How Do I Know If My Teen Is Depressed?

Teenage girl (14-15) sitting sad in armchair
Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Question: What are the signs of teen depression? How do I know if my teen is depressed?

Answer: Depression among teens is often an unrecognized problem. While parents may think it looks only like sadness or apathy, teen depression is much more. It can vary from short-term mood swings to chronic recurrent feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Parents should be aware of the factors that are linked with teens who are at a high risk of teen depression.

They include:

Parents should look for the warning signs of teen depression:

  • Changes in a teen's eating pattern, such as decreased or increased eating.
  • Changes in a teen's sleeping pattern, such as difficulty sleeping at night.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse, such as regular use of cigarettes or marijuana.
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • A profound sense of hopelessness, guilt or unhappiness.
  • Fatigue or lack of energy, sleeping all of the time and having a hard time to get up in the morning - even more so than normal teen behavior.
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Decline in school performance, can be seen as a byproduct of other teen depression symptoms but is often one of the first signs parents recognize.
  • Withdrawal from or change of friends
  • Withdrawal from family and regular activities
  • Lack of interest in the future.
  • Dramatic change in personality or behavior such as extreme moodiness or irritability, includes a teen who is:
    • prone to angry outbursts which can get violent,
    • easily frustrated,
    • and irritable, grumpy or hostile.

    If you are seeing these signs of depression in your teen, here are some resources that will help you find your teen help:

      How Adult Depression Signs Differ From Teen Depression

      As adults and teens are in a different life stage, there are often times differences in the symptoms of depression - they can act differently. Which is no surprise, as adults and teens act differently on a normal basis. These differences in signs can point a parent away from thinking that their teen is suffering from depression, so be on careful look out for them:

      • Teens will isolate themselves from parents but may still want to be with friends, whereas adults┬átend to isolate themselves totally. Teens may even seek out new friendships and start hanging with a new crowd.
      • Teens will 'not feel good' and suffer from ailments like headaches and stomachaches.
      • Teens will not do well with criticism or failure. This is part of the reason your depressed teen may avoid you as they are unable to handle even the slightest disapproval. Many over-achievers will place high goals on themselves and then become depressed when they don't reach them.
      • They tend to be a lot angrier and full of teen angst instead of sad like adults.