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How to Recognize Signs of Teen Depression

Kristi graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Human Development and Developmental Psychopathology of Children.

Depression knows no boundaries, doesn't recognize gender or racial differences, crosses socioeconomic lines, and touches all religions, ages, and beliefs. Depression is a serious illness that can have a major impact on the life of a teenager. If left untreated, it may become more severe and trigger other psychological problems.

As with all mental illnesses, early detection and intervention are critical to effectively treating a teen suffering from depression.

Depression Statistics


20% of teens

Experience Depression


Experience Major Depression


Depression lasting more than 1 year

15% with depression

Develop bipolar disorder

30% with depression

Develop substance abuse

12x more likely


Understanding Teen Depression

Before you become an expert on the components of teen depression, it's important to note that no kiddos will experience all of the symptoms. If there is a noticeable change in behavior which lasts for more than two weeks, that may be indicative of a problem. If you feel there might be a problem, contact a medical professional for an evaluation. Don't try to diagnose the problem yourself. Since you are the parent or guardian, you are not considered an objective opinion.

It's more common for teenage girls to suffer from depression than teenage boys. Experts believe that this is due to the different expectations society puts on each gender. Girls are encouraged to talk about their feelings and emotions while boys are expected to stifle them.

Characteristics of a Teen Dealing with Depression

  • Anger or hostility - bouts of rage or aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Apathy or continuously being lethargic, fatigue
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Sleeping more than normal or insomnia
  • Complaining about failure, beliefs, ideals
  • Self injurious behaviors, cutting (wearing long sleeves on hot days to cover wounds is common for kids who cut themselves)
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Crying uncontrollably or often, crying for reasons which seem trivial
  • Extreme sensitivity to suggestion, critique or criticism
  • Unexplainable pain such as headaches, stomach pain, back pain, cramping
  • Lack of concentration and irritability
  • Giving up activities which were once favored
  • Memory loss
  • Poor performance at school
  • Thoughts or discussion of suicide
  • Use or abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Violence or hazardous behavior
  • Withdrawn becoming a loner
  • Change in appearance, lack of attention to hygiene

Teen depression may be misunderstood and mistaken for attitude problems, sadness or disobedience. Left untreated, teen depression can worsen and develop into more severe problems. Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide and the third leading cause of death amongst teens in the US. Teens who suffer from untreated depression are more likely to engage in unprotected sex meaning higher rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Less than 35% of teens who suffer from depression are currently being treated. It is estimated that if teens were to seek proper help from medical professionals, the success rate would be greater than 80%.

Geting Help for Depression

Psychologist: The role of a psychologist is to help improve mental health and manage emotional distress. Click to find a psychologist in your area. The purpose of a psychologist is to discuss and work through issues of all types. They are meant to help a patient overcome problems and fulfill their full potential in a positive manner.

Psychiatrist: The role of a psychiatrist is to evaluate, diagnose and treat mental illness as well as prescribe and continuously monitor medication. Psychiatrists are trained medical professionals who will discuss, evaluate and may prescribe medications if there is a medical necessity for prescription.

What Can I Do at Home?

Because your child suffers from depression doesn't mean that you have to allow the medical professionals to do all the work. It doesn't mean that you have to live in fear everyday either. There are many ways you can help your child.

  1. Talk openly and honestly and DON'T be judgmental. If you ask a question, be prepared for an answer which you may not like. Don't judge, just listen and be an active listener. Look your child in the eyes, pay attention and keep the conversation moving by continuing to ask leading questions. If you ask a question that is potentially difficult - maybe something having to do with your family, the way your treat your child or yourself, you need to be prepared for three answers: a positive, a negative and a non-responsive answer. If you get a non-responsive answer, don't continuously push, instead try another approach.
  2. Get involved with your child. Find something that you and your child mutually enjoy and take the time to do it together. Something like walking the dog together, gardening, window shopping, building model cars, baking, going to the movies or any activity that you both enjoy. Let your kiddo know how important they are to you.
  3. Stay informed about everything they are doing, everywhere they are going and how they are doing in school, athletics and all other activities.
  4. If they are not involved in any activities, get them involved. Volunteering is a great place to start because it often allows kids to see how people who are truly struggling are doing everything they can just to survive. When they give of themselves they may find it very rewarding and cathartic.
  5. Have your child start a journal. Ask them to write down everything they can and teach them that it's a way to drain their heads of the negative thoughts. Once those thoughts are out and on paper, they no longer infect their mind. Tell them to hide in a safe place so that it will remain completely secure. If they are worried that it will be read, have them write for the day, tear the page and fold it, then bring it and you can burn it or destroy it so that those issues and problems are symbolically gone forever.

