Am I Depressed Or Is It Just A Phase?

Updated October 6, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Teens are moody and hormonal, with fluctuating emotions that make it difficult for them, their parents, and even healthcare professionals to determine whether they are depressed or just being a teen. This is troubling to both the parents and the teens, as dismissing signs and emotional and physical symptoms as just a phase could be dangerous.

Many factors may be at play when it comes to teen depression or other mental illness: issues with family life, family members, and parental relationships could be stressors as could academic, extracurricular, and social factors.

There is current research that constant social media access and attention could exacerbate these issues while others point out that race, class, and income may play a role because they’re likely to impact communities’ access to care and treatment for both mental and physical health issues.

Signs of Teen Depression

Depression Can Feel Isolating. But You Don't Have to Cope With it Alone.

Some of the signs that a teen is experiencing depression include, but are not limited to:

  1. Sadness or hopelessness
  2. Irritability, anger, or hostility
  3. Tearfulness or frequent crying
  4. Withdrawal from friends and family members
  5. Loss of interest in activities
  6. Poor school performance
  7. Substantial weight gain or weight loss
  8. Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  9. Restlessness and agitation
  10. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  11. Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  12. Fatigue or lack of energy
  13. Difficulty concentrating
  14. Unexplained aches and pains
  15. Drug abuse or substance abuse
  16. Thoughts of death or suicide
  17. Engaging in self-harm behaviors

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.

This is not an exhaustive list of depression symptoms or coping mechanisms. Some teens may turn to substance abuse, like drug abuse, to self-medicate against feelings of anxiety and depression or other mental illness, possibly leading to addiction and legal problems.

School-based interventions are forming in many schools across the United States in response to this need. In these programs, counselors, teachers, and peer mediators are trained to identify and intervene when there are signs of child and teen depression. Some may have licensing to practice treatment, such as utilizing a particular type of therapy.

The difficult part is that teens may show any one of these signs due to their moodiness, and hormonal mood swings. Parents can attest to the fact that restricting social interaction with friends as a punishment for a bad grade can send some teens into a rage, tears, and sadness. However, these outbursts tend to not last very long. Healthy teens will typically apologize for any outbursts and bounce right back. Alternately, for some this type of behavior occurs frequently and is a sign of deeper issues that may benefit from therapeutic treatment.

If you’re a teen who has landed on this page, know that you’re not alone in wondering if your thoughts or feelings are normal. While responding to an online quiz is not a replacement for speaking to a professional, participating in such an activity like the Teen Depression Quiz can at least help provide some insights and can bring a level of comfort or awareness whether you feel sad, depressed, lost, confused, or anything else that is concerning you.

Teens’ Resiliency and Social Support

Some teens are more resilient than others and seem to bounce back, even after major setbacks like the loss of a parent or other loved one, while others may benefit from some outside help or mental health treatment. According to research, resilient teens seem to have built-in radar that appears to guide them toward social supports, activities, and more positive interactions with others so that when stressful events arise, they are more adept at coping.

As school is the largest part of life for children between the ages of 5-18, it is important to have these social supports in place, as teens do not always seek help due to parental conflict or fear of being mocked by their peer group, they will try many avenues toward feeling better, some more positive than others, before verbally asking for help. For example, teens who are active in curricular as well as extracurricular activities may experience depression but have more supports in place to help in combatting it.

Research suggests that the ability to reach out externalize feelings helps reduce factors leading to depression, such as stress or the risk of substance abuse. If teens cannot talk to their parents or their teachers, then social media becomes a useful tool. Reaching out through social media is a means for teens to share their feelings. Within this medium, they can vent, and even receive feedback and support from teens who may or may not be in their immediate social circle. Many teens do not feel comfortable discussing their feelings with their parents; in fact, the underlying cause of the depression in teens may be their relationship with their parents.

