• Recognizing Adolescent Depression

    Adolescent depression is increasing at an alarming rate. Recent surveys indicate that as many as one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. This is a serious problem that calls for prompt, appropriate treatment. Depression can take several forms, including bipolar disorder (formally called manic-depression), which is a condition that alternates between periods of euphoria and depression.

    Depression can be difficult to diagnose in teens because adults may expect teens to act moody. Also, adolescents do not always understand or express their feelings very well. They may not be aware of the symptoms of depression and may not seek help.


    It can be difficult to tell the difference between ups and downs that are just part of being a teenager and teen depression. Talk with your teen. Try to determine whether he or she seems capable of managing challenging feelings, or if life seems overwhelming.

    Teen depression signs and symptoms include a change from the teenager's previous attitude and behavior that can cause significant distress and problems at school or home, in social activities or other areas of life.

    Depression symptoms can vary in severity, but changes in your teen's emotions and behavior may include the examples below.

    Emotional changes

    Be alert for emotional changes, such as:

    -          Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason

    -          Feeling hopeless or empty

    -          Irritable or annoyed mood

    -          Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters

    -          Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities

    -          Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends

    -          Low self-esteem

    -          Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

    -          Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism

    -          Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance

    -          Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things

    -          Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak

    -          Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide


    Behavioral changes

    Watch for changes in behavior, such as:

    -          Tiredness and loss of energy

    -          Insomnia or sleeping too much

    -          Changes in appetite — decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain

    -          Use of alcohol or drugs

    -          Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still

    -          Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements

    -          Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches, which may include frequent visits to the school nurse

    -          Social isolation

    -          Poor school performance or frequent absences from school

    -          Neglected appearance

    -          Angry outbursts, disruptive or risky behavior, or other acting-out behaviors

    -          Self-harm — for example, cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing

    -          Making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt

    Treating Adolescent Depression

    It is extremely important that depressed teens receive prompt, professional treatment.

    Depression is serious and, if left untreated, can worsen to the point of becoming life-threatening. If depressed teens refuse treatment, it may be necessary for family members or other concerned adults to seek professional advice.

    Please see additional information about suicide prevention 

    Therapy can help teens understand why they are depressed and learn how to cope with stressful situations. Depending on the situation, treatment may consist of individual, group or family counseling. Medications that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist may be necessary to help teens feel better.

    Some of the most common and effective ways to treat depression in adolescents are:

    • Psychotherapy provides teens an opportunity to explore events and feelings that are painful or troubling to them. Psychotherapy also teaches them coping skills.
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps teens change negative patterns of thinking and behaving.
    • Interpersonal therapy focuses on how to develop healthier relationships at home and at school.
    • Medication relieves some symptoms of depression and is often prescribed along with therapy.

    When depressed adolescents recognize the need for help, they have taken a major step toward recovery. However, remember that few adolescents seek help on their own. They may need encouragement from their friends and support from concerned adults to seek help and follow treatment recommendations.


     Mayo Clinic: