Do you think your teenager might be depressed? Is this current phase just “teen angst”? Or is it a warning sign of something more serious? Depression is often used to describe short term feelings or emotions. However Major Depressive Disorder is not a short term event. It is an illness that can be overwhelming for a teenager. The symptoms last persist over several weeks or even months. These symptoms have a noticeable impact on functioning in all aspects of teenagers’ already complicated daily life.

Research suggests that around 6 percent of teens are currently experiencing Major Depressive Disorder.  This disorder is more prevalent in teens whose parents with significant depression. The sooner that the signs of Depression are observed and treatment started the better the outcome is going to be. Untreated Depressive Disorder in teens continues into young adulthood. Untreated depression can result in suicide which is the third leading cause of death among 14 to 22 year olds.

What are the signs of Clinical Depression in teens?

  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Decreased academic performance
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling slowed down for no reason, “burned out”
  • Decreased motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness or excessive pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once enjoyed
  • Increased getting in trouble at home and/or school
  • Increase in social isolation, appetite or weight changes
  • Increase in vague or non-specific aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopeless, or even irritability
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, wishing to die, thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, or self-harming behaviors
  • Substance abuse

Talk with a teenager about the signs of depression you’ve noticed and ask them about how they are feeling. Be sure to ask if they feel unsafe or have thought about hurting themselves or even ending their lives.

If you think that your teenager is suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, talk to your physician about referral for evaluation and treatment by a qualified mental health professional. If there is reason to believe that your teen may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, is struggling to remain safe, or needs urgent attention, go to your nearest Emergency Room.