What Symptoms Of Teen Depression Should I Look For?

Updated October 7, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

You may be aware that depression is possible at almost any stage of life. While there are common symptoms it can manifest differently in teenagers than adults.

Keep reading for details about what depression looks like for teenagers, the warning signs and risk factors you should look out for, and how you can help through online therapy.

What Is Depression?

Are You A Teen Or Parent Of A Teen Struggling With Depression?

Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), is a disorder that affects most, if not all, aspects of an individual’s life. It is considered to be dangerous if these feelings last for weeks at a time, change your routines, and influence the things you do daily. Recent studies done by Mental Health America report 15.08% of youth in America experienced a major depressive episode during the past year. When MDD symptoms are numerous and have lasted for more than two weeks, this is considered significant depressive order. This is a severe disorder that is unlikely to diminish without seeking treatment.

Does Depression Affect Teenagers Differently?

Clinical depression can appear differently in teens and adults. Teens are already dealing with so many changes and issues and adolescence can be a turbulent time with extreme sensitivity. They are forming their identity as young adults and grappling with changes in their body, while experiencing a number of academic and social pressures. This can be a lot to deal with. Youth depression is a condition that needs to be treated to prevent triggers that can make untreated depression worse.

When you think of MDD, you may immediately think of someone who is always sad. However, teens who are depressed can present as moody and irritable. A depressed teenager is often unable to change how they feel. If you notice your teen behaving differently than they used to, take note, as that is always a red flag. You may also want to look out for other teen depression signs.

Symptoms Of Depression

The following is a list of common symptoms of adolescent depression:

  • Feeling sad
  • Crying for seemingly no reason
  • Intense negative thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Exhibiting frustration and anger
  • A need to be reassured often
  • Overly critical of themselves
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Feel like they’re worthless
  • Fluctuations in sleep
  • Changes of eating habits
  • Unable to stand still
  • Not taking care of hygiene
  • Problems with schoolwork
  • Isolation
  • Body aches and pains
  • Alcohol abuse or substance abuse

Signs To Look Out For

Keep in mind that a lot of these symptoms overlap with other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or a personality disorder. While the major depression symptoms listed above can be alarming for any parent, other symptoms are a significant cause for concern. For example, teens may start to self-harm, worry about death, and may even have suicidal thoughts or engage in suicide attempts. If your teenager has started to exhibit behaviors like these, or others listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), you need to get them immediate support. Help and resources are available at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK. If you are a teenager that has these symptoms, you can also benefit from therapy and support when you need it. This is the best time to investigate your non-medical and medical treatment options.


Much like with other mental health issues, severe depression in teens is often treated through the use of psychotherapy and medication. With psychotherapy and adolescent psychiatry, they will be able to process the issues they are facing that contribute to their mental wellbeing. This is vital since many teens may feel misunderstood and struggle with the challenges of adolescence. Seek the help of a mental health professional to assist your teen while they are working through these issues and start to learn how to positively address some of the things that are weighing them down.

A teen's depression can cause significant changes for all aspects of life, affecting a teen and their family for months at a time. An article published in Pediatrics explains that when a teen is diagnosed with MDD and begins to seek treatment, this treatment can have long-lasting positive effects not only on their depression, but their school, peer, and family functioning as well. Depression in schools is a common issue as well that needs to be addressed.

Teens often fare better during the treatment when they are considered during the process, as well. A study conducted showed that teenagers are more likely to see improvements in their mental health when they are asked how they feel about treatments and allowed to make decisions concerning them. They will also be more likely to follow the recommendations that a mental health professional prescribes.

Teens and their parents should be comfortable with the treatment plan that is laid out for them. If anyone has an issue with part of the process, they should feel free to speak up.

Additional Techniques To Consider

Teens who have MDD can feel out of control sometimes, so it is essential to develop a structure. This may help manage symptoms better or allow treatment to become more effective.

  • Take projects slowly.

Break down big projects into smaller ones that are easier to manage.

  • Try to be realistic.

If you can't meet goals this isn’t the end of the world. Things happen and don’t always turn out the way you wanted them to. When they don’t, this doesn’t reflect poorly on you. You don’t need to be hard on yourself if you got a bad grade on a homework assignment, or you didn’t make the team. You can keep trying.

  • Sleep at night.

Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night. With the right amount of sleep, you’ll be in a better position to make decisions and process all the things that happen to you throughout your day.

  • Get up and get moving.

Even if you don’t always feel like you want to, movement is proven to help improve your mood. You can walk your dog down the block or dance to a couple of your favorite songs.

  • Don't shut out friends and family.

Be sure that you keep your support system (people that you can talk to about your problems) close, so they will be there when you need to lean on them. For a teen, this could include parents, school psychologist, etc. Everyone needs a support system to rely on at times, even if they aren’t experiencing depression.

Are You A Teen Or Parent Of A Teen Struggling With Depression?

When you take advantage of the treatment options available, depression symptoms can lessen over time and feel more manageable. While many people experience depressive symptoms at one point during their life, it becomes an issue when it remains chronic, intense, and becomes interference in your teen’s quality of life.

The best course of action is to consult a mental health care professional, so they can determine the best course of action to help you and your teen.

Therapy Can Make A Difference

Therapy is something that can make a big difference for someone’s life. Teenagers with MDD can benefit from therapy just as much as adult patients. If you’d like to help them overcome MDD, then signing up for therapy is a great first step.

There are options to consider when signing up for therapy. Some people like to go the traditional route of signing up for therapy at an in-person clinic. Others might like the idea of looking into online therapy due to the overall convenience. Online therapy is very much the same as traditional therapy, except that it allows you to get help from the comfort of home.

You might find the idea of signing up for online therapy at BetterHelp to be very appealing. This platform has been able to help many people with MDD to learn how to move forward in life. Depression is a serious problem, but it can be dealt with when you have the right assistance. Your teen will learn to develop skills and coping mechanisms while working through the issues that are causing their depression.

Don’t fret when depression is starting to become an issue for your teen. Either online therapy or traditional therapy will be a great option for getting things back to normal. Your teen has your support, and they have compassionate professionals that they can turn to. Simply sign up for therapy whenever you feel that the time is right.

Commonly asked questions found below:

How does depression affect the teenage body?
What are the three major signs of depression?
How do I know if my teenager is mentally ill?
What are the five main symptoms of depression?
Why do many teenagers feel depressed?
What percent of teens are depressed?
Is school linked to depression?
At what age do teenage mood swings stop?
What is depression in simple words?

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