Teenage Angst or Depression: How to Tell the Difference

Here are a few ways for parents to know how to tell the difference between teenage angst and depression.

Parent’s have enough trouble getting through the day with their kid’s mood swings while wondering if they are normal. Then your child becomes a teenager and parents really start questioning themselves about their kids’ behavior. Adolescents have very strong emotions due to hormonal changes they are starting to experience. They also start to fight for independence and experience anxiety. This is due to their new social lives, fitting in and the demands of school and parents. Family changes make things worse at this age if parents decide to divorce and both parents are bringing new friends around. Teen angst basically means moodiness, irritability, some pessimism, although the term angst generally means anxiety.

How do parents know the difference between angst which might be anxiety and depression? There really isn’t a clear view of the two words so it’s important for parents to start looking for other signs and symptoms so they can nip it in the bud and decide if this is angst or depression.

Symptoms of both anxiety and depression

When teens are plagued by depression, their moods are low for the day, no motivation, problems sleeping, low energy, no appetite, guilt, low self-esteem and at times self-harm. Teens may blow up with anger and start using substances to cope. This is hard to figure out for parents because kids are good at hiding things from parents, especially if the parents aren’t home enough. Anxiety can also be hard to identify because it might just come across as crankiness. Your teen might avoid school and social interaction with others. They start using excuses for not going to parties, not doing homework or not wanting to go to school activities. Anxiety is easy to tell because the teen will start using the excuse of physical problems like headaches, stomach problems, or another type of pain. Take your teen to the doctor and if he or she can’t find anything wrong, then think about anxiety as the problem.

Anxiety and depression are very important for parents to learn about these issues. There are different degrees of anxiety and depression, long or short periods of both and basic dysfunction in the life of your child. Some kids don’t enjoy anything and withdraw from family and friends. Watch for poor sleep habits like sleeping too long or not at all. These kids also tend to stay in their rooms with the door closed and constantly binge on TV shows. They also sit in the dark and start to shut their parents out. There is a help though because there are many tools you can use to help your child get through this difficult period. Here are some ideas.

Hang Around

If your teen seems to ignore and acts like they are too busy for you, these are the teens that actually need parents around. Most parents believe they aren’t needed because they see this as a sign of independence. Stay home anyways even if you are ignored, and watch your child from a distance and do a mental health check of their behavior. If they do need your help with something, listen to what they have to say. Always be ready to talk about good habits, be supportive and create your rules by using a curfew and social media if they break the rules. Your teen is going to rebel, but they are used of boundaries anyways from going to school for years. They actually feel more comfortable with boundaries but won’t let you know that. Don’t expect them to show you any special treatment either.


If you have any plans on getting your teen to talk to you don’t start with a lecture. If your teen decides to share a story with you, don’t butt in and give advice. Just listen! You can be calm and use body language to acknowledge that you are listening and turn the question back on them. Ask them what they want to do about their dilemma. If the talk is about a sensitive issue, make sure an adult is present that your child trusts. Don’t text while listening to your child. Your social life can wait. Hang around when your teen is watching TV or ask them if they want to go for a ride to the store with you. This is the time where teens might open up without thinking and this gives you the opportunity to get to know what your teen is thinking. You can then decide if they are going through a bit of anxiety or angst or something more serious.

Talk to your teen

If you have any concerns that your child is suffering from anxiety or depression, talk to them about how you have been viewing their behavior. Don’t sound judgemental, but be supportive!

Take your teen to the doctor

It’s always good to make an appointment with your teen’s doctor. Most teens need a tetanus shot by 14 anyway, so it’s a great excuse to tell the doctor what your concerns are about your teen. If you believe your child has anxiety and depression, mention it to the doctor and let your teen go into the office alone with the doctor. This will give your teen some space and the doctor can check your child and see if he or she is concerned about any mental health issues.

Take your child to therapy if they ask to go

Teens will ask their parents more often than not if they can go talk to a therapist because your child knows what is bothering them. Always say yes and don’t feel like it’s the end of the world. You never know what could be going on in your teen’s mind. Most therapists have sliding scale fees if you can’t afford the cost or you don’t have adequate insurance. If you can’t find help, the schools always have counselors and you can go back to your doctor more ideas.

Inquire about self-harm and suicide

Don’t be afraid to ask your teen if they are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide ideologies. This doesn’t mean you are encouraging your teen by asking them these questions but your child may open up to you and actually admit they have thought about this behavior. Use a calm voice when you ask questions and although this conversation is hard, this is definitely an important talk to have with your teen. Face it you remember yourself that the teen years were fun for you and you can watch your child gain independence and see where their mind takes them. The challenges are many and you will be watching and listening. You will also be using your intuition frequently. It’s good to know when your teen is having a bad day and always ask for a second opinion if you keep questioning yourself. Remember you are the expert when it comes to your teen and nothing is ever really normal with a teenager.