Teen depression goes beyond a dismal mood. It can destroy the essence of their personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger. In severe cases, teen depression can lead to teen suicide. Teenage years are tough, but it shouldn’t make students feel completely isolated and hopeless. Here we define what teen depression is, what it can look like, and how to seek help.
The State of the Student
- 5 million youth in the U.S. have severe depression due to factors like the pandemic and the permeation of social media. -Mental Health America
- American teen girls are 3X as likely as boys to experience depression. –Pew Research Center
- 1 IN 6 teens between the ages of 14-18-years-old reported making a suicide plan in 2019: a 44 percent increase since 2009. – CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Data Summary & Trends Report: 2009-2019
What is teen depression?
Issues such as peer pressure, academic expectations and changing bodies can bring a lot of ups and downs for teens. But for some teens, the lows are more than just temporary feelings — they’re a symptom of depression.
According to healthline.com, “The mental and emotional disorder known as teen depression is no different medically from adult depression. However, symptoms in teens may manifest themselves in different ways than in adults. This may be because teens face different social and developmental challenges, such as peer pressure, changing hormone levels, and developing bodies. Depression can be associated with high levels of stress, anxiety, and — in the most serious scenarios — suicide. It can also affect these aspects of a teen’s life:
- Personal life (which refers to how an individual feels, thinks, or behaves when they’re alone and away from others)
- School life
- Work life
- Social life
- Family life
This can lead to social isolation and other problems. Depression isn’t a condition people can ‘snap out of’ or simply ‘cheer up’ from. It’s a real medical condition that can affect a person’s life in every manner if it’s not treated properly.”
Signs of teen depression
The signs of teen depression can often be difficult for parents and caregivers to spot, and we don’t always know the cause of depression. Sometimes it can seem to come out of nowhere. Other times, it can come from a root cause such as immense pressure and stress, bullying and cyberbullying, excessive time using social media, losing a loved one, moving, parent’s divorce, etc. According to mayoclinic.org, be alert for the following emotional and behavioral changes:
- Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
- Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
- Feeling hopeless or empty
- Irritable or annoyed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual 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
- 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, handwringing 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
- Less attention to personal hygiene or appearance
- Angry outbursts, disruptive or risky behavior, or other acting-out behaviors
- Self-harm — for example, cutting or burning
- Making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt
Types of depression found in teens
Depression may look different in teens than adults. According to verywellmind.com, there are four main types of depression that commonly affect teenagers:
- Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood: Occurs in response to a life event. Moving to a new school, the death of a loved one, or dealing with a parents’ divorce are examples of changes that can spur an adjustment disorder in teens. Although brief in nature, adjustment disorders can interfere with sleep, schoolwork, and social functioning.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): A low grade, chronic depression that lasts for more than a year. Teens with dysthymia are often irritable and they may have low energy, low self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness. Their eating habits and sleeping patterns may also be disturbed. Frequently, dysthymia interferes with concentration and decision making.
- Bipolar Disorder: Characterized by episodes of depression followed by periods of mania or hypomania. Both the depressive and manic states will last anywhere from a couple of weeks to many months. Symptoms of mania include a reduced need for sleep, difficulty focusing, and a short temper. During a manic episode, a teen is likely to talk fast, feel very happy or silly, and be willing to engage in risky behavior.
- Major Depression: The most serious form of depression. Symptoms of major depression include persistent sadness and irritability, talk about suicide, a lack of interest in enjoyable activities, and frequent reports of physical aches and pains. Major depression can cause severe impairments at home and at school. Treatment usually involves therapy and may include medication.
How to help teens manage depression
First and Foremost: Never ignore comments or concerns about suicide. Always take action to get help.
- Continuously check-in with your teen: Try to determine whether he or she seems capable of managing challenging feelings, or if life seems overwhelming.
- When to seek medical help: If depression signs and symptoms continue, begin to interfere in your teen’s life, or cause you to have concerns about suicide or your teen’s safety, talk to a doctor or a mental health professional trained to work with adolescents. Your teen’s family doctor or pediatrician is a good place to start. Or your teen’s school may recommend someone.
- In an emergency: If a teen in in danger of attempting suicide or has tried, make sure someone stays with that individual and call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Book a YES Teen Depression & Suicide Prevention Program
Want to learn more about our teen depression and suicide prevention programs? Our depression and suicide prevention programs give students hope and connection, helping them realize their inherent value and self-worth. Please send us a message through our Book Now page, and someone from our YES team will be in touch with you within 1 business day.