How To Know If Your Teen Is Depressed

Teens go through a huge number of changes in their bodies and puberty hits the brain hard. As a part of growing, teens have to achieve different milestones in their teen years. Physical and psychological changes can make them act out. They can behave violent or erratic at times, especially boys, while others may show the symptoms of withdrawal and conceal themselves in their rooms.
These behaviors usually go away as they mature.  However, if your teen seems to be struggling more than expected, you may need to look closer and find out the root cause of the problem. One cause can be depression. Unfortunately, about 20% of all teens suffer from depression before reaching adulthood. If you are worried about your teen having depression, it is helpful to learn some of the signs of depression in teens. This will enable you to get them the needed help to deal with this difficult time.

Symptoms of Depression In Teens

Depression is ubiquitous in adults these days; it can also affect growing children like teens or young adults. While it affects adults a little bit differently, teens often have the following symptoms.

Elongated sadness:

Feeling occasionally sad or overwhelmed is a normal symptom of growing teens as the hormones work their way in the body. But being sad for a longer period of time can be a subtle sign of depression in teens.  Teens can express sadness in a lot of ways like isolating themselves from friends and family or crying on simple things or just making themselves invisible and hiding in their room.

Loss of interest:

It is normal for teens to explore new hobbies and interests as they grow.  They may develop new friendships and let go of some activities that they historically enjoyed.  However, teens with depression tend to become excessively withdrawn from people as well as activities. If you feel that your teen is losing their interest in activities and is not taking part in activities or hobbies lately, this may be the sign your teen is depressed

Unexplained body pains:

Depression not only affects teens psychologically but physically as well. Your child may complain of frequent headaches or stomach aches without any medical evidence. If so, don’t just dismiss these symptoms as excuses for not attending school.  It could be a sign of depression.

Low self-esteem:

Feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem are both the causes and common signs of depression in teens. The stress of studies and even bullying in school may aid in the frequent feeling of not being good enough. If your child exhibits the signs of low self-esteem and unworthiness, take quick notice of it and do not take these signs lightly. These problems go a long way in molding the child’s personality. And if left untreated, may cause other problems in the future.

Erratic or aggressive behavior:

Physical and mental changes in teen’s bodies make it difficult for them to control their aggressive impulses. Especially in boys, it’s common to have more aggressive behavior during the teen years. But if your child is showing extreme levels of aggressive behavior, this might be a sign that they are battling something much worse than the hormones.
Watch for signs of violent or aggressive behavior around the house and at school. Pay attention to erratic behavior such as lashing out over simple things or throwing or breaking things. Similarly, notice if they are taking part in aggressive activities at school like fights or other misdemeanors, keeping the possibility of depression in mind.

Suicidal or dangerously irresponsible behavior:

Depression often pairs with suicidal thoughts. If you hear phrases like “I wish I was dead” or “I just want it all to go away”, take it seriously and ask your teen the reason for such thoughts.

Even if they are not suicidal, depressed teens may indulge in activities that can potentially harm them like driving recklessly or bruising or cutting themselves without the intention of suicide. Teens can be impulsive.  Don’t ignore signs of self-destructive thoughts or behaviors.  Act swiftly to get them help.

Drug abuse:

Teens may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. They may try to numb their sadness and pain by abusing drugs.  Watch out for potential symptoms of drug abuse so that you can get them the help that they need. 

Low grades:

Along with other areas of life, depression can also affect a teenager’s performance at school. Depression diminishes the ability to concentrate and make decisions. Moreover, loss of interest in activities, feelings of withdrawal, and feelings of hopelessness can impact their grades. If you begin to notice a decrease in school performance, it may be a sign that your teen is depressed.  

Changes in appetite:

One symptom of depression is a gain or loss of appetite. Loss of appetite can result in significant weight loss for your teen and an overall decline in health. Excessive weight loss can lead them to feel lethargic and lazy which will affect their ability to function effectively.
Some teens tend to overeat resulting in excessive weight gain. Obesity in teens will only worsen the situation and intensify the thoughts of unworthiness and low self-esteem. Being overweight can also lead to other health complications in the future.

Insomnia or hypersomnia:

While depression affects a teen’s eating habits, it also affects sleeping patterns. Not getting restful sleep can zap their energy and amplify their feelings of depression.

What To Do If Your Teen Is Depressed?

Depression is treatable. If you feel that your teen is depressed, you can help them overcome their depression and move towards a better and happier life.

Healthy activities:

Engage your teenager in healthy physical activities like playing sports. Encourage them to take part in activities at school like painting, acting, or anything that makes them happy. If your child does not seem to enjoy activities at school, you can create a healthy happy environment at home. Include other siblings and yourself in these activities and create a stronger bond between you and your teen. Running, hiking, camping, or even a simple walk with your teen will go a long way. It will make them feel more included and confident about themselves.

Healthy eating:

Healthy eating is important for everyone. Make a habit of healthy eating from the very start. Avoid junk food. Instead, try to be creative with your food and make sure your teen is getting the nutrients they need. A healthier body can impact the health of the mind, and it will affect their thought processes positively.

Better sleep:

Kids growing up need more sleep than adults. Encourage them to get at least 8 hours of sleep. Make sure that your teen is also getting enough quality sleep. Quality comes from an uninterrupted sound sleep.  Make sure your teen does not stay up late using electronics since it can affect the quality of their sleep.

Face to face conversation:

Engage with your teen in healthy conversations and encourage them to open up to you about their thoughts and experiences. Share what you felt growing up and help them understand the world better by dialogue and conversation. This will help them better understand their situation and get over negative thoughts and will make your bond stronger with them.

Validate their emotions:

To help your teen, validate their emotions and work to understand why they feel the way they do.  Don’t minimize their feelings or try to tell them that their experiences are “no big deal.” Be patient, loving, and supportive.

When To Seek Professional Help

If your teenager is exhibiting signs of depression and does not appear to be improving, get them help. In particular, don’t ignore thoughts of suicide.  Teens tend to be impulsive, so thoughts of dying can quickly escalate into self-destructive actions. 
New Dimensions Can Help!
If your teenager is struggling with depression or other mental health issues, New Dimensions can help.  Our Online Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs are available to anyone who resides within the State of Texas, including Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Laredo, McAllen, Odessa, Midland, El Paso, Lubbock, College Station, Austin, and Corpus Christi.  We also offer in-person treatment at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and Houston.  To learn more about our programs, visit our website at or call us at 1-800-685-9796.

16 March, 2021

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