While many of us are excited for the holidays, this is also a busy time of year — and not just for adults. For teenagers and adolescents anxiety runs high with mid-term exams, school dances and college application deadlines looming. Rose Melendez

With so many life and physical changes, mood swings are normal for many teens. But how can you tell if your child has a mood disorder like depression? Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Administration, shares advice on the subject.

How common are problems like depression in teens?

Nurse Rose: As a parent, I know that it’s easy to think, “Oh it’s just a mood swing.” But you’d be surprised — studies shave shown that about one in five teenagers has a diagnosable mental health disorder, including mood disorders. In fact, 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by the age of 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

How can parents tell if their child has a mood disorder?

Nurse Rose: It can be tough sometimes to tell the difference between a depression and the usual us-and-downs of a teenager. Watch for these warning signs of depression.

  • Prolonged periods of sadness lasting two weeks or more
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Loss of interest in hobbies the child usually enjoys
  • Lethargy
  • Changes in appetite or sleep habits
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts

As a parent, you know your child. If you notice your child acting differently or struggling, have an open discussion about what’s bothering him or her.

What should parents do if they recognize these warning signs?

Nurse Rose: If you notice these warning signs, start by talking with your kid, and seek help from a licensed behavioral health professional. Early diagnosis and treatment using psychotherapy or medication can help teenagers with mood disorders lead happier, more productive lives.

Additional Health Tips from Rose

Find more family health tips online or tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to hear Rose live.