Teen Depression

What is Teen Depression?

Teen depression is a mental health disorder that causes teenagers to feel persistently sad. In addition to affecting how they feel, behave, and think, it can create problems in the way they function as well as physical and emotional issues. The condition is not something that can be overcome with willpower alone, and it can have long-term complications that can ultimately affect a child’s adult life.

Teenagers face a lot of outside pressure from school, peers, and the hormonal changes taking place in their bodies. This can cause them to experience mood swings varying in levels of happiness and sadness. For most, the feelings of depression are temporary. However, some teenagers are sad more often and for longer periods of time than is typical of the age group. When activities the teen usually enjoys are not able to improve their mood, the condition needs to be examined by a medical professional.

What are the Symptoms of Teen Depression?

Sometimes a sudden change in a teenager’s behavior is immediately noticeable. Other times, it is gradual and not so easily spotted. Teens who are experiencing depression often exhibit a wide array of symptoms such as:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Hostility
  • Anxiety
  • Frequent crying
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of interest
  • Poor academic performance
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of self-worth
  • No motivation or enthusiasm
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Unexplained aches
  • Apathy
  • Irresponsible behavior
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Promiscuity
  • Rebellious behavior

Teen Depression Causes

There are usually a number of factors involved in the cause of depression in teenagers. The first is to do with our biology. Depression can occur when the balance of naturally occurring, mood-stabilizing chemicals in the brain is changed. Hormones, which can fluctuate greatly during teenage years, can influence an imbalance of these chemicals.

However, aside from these biological influences, teen depression can also be triggered by environment. Emotional trauma such as the loss of a loved one, stress caused by academic pressure, or things like bullying could all trigger depression. Sometimes the depression develops very gradually as a result of negative thought patterns, which may be particularly prevalent in teens who can be vulnerable to expectations put upon them by their peers. Issues with self-esteem or body confidence, for example, may cause negative thinking which can lead to a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness commonly experienced during depression.

There is also a certain genetic factor associated with depression. Teenagers who have a family history of the condition are more likely to develop it themselves. However, there could be an environmental factor at play here too; some depressive thoughts and behaviors could be learned from parents with depression, for example.

How is Teen Depression Treated?

Teen depression can be treated with a variety of therapies depending on the source and severity. In the majority of cases, a combination of medication and psychotherapy is very effective. Teenagers with severe depression or who are at risk of harming themselves might need to participate in outpatient treatment programs or stay in the hospital until their symptoms improve.

Teen Depression Prevention

Parents and teachers can try to prevent depression in teens by knowing the symptoms and warning signs of the disorder and helping them to seek treatment or psychotherapy early. Similarly, teens who have experienced emotional trauma such as the death of a friend or family member, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or a traumatic event such as a fire or burglary may benefit from talking therapies. This can give them an opportunity to work through their emotions in a safe, confidential environment and find healthy coping mechanisms.

Exercise can help to prevent or alleviate depression, so teens who partake in regular physical activities may reduce their risk. It should be an activity that they find enjoyable, and if it is something parents or friends can do with them, this has the added benefit of preventing loneliness, which is another risk factor.

Finally, it can be helpful for teens to know the warning signs of depression themselves and understand where they can reach out for help should they need it. It’s important they know that depression and other mental health disorders are very common and not something to be embarrassed about. This way, they are more likely to have the confidence to ask for help when they need it.

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Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
March 30, 2018