Signs of Teen Depression: How to Know When Help is Needed

By October 21st, 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 clinical depression in a given year 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 shows more adolescents are experiencing serious 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 DSM-5, can help determine if it’s time to seek additional resources for your teen.

Does your teen:

  1. Experience depressed moods most days? This could mean they report feeling sad or hopeless.  It could also mean 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 it’s time to reach out for additional resources. In addition to these questions, it’s important to look at the impact on your teen’s life.  Depression can disrupt primary roles, such as school or job performance, or cause significant changes in social relationships.

Like any article on the internet, this article is not able to diagnose or 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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