Identifying Depression in Adolescents

Man holds hand to camera with HELP written on palm.

Identifying and Treating Depression in Adolescents

Changing bodies, peer pressure, and being nervous about the future are all part of the teenage experience, including occasional sadness. However, for some teens, this sadness is a symptom of depression.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a condition that affects one’s moods and daily functions. While sadness is something that everybody experiences in their life, it is a feeling that passes over time. With depression, that feeling does not pass on its own and can start to severely affect a person’s life, body, relationships, and work.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness;
  • Mood swings;
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities;
  • Low self-esteem;
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, and remembering;
  • Loss of energy;
  • Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping;
  • Unexplained changes in appetite;
  • Withdrawing from social circles and family;
  • Unexplained aches and pains;

Although moodiness and depression in adolescents can be confused with each other, there are slight differences to watch out for. For example, mood swings are common in teenagers, but those moods can shift toward happiness and elation. Teens with depression will display more anger, sadness, hopelessness, and withdrawal. If feelings of intense sadness or anger last more than two weeks, this may signal depression.

Risk Factors

Depression in teenagers can lead to a list of complications including poor schoolwork, legal issues that stem from missing school or fighting at school, social isolation, unhealthy relationships, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

Treatment Options

Depression is complex but we know there are strategies that work overtime. Begin by talking with your teen and deciding if it’s time to speak with a behavioral health professional. A professional can offer a variety of treatments that may include regular counseling or medication. Starting treatment early can help prevent symptoms from getting worse. WellSpace Health offers a continuum of care that includes prevention, counseling, and treatment.

How You Can Help

As a parent or caregiver, it is important to note some facts when faced with a teen experiencing depression:

  • Depression is not a choice or simply just a phase;
  • Depression can appear with no cause;
  • Know that your teen may feel uncomfortable opening up about their feelings;
  • Do not shame, demean, or dismiss your teen’s problems if they do open-up;
  • Listen without judgment and accept what your teen is saying;
  • Be an advocate for your teen as you seek the best treatment option, together.