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Symptoms of Depression in Teens

Symptoms of Depression in Teenagers

Teen depression symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Irritability, frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite. Depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixation on past failures or self-blame when things aren't going right
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
  • Disruptive behavioral problems, particularly in boys
  • Anxiety, preoccupation with body image and concerns about performance, particularly in girls

Teen depression often occurs along with behavior problems and other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What's normal and what's not
It can be difficult to tell the difference between the ups and downs that are just part of being a teenager and teen depression. Talk with your teen. Try to determine whether he or she seems capable of handling his or her feelings without help, or if life seems overwhelming. If teen depression symptoms persist or begin to interfere in multiple areas of your teen's life, talk to a doctor or a mental health professional trained to work with adolescents. Your teen's family doctor or pediatrician is a good place to start. Or, your teen's school may have a recommendation.

Warning signs that your teen could be struggling with depression:

  • Sadness, irritability or anger that goes on for two weeks or longer
  • Poor school performance or frequent absences from school
  • Talking about running away from home or attempting to do so
  • Loss of interest in family and friends
  • Conflict with friends of family members
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • An ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
  • Neglected appearance — such as mismatched clothes and unkempt hair
  • Reckless behavior
  • Use of alcohol or drugs

When to see a doctor:
If you suspect your teenager may be depressed, make a doctor's appointment as soon as you can. Depression symptoms may not get better on their own — and may get worse or lead to other problems if untreated. Teenagers who are depressed may be at risk of suicide, even if signs and symptoms don't appear to be severe.

If you're a teen and you think you may be depressed — or you have a friend who may be depressed — don't wait to get help. Talk to a health care professional such as your doctor or school nurse. Share your concerns with a parent, a close friend, a faith leader, a teacher or someone else you trust.

Suicidal Thoughts:
If your teen is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Contact a family member or friend for support.
  • Seek help from a doctor, a mental health provider or other health care professional.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, you can reach the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 to talk to a trained counselor or have your teen talk to someone.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community for advice.

When to get emergency help
If you think your teen is in immediate danger of self-harm or attempting suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Make sure someone stays with him or her until help arrives.