How Do I Know If My Teen is Depressed?

What is Depression?

Most teenagers will feel down once in a while. It’s normal to get upset over a bad grade or a fight with a good friend. Feeling sad or discouraged is a natural part of life that everyone experiences. But sometimes, it’s more than just the blues—if your teen is feeling sad, overwhelmed and discouraged for long periods of time, they may be suffering from depression.

Some people believe that depression is a weakness or something that you can just “snap out of”. This is simply not true. Depression is a mood disorder and a serious medical condition that requires treatment. The good news is that most people feel better with counseling, medication or both.

Is My Teen Depressed or Just Feeling Down?

If your teen is suffering from depression, they experience symptoms most of the day, nearly every day. When most people think of depression, they think of emotional or mental symptoms, but there are physical ones too. Everyone experiences depression differently, but here are some common symptoms that teens with depression may exhibit:

Emotional Symptoms

  • They constantly feel sad, empty or unhappy
  • They have outbursts of anger or frustration
  • They cry without knowing why
  • They’ve lost interest in things they used to enjoy
  • They feel anxious and agitated
  • They feel worthless or guilty
  • They have trouble thinking and concentrating
  • They have thoughts of self-harming or suicide

Physical symptoms

  • They sleep a lot more or have trouble sleeping
  • They’re tired and lacking energy
  • They’re eating more or less than usual
  • They have slowed thinking
  • They have frequent, unexplained physical problems such as back pain or headaches


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Is is Just a “Bad Attitude”?

Sometimes, depression is hard to recognize. Often, someone might see themselves as a failure, a quitter or a loser when they are actually suffering from depression. Anger, irritability, and low motivation can cause people to mistake depression for a bad attitude.

I Think My Teen is Depressed…What Do I Do?

If you think your teen may be depressed, talk to them as soon as possible. It’s important to make an appointment with your doctor too, since depression is unlikely to go away on its own. In addition, your doctor can rule out other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, which can have similar symptoms to depression.


After diagnosing you, your doctor will most likely work with you and your teen to find the right treatment. This may be medication, counseling or a combination of both. It’s important to have your teen stick to their treatment plan to avoid a relapse. In addition to the treatment prescribed by a doctor, you and your teen can do other things to help ease their symptoms and get them on the road to recovery.

  • Reach out to friends and family—they can support you and your teen by listening and supporting your family
  • Help your teen take care of their body—exercise and a good diet can help them feel better
  • Reduce stress—encourage meditation or yoga

Remember, depression is treatable, so don’t wait for it to just go away—talk to your teen and seek help.

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