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11 Signs of Depression in Teens and How to Help a Teen with Depression

The signs of depression in teens aren’t always easy to recognize. These tips may help you identify and treat it.

Can you spot all the signs of depression in teens? Many people can’t. Teenagers are complex creatures, and they often mask their feelings from others. Unpredictable behavior, mood swings, and hormonal changes make it tricky to identify depression. However, recognizing the signs and symptoms of teen depression is crucial. Intervening may reduce the risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Keep reading to find out if a teenager in your life may be suffering from depression.

Top Signs a Teen Is Suffering from Depression

Parents should never expect their children to tell them everything. Teenagers are often afraid to make their feelings known, and they worry about others judging them. That’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes and ears open for any of these warning signs of depression:

1) Indications of Low Self-Esteem, Self-Worth, or Value

Teenagers want to fit in with others around them, but some young people find themselves shunned or excluded by their peers. As a result, they feel isolated and worthless. This sense of rejection is often difficult to cope with alone. Their self-esteem may plummet, they may lose their sense of value, and they may develop a deep depression.

2) Inability to Control Their Emotions

Teenagers and mood swings go hand-in-hand. However, uncontrollable emotional outbursts may indicate more than raging hormones. Defiant and confused teens may show extreme anger, frustration, or lingering sadness. Non-stop irritability may also suggest something is wrong. If a teen struggles to control their emotions, depression may be the reason.

3) No Longer Interested in Hobbies or Activities

Most teens participate in activities that bring them joy. Whether it’s playing sports, taking music lessons, or reading a book, they look forward to devoting time to these hobbies. But a depressed teenager may suddenly lose interest in these activities. Instead of replacing them with something else, they just stop altogether.

4) Sudden Social Isolation

Teenagers are social creatures. Most young people would rather hang out with their friends instead of staying home. Increased social isolation is a red flag of a mental disturbance. If a teen suddenly starts keeping to themselves or finds excuses to avoid others, depression may be to blame.

5) Poor Performance in School

It’s not uncommon for a teenager to bring home a bad grade on occasion. But if you notice a sudden drop in their academic achievements, it may be more than just a difficult class. Depression can cause teens to lose focus or interest in their schoolwork.

6) Sleeping More than Usual

Sleeping is essential, but depressed teenagers often spend more time in bed than they do awake. They may oversleep even after going to bed early. Others may exhibit drowsiness throughout the day. If you notice a change in sleeping patterns, it may be time to have your child assessed.

7) Changes in Appetite

Growing teens need a lot of food, but most can control their appetites. They only eat what they need to survive. But depressed teenagers may eat more as a source of comfort. Others may quit eating altogether. Drastic changes in appetite, eating habits, or weight could point to depression.

8) Poor Personal Hygiene

Most teenagers take pride in their appearance. They want to put their best foot forward for others. Having the perfect haircut or trendiest outfit is a must. But when depression enters the picture, they may stop caring about how they look. A decrease in a teen’s personal hygiene is a huge red flag.

9) Signs of Substance Abuse

Some teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol as a way to feel better, but numbing the pain is only temporary. Teens who abuse drugs may lie to their parents or avoid confrontation altogether. They may seem paranoid, fidgety, or nervous. If your teen has bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or slowed motor skills, they may be using, and substance abuse often indicates depression.

10) Participating in Risky Behaviors

Teens act out to get attention. They may bully others, participate in dangerous activities, or even self-harm. Cutting is common with depressed teens. Others may engage in unprotected sex to feel worthy. If ignored, these risky behaviors will only escalate. Depression is often the root cause of this sudden behavior change.

11) Making a Suicide Plan

Suicide is the last resort for depressed teenagers. They may talk about their suicidal ideations with friends or research the subject online. Unfortunately, many teens don’t realize suicide is final, and they make a plan as a cry for attention. In this situation, getting help right away is a must.

Top Causes of Teen Depression

Adolescent years are challenging and just plain confusing. Teenagers often find it hard to cope and may struggle with depression as a result. While teenagers experience depression for various reasons, here are the tops causes:

Hormonal Changes

Going through puberty changes how a child looks and feels. Hormones make it challenging to relate to parents or other adults. An influx of hormones may even cause emotional instability. Teens may experience uncontrollable anger or irritability. Some may even develop negative thoughts or have suicidal ideations.

Chemical Imbalances

The brain regulates chemicals in the body, but several chemical changes may impact a teen’s ability to control their emotions. That’s why mood swings are so common, even in healthy children. However, some teens can’t cope with these changes very well. Add stress, environmental factors, and relationships to the mix, and the brain may react abnormally. A chemical imbalance could disrupt a teen’s ability to function in their daily life.


Genetics plays a huge role in mental health. The American Journal of Psychiatry estimates that depression has a genetic link in up to 40% of cases. Teens are more likely to experience depression if there is a family history of mental illness. Recognizing this risk is the first step towards treating any symptoms.

History of Abuse or Trauma

Childhood abuse is more prevalent than many people realize, and victims often deal with lifelong guilt resulting from the abuse. Other kids may experience a death in the family, the loss of a pet, or other traumatic events. PTSD is common. However, teens often lack the coping skills to deal with these emotions. Anyone with a history of abuse or trauma is at a higher risk of developing depression.

