage your teen to keep in contact with their friends! Try planning a fun activity that they used to enjoy, and maybe even ask them if they want to bring a friend along. 

  6. Encourage Healthy Habits and Self Care:

    This might include eating nutritious foods, exercising, taking a bath, mindful journaling, or meditation. Taking care of your mind and body can help minimize depressive symptoms.

  7. Be Patient:

    Avoid expressing frustration or irritation about your teens lack of change, because this could add to their feelings of hopelessness and guilt. Your support is essential to their recovery. 

  8. Get Them Professional Help:

    Depression often requires intervention from a professional. Offer to help them find someone who they feel comfortable with, and you can even offer to go with them if they don’t want to go alone. 

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positive affirmation signs | The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center

What Are The Treatment Options for Depression? 

Depression can be a debilitating and dangerous disorder. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available!

The two most common treatment options for depression are therapy and medication- or a combination of both. Both have high success rates for managing and treating depression. Psychotherapy, or traditional talk therapy for teenagers, is a great first step to take. After the therapeutic process begins, the therapist may recommend an antidepressant. Lifestyle changes and support from loved ones also play a big part in the healing process.

Final Thoughts on How to Motivate a Depressed Teenager

Remember that no one with depression chooses to be sad. The teenage years can be some of the most tumultuous years of a person’s life, so going through those years while suffering from depression can be debilitating. 

Be a safe space for your teen to open up. Validate them, encourage them, listen without judgment. Don’t get discouraged, help is available! If you want to get help, please reach out to us today.

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