Is My Teen Depressed? How to Know When Help is Needed.

By September 5th, 2019 No Comments

For many parents, seeing a teenage child act sad, depressed, or sluggish is a pretty common occurrence.  However, it can be difficult to identify when behavior goes beyond simple sadness and into the realm of clinical depression.

Depression is on the rise for 12-20 year olds.  A recent study found that adolescents who experienced a major depressive episode in a 12 month period increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014.  The study also found that despite a similar increase in self harm injuries, no significant increases in treatment were found.   This indicates more adolescents are experiencing depression without getting the help they need.

It’s important for parents to realize that clinical depression is not “just a phase” and that early recognition is a key component for getting a teen or young adult needed help.  The following questions, adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition, can help determine if it’s time to seek additional help or resources for your teen.

Does your teen:

  1. Experience depressed moods most days? This could mean they report feeling sad or hopeless or observing that they are tearful or irritable.
  2. Have decreased interest in activities they used to enjoy? This might look like decreased effort or interest in favorite hobbies or activities.
  3. Show significant weight changes?
  4. Have significantly altered sleep? This includes both too much and too little sleep on a consistent basis.
  5. Show significantly altered energy levels?
  6. Feel tired almost every day?
  7. Report feeling worthless?
  8. Have trouble concentrating most days?
  9. Experience frequent thoughts about dying or suicide?


If more than half of these apply to your teen, it’s a good indicator that additional support is needed.  Like any list on the internet, this is not intended to diagnose or to replace professional treatment. Treatment for depression in adolescents usually includes psychotherapy and can also include medication.  Talk to a therapist, your teen’s primary care physician, or email me questions at  Depression is on the rise for adolescents but you and your teen don’t have to face it alone.

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