Parents may or may not realize the role they play in their child’s mental health. The words and the manner of expressing disappointment and anger can lead to teen depression. There is a causal link between parenting, parent-child relationship, and teen stress and depression. Parenting is not easy, whether you just gave birth, or your “child” is now an adult, and sometimes being the child of a parent who lacks good coping skills is more difficult; this may mean the teen must find some other means of dealing with depression. These could include healthy outlets like extracurricular activities, exercise, spending time with friends, reading, and so on, but could also include unhealthy outlets such as substance abuse or drug abuse, overuse of social media, and so on.

While there are positives to teens using social media as an outlet for their emotions, they also risk the dangers of exposing themselves to cyberbullying. In recent years cyberbullying has become increasingly prevalent among teens, and, as a result, there have experienced depression due to cyberbullying as well as the aftermath and reactions to the online bullying, offline at school, and home.

However, teens are overall in touch with what is available to them on social media, and since many are online for much of their day, some practitioners and other groups have generated resources and information geared toward teens.

When a teen is actively seeking help, there is hope for that teen and those who care about them. It is when a depressed teen is not seeking help, not crying out through any means available that the situation has reached its direst state. While parents should not spy on their children’s social media sites, they should at least be aware of what their children have and any of their usernames.

Some Of The Reasons You’re Wondering If You’re Dealing With Depression

Social media, curricular and extra-curricular activities play a large role in the lives of teens. Teens live within the context of these activities and most of their anxiety and stress are derived from them. While social media and friends sometimes seem to be more of a priority to teens than their relationships with their parents, this is not the case; they merely provide a buffer. Teens need their parents to be in tuned to their world in a non-intrusive and non-threatening way.

Being a teen is frightening sometimes. Some teens have extremely good coping skills, others are resilient, and then some teens are fragile. Teachers, peers, and parents are the most immediate sources of help in a teen’s world. There are times when a teen feels the need to reach beyond those closest and seek help from those thought to be more objective.

Depression Can Feel Isolating. But You Don't Have to Cope With it Alone.

For the teen who has used social media and other Internet sources for help, seeking support through an online counseling source might be an alternative. Online counseling not only offers an outlet for expressing emotions, venting, or discussing issues regarding parents and school, but the opportunity for a licensed professional to give feedback in a safe, secure, and confidential environment.

If you’re a parent who is looking for the best way to help your teenager, BetterHelp is here for you, too. We also have additional resources, such as a plethora of medically reviewed articles such as this one!

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, online therapy is more accessible than ever before. Slate wrote an article about the pros and what new user might want to pay attention to. One of their main points was that even though online therapy might seem new, research around video-based therapy has been happening from the 1980s and continues to show that teletherapy works for a majority of common conditions, such as to treat depression in both the short and long-term.

On top of that, many people who pursue online therapy feel like they have greater privacy because they can do their sessions and obtain treatment in their comfort of their home. That probably sounds like a great pro for a teen. As we mentioned earlier, teenagers are also online a great deal of the time and may feel more comfortable having the flexibility of digital options for therapy treatment.

If you think you would like to seek professional help, treatment, or emotional support but aren’t yet sure, below are some reviews of TeenCounseling and BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

"I have been working with Tina for almost 7 months. And those 7 months were the hardest I had in years. With Tinas guidance and wisdom I found out things about me I have put deep down and tried to forget about. I learned skills to help me and calm my anxiety and depression. I honestly couldn’t have gone this far this year or even made it. I want to say thank you for listening to me and being the only person for a while that believed me."

“Sara came into my daughter’s life when she was at her lowest and helped her work through depression. She is kind and caring and a true blessing for our family.” 

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

Is being sad just a phase?
How do I know if Im just sad?
How does depression begin?
Why do I go through phases of not wanting to do anything?
What different feelings and emotions did you hear about sadness?
How long does being sad last?
How did I become so lonely?
What are signs of distress?
Why do I suddenly feel nothing for my boyfriend?
How do you get mentally unstuck?

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

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