Low Self-Worth or Lack of Value

A major cause of depression is low self-esteem, and the adolescent years are a common time for kids to experience self-doubt. Teenagers may struggle to connect with their peers or feel alienated from the world. Some even deal with constant bullying and develop low self-worth due to the sense of isolation. As teens explore the world in search of their identity, they may start to question themselves. This internal conflict can lead to feelings of depression.

While this list isn’t all-inclusive, it does address the most common causes of teen depression. Other risk factors are chronic pain, learning disabilities, divorce, or growing up in a dysfunctional family.

Top Ways to Help a Teen with Depression

Depression is a chronic mental disorder, but many teens don’t want to discuss their emotions with parents, teachers, or other trusted adults. Instead, they suffer in silence. These feelings of sadness and despair may not go away on their own. Some may linger for months, years, or a lifetime. If you have a depressed teenager, seeking help is the right thing to do.

The first step to getting help is to evaluate the situation. If you feel your teen is in immediate danger or contemplating suicide, take them to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation. It could be the difference between life and death. However, if the situation is less dire, there are some things you can do to help them cope. Try these:

Seek Counseling

Teenagers don’t always want to open up to their parents. They may hide their emotions out of shame or embarrassment. Instead, your teen may let depressive feelings take over their life. That’s why finding a local counselor as soon as possible is crucial.

Counseling is a safe environment. Your teenager will be able to express themselves freely without judgment. A skilled counselor will give them the tools necessary to come out on the other side with a fresh perspective on life.

Reduce Stress

Stress causes inflammation throughout the entire body and may affect a person’s ability to cope with life. While some adolescents can adapt to stressful situations, many teens can’t handle significant amounts of stress. Instead, they bottle up their emotions until they can’t take it any longer. Finding ways to reduce stress at home may help.

How can you reduce stress? Try talking to your teenager using uplifting language. Praise their accomplishments without dwelling on their failures. Let your child know how proud they make you. Positive reinforcement will help boost your teen’s self-esteem and may reduce depressive feelings.

Rule Out Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions may increase the risk of depression in teens. Chronic illnesses may leave a child feeling hopeless. Those who have cancer or other diseases sometimes suffer from severe pain. Eating disorders, ADHD, and even acne can also affect your teen’s mood negatively. Unfortunately, many teens won’t tell their families if they’re struggling to cope. Getting help from a family doctor to treat any medical conditions is imperative.

Some mediations list depression as an adverse reaction. Teenagers who take corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, or Ritalin may be at an increased risk. Surprisingly, some antidepressants may even exacerbate feelings of despair. Talk to your child’s doctor if they exhibit any symptoms of depression after taking a medication.

Reinforce Structure and Consistency

Most parents realize toddlers need structure, but it’s also important for teenagers. Maintaining consistency helps to reduce unexpected stressors. It also creates a sense of belonging and makes teens feel comfortable.

Creating structure is especially vital for teens diagnosed with ADHD or ASD. These disorders cause the mind to race and create sensory overload. As a result, these teens may struggle to regulate their emotions. A structured, consistent home environment may reduce the risk of depression.

Encourage a Balanced School and Social Life

A well-balanced school and social life are essential for teenagers. Adolescents need enough time to hang out with their friends. Teens tend to get antsy or rebellious if they spend all their free time studying. They may even develop depressive tendencies.

Help your teenager create a schedule that incorporates “playtime” with learning. After all, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Your teenager will thank you later.

Promote Good Sleep Habits

While too much sleep is a sign of depression, it’s also part of being a teenager. Adolescents require more sleep than adults. The physical and mental changes of puberty take their toll on the body. Teens need more rest as their bodies grow. Unfortunately, some parents see this as lazy when it’s a natural part of growing up.

If your teen seems tired, let them sleep. In most instances, there’s no reason to worry. But if you notice a sudden shift in their sleep habits, it’s time to speak with a doctor.

Spend Time with Your Teen

Teens don’t always want to hang out with their parents. As your child navigates through this challenging time of life, they may even pull away from you. This reaction is totally normal and part of becoming an adult, but your teenager still needs you to spend time with them.

Scheduling one-on-one time with your teen is one of the best ways to boost their self-esteem. Tell them how important they are whenever you get the chance. And always offer a non-judgmental ear when they need it. Even if they roll their eyes, your love and support will help guide them as they grow.

Counseling for Depressed Teens

Teenagers aren’t always an open book—most are more like a locked diary. They often hide their genuine emotions to avoid confrontation. Unfortunately, depression affects countless adolescents every year. Bottling up their feelings makes the situation worse. If left untreated, depression can take its toll on your teen’s life.

New Life 360° takes a different approach to counseling. Our therapists combine both traditional and holistic treatments to create a custom plan for every client. Whether your teen suffers from chronic depression or is just having growing pains, we can help. We believe all teens can benefit from compassionate care and a welcoming smile. Book a consultation with our team to discuss how we treat the signs of depression in teens.