What is Teen Depression?

For any parent with a teen, you’ll know how quickly their moods can change. Like the flip of a switch, your teen may be feeling happy and elated and then suddenly be overwhelmed by sadness. While these mood swings and the occasional period of sadness are normal in teens (and everyone else, for that matter), extended periods of sadness may indicate that your child is suffering from teen depression

But what exactly is this condition? How do you distinguish the occasional mood swing or bad day from teen depression? Compared to adults, does depression differ for teens and is it even treatable? Here, we’re taking a closer look at teen depression to help you answer all these questions and more. If you believe your teen is experiencing depression, it’s important to first talk with them. If they agree that outside help could be beneficial, contact a doctor or mental health professional. 


Depression is a very real and a very common mental health problem. In fact, depression affects millions of American of almost any age. But how do we differentiate depression from simply having a bad day?

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a “common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act.” Depression affects everyone differently, but the majority of people experiencing major depressive disorder lose interest in things they once cared about, withdraw from family and friends, and struggle through intense periods of sadness and hopelessness. 

If left untreated, depression can lead to additional mental and physical ailments. This is why it’s so important to reach out to a medical professional if you or a loved one is experiencing this common disorder. 


While there are many areas of similarity, there are also key differences between adult depression and teen depression. One of the key differences lies in how they choose to still interact with others. While adults with depression tend to withdraw from everyone in their lives (friends, family, coworkers), teens with depression often still find time for their friends but will begin to exclude parents or teachers.

Another key difference is how depression affects them emotionally. For many adults with depression, they will act sad, lethargic, or simply disinterested. This heavy sense of sadness is difficult to overcome. While teen depression also causes intensive periods of sadness, teens may act out more with anger and irritability. This could be a result of the frustration from not understanding what they’re experiencing. 


It can be challenging to identify teen depression. As previously stated, how do you differentiate teen depression from a completely normal bad day? To be able to identify teen depression, it helps to maintain a healthy and attentive relationship with your teen. We’re not advocating for “helicopter parenting,” but the more time you spend with your teen, the easier it becomes to notice significant changes in their behavior.

While each case of teen depression is unique, there are certain warning signs that parents should be made aware of so they can keep their eyes open. Here are some of the most common signs of depression in teens:

·  Prolonged periods of sadness or hopelessness.

·  Lack of energy or enthusiasm.

·  Loss of interest in activities and things they used to enjoy.

·  Irritability and anger.

·  Negative views about the world.

·  Withdrawing from friends, family, and social activities.

·  Changes in appetite, weight, or appearance.

·  Restlessness.

·  Self-harm.

·  Suicidal thoughts.

If your teen is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s important to first open up a dialogue. Don’t try to force them into treatment or explain to them how they’re feeling. It’s critical to first listen and then act. Come from a place of love and understanding and attempt to work together to find a solution. 


Yes, teen depression (like most all forms of depression) is a very treatable mental health condition. Depending on the type and severity of the condition, there are various approaches to treatment, many of which prove successful over time.

Generally, there are three ways to treat teen depression: medication, psychotherapy, and residential treatment centers. Various medications have been approved by the FDA to safely treat teen depression. Prozac and Lexapro, two of the most common depression medications, have shown significant success in helping teens manage their depressive symptoms. However, there can be dangerous side effects associated with taking antidepressants. 

For this reason, it’s very important to consult your doctor before pursuing any form of medication. Once your teen starts taking the medication, they should be closely monitored to ensure they aren’t experiencing any harmful effects. 

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a type of treatment that involves talking with a trained therapist or mental health professional. Through these therapy sessions, which may be designed as one-on-one or group sessions, teens are given the chance to talk about their symptoms and experiences. From there, therapists can help them develop healthy strategies for managing their mental health condition. 


If medication or psychotherapy are not sufficient, many people turn to residential treatment centers. This immersive approach to therapy provides around-the-clock care at inpatient facilities. Staffed by doctors, nurses, and licensed mental health professionals, these treatment centers can help your teen understand their condition and develop positive habits for managing their symptoms. Additionally, since many of these centers are designed specifically for teens, they can meet others who are going through a similar situation. This can not only help them develop healthy strategies, but also form valuable relationships. 


Teen depression can be difficult to identify. Notorious for their unpredictable emotions, how can you be sure your teen isn’t just going through a rough week at school or a recent break up? While these issues are common, teen depression itself is also a common condition and affects millions of teens all over the world. 

Luckily, teen depression is a very treatable condition. But it’s important to identify this condition, which is why all parents should become familiar with the common signs of depression in teens. If you believe your teen has depression, talk to them to try to understand what they’re going through. Then, if needed, you can pursue a path toward treatment. 

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