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How to Recognize the Signs of Depression in a Teen

distraught teen sitting with herm other who is trying to learn how to recognize the signs of depression in a teen

The teen years bring a natural influx of emotional, physical, and cognitive changes that can cause mood swings and challenging days. Parents often struggle to recognize the difference between normal teenage ups and downs and the signs of depression. To learn about our teen depression treatment program, contact Imagine Nampa at 888.503.4604.

What Is Teenage Depression?

As with adult depression, depression among adolescents is not something they can simply “snap out of.” In most cases, the symptoms of depression get worse without treatment.

Teenage depression is a serious threat to a young person’s mental health and safety. The National Library of Medicine estimates that depression affects nearly 30% of all high school students, and 17% of high-school-age adolescents have contemplated suicide.

Depression is a mental health disorder that can cause a great deal of emotional pain. In teens, it may lead to eating disorders, substance use disorders, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.
Without treatment, depression can interfere with every aspect of a teen’s life, including their ability to build healthy connections with other people.

Causes of Teenage Depression

In the U.S., depression is the most common mental health disorder among adolescents ages 12 to 17, and the rates of depression are rising. Depression affects teens of every race, income level, social background, and gender. Teen girls are more likely to speak up about feelings of depression, and boys are less likely to seek help.

Risk factors that increase a teen’s chances of developing depression include:

  • Experiencing trauma, such as the loss of a family member or an accident
  • Family history of depression and other mental health disorders
  • Bullying and social exclusion
  • Previous depressive episodes
  • Environment
  • Extreme poverty
  • Identifying as LGBTQ+
  • A diagnosis of ADHD or other learning disability
  • Genetics

Around 60% of teens diagnosed with major depression have an additional mental health concern, such as anxiety, substance use disorder, or antisocial behaviors.

Recognizing Teenage Depression Signs

Teenage depression signs can be mild to severe. In some cases, as with seasonal affective disorder, they can be temporary, but in most cases, symptoms continue to worsen without treatment.

Signs of depression in adolescents can be different than those of adults and may include:

  • Negative self-image
  • Sensitivity to criticism
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Frequent conflict with others
  • Sadness and tearfulness
  • Isolation from friends or family members
  • Unexplained drop in grades
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Hyperactivity
  • Fearfulness
  • Frequent physical complaints like body aches or digestive upsets
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Threats or attempts to run away from home
  • Self-harm

Suicidal ideation is the most dangerous symptom of teenage depression. If your child seems preoccupied with death, talks about suicide, or makes jokes about taking their own life, contact a mental health professional immediately. If the situation is an emergency, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Remember, a teenager’s brain is still developing. Any person of any age can exhibit some of these symptoms occasionally, but if several warning signs are present for at least two weeks, professional intervention is recommended.

Find Treatment for Teenage Depression at Imagine Nampa

Imagine Nampa provides a comprehensive, evidence-based outpatient program for teens struggling with depression and other mental health concerns, including co-occurring disorders. Treatment may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness practice, group therapy, and medication.

Teen depression is a serious condition that can impact a young person for life if it is not treated. If a young person in your life is exhibiting signs of depression, don’t hesitate to find them help. Call Imagine Nampa at 888.503.4604 today for more information about our outpatient and partial hospitalization programs, or use our convenient online form to reach out.