Teen depression can be a severe mental health disorder that may cause persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities. It can affect how a teenager thinks, feels, and acts, and it can result in emotional, functional, and physical problems. It can be important to ensure that your teen receives help and support from a licensed mental health professional if you believe they may be experiencing depression. Other ways you may support your teenager could be by encouraging a healthy lifestyle, supporting their interests, concentrating on the positives, teaching them healthy coping skills, and maintaining open communication. If you find that you don’t know the best ways to guide your teenager through this tough time, you may benefit from online therapy.
Depression In Teenagers
It can be understandable why teens often experience dramatic mood swings when you consider that fluctuating hormones are typically added to the numerous other changes that generally take place during the teenage years. According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in five children usually experiences depression, and about 20% of these young people receive the help they need. Often, therapy can be very beneficial for teens in helping them work through depression and other mental health concerns.
If you’ve noticed that your teenager has been deeply sad for longer than two weeks and they exhibit additional signs of depression, it may be time to seek medical treatment.
Signs Of Teenage Depression
Some initial signs and symptoms of teen depression could include:
A shift in the teen's attitude and conduct
Considerable discomfort and issues at school, at home, or in social activities
Listlessness or disinterest in activities they used to enjoy
The severity of depression symptoms can vary greatly. Teen melancholy can cause children to sleep excessively, modify their dietary habits, and even engage in illegal behaviors like drinking alcohol or stealing.
Even though your teenager may not display every indication of this mental health disorder, here are some more signs of depression in adolescents as outlined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
You may wish to be aware of any emotional shifts, such as:
Sadness, which may involve uncontrollable sobbing episodes for no apparent reason
Frustration or rage in response to minor issues
Angry mood at inappropriate times
Loss of enjoyment or interest in routine activities
Loss of interest in family and friends, or frequent disagreements with them
Feelings of inadequacy or guilt
You may also want to keep an eye out for any changes in behavior, such as:
Tiredness and low energy levels
Insomnia or excessive sleeping
Appetite changes: reduced appetite and weight reduction, or increased appetite and weight gain
Pacing, handwringing, or an unwillingness to sit still
Slower-than-usual thoughts, speech, or physical motions
Frequent complaints of health problems like inexplicable bodily pains and headaches, including visits to the school nurse
Using drugs or alcohol
Diagnosis And Risk Factors
There may not be any physical medical tests that can accurately identify depression at this time. Interviews and psychological testing with a teenager’s family, teachers, and peers are frequently used by healthcare experts to evaluate whether a teen has depression.
Based on the results of these interviews, the degree of teen depression may be determined. The details gathered from the interviews may also be used to provide depression treatment suggestions.
Common patterns generally indicate that the following may be probable risk factors that could trigger depression.
Obesity, peer difficulties, long-term bullying, or academic challenges that can have a detrimental influence on self-esteem
Being a survivor or witness of violent acts, such as physical or sexual abuse*
Other mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, personality disorders, anorexia, or bulimia
Having personality qualities such as poor self-esteem, being too reliant, being self-critical, or being negative
Alcohol, nicotine, or other substance abuse
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community in a hostile atmosphere
Having a learning impairment or ADD/ADHD
Spending time with other kids that encourage illegal behavior
*If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, please know that help is available via the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which is available at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Can Depression Run In Families?
Depression can run in families, and teenagers with a family history of depression may be more likely to experience teen depression. Your teenager's risk of depression may also be increased by family history and difficulties with family or others, such as:
Having a parent, grandmother, or another blood family who is depressed, bipolar, or experiences disordered use of alcohol
Having a dysfunctional family or experiencing family strife
Having just gone through a challenging life event, such as parental divorce, parental military duty, or a loved one's death
Potential Complications Of Depression
Depression that goes untreated can lead to emotional, behavioral, and physical issues that influence other aspects of your teen's life. Adolescent depression, especially when left untreated, can lead to a variety of complications, such as:
Disordered use of alcohol and drugs
Relationship problems and family disputes
Participation in the juvenile justice system
A medical professional may also check for symptoms of co-existing psychiatric disorders, like anxiety or substance use, and test for more complex disorders that may involve depression, like bipolar disorder or psychosis. They may also conduct a physical exam to see if any physical health problem could be contributing to your teenager’s symptoms.
*If you have been experiencing any suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help from a mental health professional immediately. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Treatment For Adolescent Depression
Depression can be treated with several approaches, including therapy. If a teen's depression is caused by familial strife, family counseling may be beneficial.
Any school or peer difficulties may require assistance from the teen's family or instructors. Your child's mental healthcare professional can establish the appropriate treatment plan for them. On rare occasions, teenagers with severe depression may need to be hospitalized at a mental facility (or rehabilitation facility if they abuse alcohol or drugs), but seeing a therapist regularly may help establish a baseline so people around them know if their emotional state is unusual or extreme.
Improving Adolescent Mental Health
There may not be a specific technique to keep depression at bay. Mental health can be complicated and often requires individualized care. Just like a physical affliction, mental health disorders may require attention and care without being a major crisis.
If your child develops depression, it does not necessarily mean they did not have a perfectly loving and supportive family environment.
Support your child's interests
Be a role model for healthy living
Insist on getting enough sleep regularly
Promote physical activity
Concentrate on the positive aspects of your day
Teach your child to manage stress
Encourage them to believe in themselves
Give them a strong sense of self-control
Keep lines of communication open
Keep an eye on how they're working
Encourage them to talk to a school counselor or any other mental health professional if in need
Online Therapy May Help You Support Your Teen
Supporting your teenager with depression may be challenging, and you may find that you begin to experience stress or even anxiety symptoms when handling this potentially complex situation. Please know that this can be normal and that you may benefit from professional support of your own. Suppose traditional therapy is not accessible to you. In that case, online therapy can be a great alternative that allows you to connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home at a time that fits your schedule.
According to this study, online therapy can be extremely effective in treating the effects of stress and anxiety, among many other mental health concerns. If you feel you would benefit from speaking with a licensed mental health professional, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about adolescent depression and other related mental disorders in adolescent psychiatry. If your teen is dealing with suspected mental health conditions or seems to be developing depression, read on to learn more.
What is the leading cause of depression in youth?
How does depression affect the teenage body?
According to adolescent psychiatry research, teenage depression can cause the following:
- Low self-esteem feelings
- Manic depression symptoms
- A change in school performance
- Drug abuse or alcohol abuse
- Health problems (such as frequent colds)
- Negative patterns in behavior
- Peer problems (problems making friends)
- Feeling sad for more than two weeks at a time
- An inability to utilize coping skills
- Substance abuse problems with other drugs such as cigarettes or vapes
- A suicide plan or suicide attempts
- Angry outbursts
- Negative feelings
- Negative thinking
- Low self-esteem
Expect teens to not know what to do to help themselves. They are young people who are still developing, and they likely don’t have the knowledge of depression or other mental health conditions to know how to treat depression on their own.
How can you help depressed teens get better?
A family should be the one to reach out to get help. Family therapy is an option for families that want to stay together and help their kid through their issues. When you seek professional help, look for someone who deals with mental illness and substance abuse in adolescents and kids.
If you are dealing with a potential risk for teen suicide, a suicide hotline is available at 1 273-8255. You can also discuss potential antidepressant medications with your child’s therapist.
Learn more about depression, affective disorders, and substance abuse in teens by checking out the systematic reviews by the Mayo Foundation and the American Psychiatric Association. There are also many suicide prevention resources there. Remember, families are the key in helping a child get better.