Primary Symptoms of Clinical Depression in Teenagers

Clinical depression is a serious mental illness that affects many teenagers. An estimated 10–15% of teens may be depressed at any given time, and one in four adolescents will experience an episode of major depression at some point during high school. It’s important to be aware of the primary symptoms, since anyone—regardless of their race, class, gender or family upbringing—can experience clinical depression. To check if your teen may be struggling with this issue, here are some key signs of clinical depression to look for:

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Any parent of a teenager knows how much teens like to sleep in on weekends, but irregular sleep patterns could be a symptom of clinical depression. Take note if your teen:

  • Sleeps in far too much on a regular basis
  • Doesn’t seem to sleep at all
  • Or sleeps all day but stays up all night

Loss of Interest in Their Favorite Hobbies

teen standing on a pier outside

Image Credit: Ben Waardenburg

Most teens have a hobby or two that they enjoy doing, whether it’s playing basketball, playing the guitar or volunteering at an animal shelter. If you’ve noticed that your teen has stopped taking part in their favorite pastimes or no longer shows any interest, it may be because your teen is dealing with clinical depression.

Irresponsible Behavior

If your normally well-mannered teen starts acting out, that change in behavior could be a warning sign. Some depressed teens may engage in rebellious activities in order to attract attention or create a distraction from their negative feelings.

Changes in Eating Habits

people eating nachos

Image Credit: Herson Rodriguez

One of the most common symptoms of clinical depression is a sudden change in diet. Your teen may start eating junk food all the time as a form of comfort, or they may lose their appetite altogether and skip out on meals.

A Sense of Hopelessness

You may notice that your teen often expresses self-critical thoughts or display a self-defeating attitude. When confronted with a challenge, whether it’s at school or at home, they may choose to avoid it rather than address the problem. A general sense of hopelessness is a symptom of clinical depression that’s especially common in teens.

Withdrawal from Friends

teen sitting alone on a bench

Image Credit: Cerys Lowe

Most teens spend a lot of time with their friends, whether it’s between classes, after school or on the weekends. If your normally social teen suddenly stops hanging out with their friends and starts spending more time alone, it could be a sign that they’re clinically depressed.

Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Abusing drugs or alcohol is a common symptom of clinical depression. Depressed teens often don’t know how to cope with their mental illness, so they turn to substance abuse as a way to try and numb their pain. They may abuse drugs or alcohol while they’re with others, or they may use substances alone. This can be especially dangerous behavior, as it could lead to drug addiction or alcoholism.

Keep in mind that if your teen displays a few of these symptoms, they might not necessarily be depressed. However, if you notice an ongoing pattern of unusual behavior, it may be time to step in. Let your teen know that you always have their back and that you’re available to talk if they’re ever going through a difficult time.

Feature Image: Karl Frederikson