Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Teen Depression

Understanding Teen Depression

Learn More About Teen Depression

The teen years are an important time in one’s life. Leaving childhood behind and preparing for adulthood, there is more stress placed on teenagers today than many realize. Some navigate the demands of school, work, and friends with healthy, developmentally appropriate coping mechanisms. But for teens who are diagnosed with a mood disorder, such as depression, it will be hard to function to a full potential, and each day may be a struggle.

The effects of depression can vary in severity in a young person’s life. Some may have more mild symptoms, and may find it challenging to function to a full potential in academics or to make and keep friends. But more severe cases of teenage depression can result in dangerous thoughts of self-harm, which can lead to suicidal ideation. For this reason and more, teens who are showing signs of a possible depressive disorder must be connected with the professional help they need to overcome this possibly life-threatening condition.

Further, an untreated mental health condition like major depression can prompt a young person to attempt to self-medicate in his or her desire to find relief from painful and troubling symptoms. This scenario often results in a teen beginning to abuse drugs or alcohol, and contributes to high rates of teenage depression and co-occurring substance abuse.

Both mood disorders and substance abuse disorders can wreak havoc on a young person’s life, impacting their health and wellbeing in a myriad of ways. Fortunately, there are treatment options available that provide residential care for teens, offering them therapeutic interventions that are specifically designed to create positive outcomes for adolescents.  By connecting a young person you care about with quality care, he or she can regain the health and happiness that all teens deserve.


Statistics of Depression in Teens

Mood swings and occasional ups and downs are a normal part of teenage life. However, according to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is the number one mental health disorder diagnosed in teens and adults. Recent studies find that as many as 8.4% of all teens experience clinical depression for at least a year at a time, which is above the national average of 5.4% in adults.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Teens with Depression

In spite of its prevalence, the root cause of depression has yet to be uncovered. And while no single factor can be named in predicting the onset of the condition, there are some issues that have shown to increase the likelihood that a teen will develop this mood disorder, some of which are described below:

Genetics: Like other conditions, mental illness has been shown to have a genetic component. This means that having a close relative, such as a sibling or parent, who struggles with a disease like depression will possibly result in a young person being at an increased risk for developing a similar mood concern.

Environment: Mental health professionals know that the environment in which a young person is raised has a major impact on development. Being exposed to trauma, stressors, instability, substance abuse, and other damaging experiences in the home can have far-reaching effects on a teen’s mental and physical health.

Risk Factors:

  • Being the victim of a crime
  • Being bullied by peers
  • Having low-self esteem
  • Family history of depression or other mental illnesses
  • Personal history of other mental health conditions
  • Family or personal history of substance use or abuse
  • Being female
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Being a victim of abuse and/or neglect
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Exposure to chronic stress
  • Experiencing fluctuations in hormone levels
  • Experiencing abrupt life changes

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Depression

Adults who work with teens may have a difficult time discerning between typical teenage mood fluctuations and symptoms that may indicate that the teen is suffering from a mental illness. The following list outlines some of the signs and symptoms of depression, and if a young person in your life is showing these symptoms, it is advised that professional help be sought to keep him or her safe.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Angry or emotional outbursts
  • Poor academic performance
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Missing school
  • Chronic lateness to class
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Lethargy
  • Crying
  • Declined interest in things or activities that were once enjoyed

 Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Injuries as a result of self-harm
  • Problems digesting food
  • Body aches or pain
  • Stomachaches
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Migraines 

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impaired decision-making
  • Slowed thinking
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Difficulty forming memories 

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Hopeless feelings
  • Increased anxiety
  • Angry outbursts
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Worthless feelings
  • Irritability
  • Negative attitude
  • Lowered self-esteem


Effects of Teen Depression

Just as is the case with all other age groups, teens will experience a multitude of harmful effects given the onset of depression. The following briefly describes some of the many damaging outcomes that young people who struggle with this disorder will experience, which will worsen over time if left untreated:

  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Drastic changes in weight
  • Somatic symptoms of pain
  • Disciplinary action at school
  • Expulsion from school
  • Development of another mental health condition
  • Increased conflict with peers and loved ones
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide attempts
  • Frequent absences from school
  • Academic failure
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired academic functioning
  • Truancy
  • Self-injury
  • Suicidal ideations

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders & the Complexity of Teen Depression

When a person is suffering from depression, there are certain other mental health conditions that are often diagnosed simultaneously. Known as co-occurring disorders, these impairments can exacerbate symptoms of depression in teens, making finding the appropriate treatment all the more critical. Adolescents who have a diagnosis of depression may also struggle with:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Anxiety disorders
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