Why Your Kid’s Lack of Motivation Might Be Depression (and what to do about it)

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Often times when working with students in schools teachers and parents will confide in me that their student is unmotivated. “I just can’t get him out of his room.” “He’s not motivated to do his homework.” “We have to beg him to walk the dog, and he LOVES that dog!” “She does nothing in class! She doesn’t even get to school half the time!”

And along with this lack of motivation there seems to be an um…errr..uuhh…attitude problem. “He’s so angry.” “She’s so sensitive these days.” “He is so short fused with his siblings!” “You can’t say anything to him about it!”

“Have you considered that your child may be depressed?”

“No, she/he’s not sad. She/he doesn’t cry. She has fun; hangs out with her friends on the weekend.”

While crying, sadness, meloncholy and moping may be common place for some teens who are struggling with depression, many times these are simply not symptoms. For a teenager with a host of emotions, and quite frankly, a reputation to uphold, what you will see as depression is primarily a lack of motivation and irritability. Combine that with copious amounts of time spent alone in their room and you have a potentially depressed teen.

And it’s not too uncommon. Even those with everything they could want can be depressed. Happiness is not linked to socioeconomic status…at least, not how you may think. As it turns out American teenagers from upper-middle class families report higher rates of depression (and anxiety and substance abuse as well). So next time you think, ‘why is he/she so depressed, he/she has everything!’ remember that a youngsters fear of failure or not living up to societies expectations coupled with other societal pressures can be a hot bed for under expressed, under appreciated emotions. And just as you would give serious consideration to a friend who seems touchy and no longer engages in the activities you used to enjoy together, you should give consideration to your teen as well. Is this normal? Let’s look closer to find out. Consult a mental health professional who can help you discern the expected from the concerning. I’ll be here to help.

 

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