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Teenage Depression

Teenage depression is common and can hinder a child’s quality of life. Learn about the signs of depression in teenagers and find out how to get them the help they need.

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Depression in Teenagers teen depression

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What is Teenage Depression

Teenage depression is about more than just moodiness or feeling down. It is a serious mental health problem that affects every area of a teen’s life.

Being a teenager is really tough and depression affects teenagers far more than most people realize. Up to 20 percent of teens will experience depression at some point before adulthood.

Although teen depression can be easily treated, most teenagers with depression will not get the help they need to overcome this mental illness.

It is not always easy to differentiate between normal and hormone-influenced moods and teenage depression. However, it is important to know the signs of depression in teens so that they can get the help they need.

Signs of Depression in Teens

While bad moods and acting out occasionally are normal, depression is not. The effects of teen depression go beyond feeling sad and down. Depression can affect the teen’s personality, and cause them to behave in rebellious and unhealthy ways.

The following are some ways that teenagers may act out as a way to cope with their depression and feelings:

  • Difficulties at school: Depression can lead to difficulty concentrating, and can cause lethargy and low energy. This may lead to poor attendance and a drop in grades at school, even in previously bright, committed students.


  • Running away from home: Some depressed teens may run away from home, or find other ways to escape by spending a lot of time out of the home or with friends.


  • Drug and alcohol abuse: As with adults, teenagers may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate and lessen the symptoms of depression. Substance abuse can lead to addiction and is also very dangerous as it will exacerbate symptoms of depression.


  • Isolation: A depressed teen may become addicted to their smartphone or going online, in an attempt to escape reality and their feelings. They may isolate themselves in their bedroom and avoid seeing friends or family.


  • Low self-esteem: Depression can trigger feelings of negative body image and worthiness. This may lead to other mental health problems like eating disorders or self-harming in the form of cutting or burning.


  • Reckless behavior: Teens with depression may be reckless and engage in risky behavior such as unsafe sex, driving under the influence, and binge drinking.


  • Violence: Some depressed teens, particularly boys who have been victims of bullying, may become violent. This may also manifest itself as angry outbursts and tantrums.

Teenagers with depression may also have other mental health problems such as eating disorders, anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and self-injury. 

Unlike adults who are able to seek help for themselves, teens will rely on their parents or the adults in their life to get them help.

The first step in treating teen depression is to recognize the signs of depression in teens. Often, the primary and most obvious signs will be irritability and agitation. However, there are some other symptoms of depression in teens to look out for.

These include:

  • Sadness, listlessness, and hopelessness
  • Irritability, hostility, anger, and agitation
  • Frequent crying
  • Withdrawal and isolation from friends and family
  • Changes in appetite and eating habits
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Restlessness
  • Poor performance at school
  • Loss of interest in activities that once used to interest them
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Complaining of unexplained aches and pains
  • Talking about suicide, or suicide attempts

Teen Suicide Warning Signs

Teens with severe depression, especially those who abuse substances or alcohol, may consider or even attempt suicide. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 24 in the United States.

Suicide warning signs to look out for include:
  • Talking about suicide, even jokingly
  • Using phrases that allude to the teen seeing no way out and wishing they were dead
  • Romanticizing death
  • Writing stories, poems, or essays about death, or drawing images about death
  • Engaging in reckless, dangerous behavior with no apparent regard for life
  • Giving away personal items and prized possessions
  • Speaking to people as if it was the last time

It is vital that help is sought immediately if a teenager is suspected of being suicidal.

For 24-hour suicide prevention and support in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. To find a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit IASP or

Teen Depression Treatment

Treatment will depend on the type and severity of depression symptoms. For most cases of teen depression, a combination of psychotherapy and medication are effective forms of treatment.

Treatment for teen depression includes:


There are two medications approved for the treatment of teen depression by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These are fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro). Although most antidepressants are safe, all antidepressants carry a black box warning. A black box warning is the strictest warning for prescription medication.

In some cases, children, teenagers, and young adults under the age of 25 may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts in the first few weeks to two months of taking antidepressants.

This is why antidepressants should only be given to a teenager exactly as prescribed and under the close supervision of a medical practitioner. The teen needs to be monitored closely for worsening depression or any unusual and suicidal behavior.

Although there is an increased risk of suicidal behavior when initially starting or changing antidepressant medication, the benefits of the medication usually outweigh the risks.

It is important to remember that taking antidepressants will greatly lower the risk of suicide long-term by improving the teen’s mood significantly.


Psychotherapy is a type of talk therapy that is used to treat depression. During each session, the teen will talk to a therapist about their feelings and issues. Common types of psychotherapy used in treating depression include cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy.

Psychotherapy is usually done on a one-on-one basis, although it can also be done with family members or in a group setting.

During these sessions, the teen will:
  • Learn about what causes depression, in general, and for them personally
  • Identify how to make changes to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors
  • Learn better coping skills
  • Find better ways to solve problems
  • Regain a sense of control of their lives and wellbeing

In some cases, ongoing therapy is needed so that the teen has the support they need as they grow into adulthood.


If the depression is severe or the teen is in danger of hurting themselves or attempting suicide, they may need a hospital stay or to participate in an intensive outpatient treatment program.

Depressed teens who suffer from co-occurring substance use disorder will need treatment at an inpatient rehab facility. There they will undergo medical detox and will receive treatment for both their addiction and depression, as well as any other mental illness.

Receiving treatment as an inpatient at a psychiatric facility will give the teen the support and structure they need until symptoms are managed and the illness is under control.

Get Help for Teen Depression

As a parent, it is devastating to witness your child suffering from depression. If you are concerned that your teenager has depression or another mental health issue, do not delay in getting them the help they need.

There are many treatment centers and highly skilled mental health professionals that specialize in teen mental health.

Get in touch with us here at Addiction Rehab Treatment and we will guide you on the right track to finding help for your teen. Our treatment navigators are compassionate and experienced and will be able to help you find the right treatment plan for your teenager.

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