Depression Touches All Ages

Recognizing depression at all ages is important. It can effect kids, teens, adults and the elderly. The key to successfully treating depression is early detection. There are many ways to treat depression including many homeopathic remedies which are noninvasive and beneficial.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on August 23, 2012:

ahorseback, thank you for reading and commenting. I really hope that this reaches even one person. I sincerely appreciate your compliment. -K

ahorseback on August 15, 2012:

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KRSharp, Now this is the best reason for all hubbing whatsoever ! To help others ! You're awesome for that !......Keep it up !

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 24, 2012:

Simone, thank you for the great comment. Parents play the biggest part in terms of successful intervention and treatment when it comes to child and teen depression. It's wonderful that you have supportive parents. It's very common for parents to take an attitude of "normal teenage behavior" and shrug off the child's true need for their parents' involvement. Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect. -K

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 24, 2012:

Thanks for sharing the great advice, krsharp05. I went through two bouts of major depression when I was younger and would not have made it through without the help and support of my parents. The more active and informed people are about this issue, the better!

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 07, 2012:

teaches, thank you for your input. Working with children, I'm sure you see this unfortunate problem. I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond. -K

Dianna Mendez on July 07, 2012:

Sad to say, but this is on the rise in teens today. Your advice for helping teens may just help a family in need. The statistics you post a good add to the content, very startling! Voted up.

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 07, 2012:

Tamara, I'm so pleased to see you twice in one day! Parents often recognize that a problem exists but deny that it's as serious as it is. When I've worked with kids, I've found that parents may poo-poo the issue or skirt it all together and say it will work itself out. You're exactly right about parents thinking it's normal for teenagers. Thank you for reading. Happy to see you again. -K

Tamara Wilhite from Fort Worth, Texas on July 07, 2012:

You're right about the teen bipolar stats. Parents often mistake the downs of bipolar as depression, while failing to recognize the "up" or manic side of bipolar as a problem or thinking that it is normal.

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 07, 2012:

cybershelley, thank you for reading and commenting. I hope that the information is useful. I appreciate your compliment. -K

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 07, 2012:

meloncauli, thank you for reading and commenting. I agree that depression is often misread. The attitude of "teens will be teens" is unfortunate. Leaving kids alone builds walls not bridges. Thank you for your input. -K

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 07, 2012:

palso, thank you for reading and commenting. Being a teenager is hard. You're right when you say that teens have a hard time dealing with young emotions. It took me most of my life to be able to have an adult perspective, to not take things so seriously. Thank you for your input. -K

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 07, 2012:

Spartucus, thank you for reading and for the wonderful compliment. It's important to have your stamp of approval. -K

Kristi Sharp (author) from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on July 07, 2012:

greatstuff, thank you for reading and replying. It happens a lot that depression is misunderstood by frustrated parents and understandably so. Parents fail to take a step back and look at the situation from a different perspective. I appreciate your input. -K

Mazlan A from Malaysia on July 07, 2012:

You are right when you said teen depression might be misunderstood and mistaken for attitude problems, sadness or disobedience. When that happen, the problem will get worse. Well written and well researched article. Vote useful and Shared.

CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on July 07, 2012:

As always you have a gift when it comes to shedding a light on important social issues. Well researched and logically developed. If the right people read it, this hub could potentially save lives.

pals002 on July 07, 2012:

Thanks for this useful sharing. Teenager is a time where they are going through transition to become adult. There are many behavioural changes during this period and many times they are not able to handle those emotions. It will easily lead to depression if left untreated. Thumbs up for this hub.

meloncauli from UK on July 07, 2012:

Wonderful useful hub! Awareness like this is good as some of the depressive behaviour can be misinterpreted too easily as 'being a teenager'!

Shelley Watson on July 07, 2012:

Brilliant, well researched hub of tremendous value to those dealing with teenagers. Voted up and Interesting.

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