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Signs Of Depression In Teens

helping a stressed teenager

Depression is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. While depression can develop at any age, symptoms commonly surface in adolescence and young adulthood. Teenagers are fraught with intense and far-ranging emotions as adolescence forces them to grow physically, mature emotionally, experience surging hormones, and are faced with a sudden newfound need for autonomy. All while needing to develop new stress management skills, as their previous emotional coping mechanisms quickly become outdated and ineffective. It is not uncommon for teenagers to be viewed as overly dramatic, highly emotional, boundary testing individuals. It is normal for situations that are stressful, painful, and/ or difficult to elicit fluctuating emotions. If, however, a young person does not emotionally recover in an appropriate timeframe and the teen experiences severe and extended time periods of debilitating sadness, he or she may be struggling with depression. 


Teenage depression is, unfortunately highly common. Findings from the National Institute of Mental Health in 2017, report nearly 3.2 million adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 had experienced at least one major depressive episode. The signs and symptoms exhibited by a teen struggling with depression will vary, as the combination and severity of symptoms will depend specifically on the teen. Signs that may indicate teen depression could include, but are not limited to the following, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Negative thinking
  • Sulking 
  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism
  • Sudden bursts of anger
  • Irritability 
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Random, unexplainable body aches and pains
  • Sudden lack of interest in previously enjoyed pastimes
  • Decline in academic performance 
  • Change in eating habits
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Social withdrawal and/ or social isolation
  • Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
  • Low self-esteem

To be clear, a young person diagnosed with clinical depression does not just have infrequent fleeting bouts of extreme sadness, nor can a young person struggling with depression simply “snap out of it”. The majority of young people with depression require some type of formalized treatment to learn the skills and techniques needed to assist in effectively manage its associated symptoms. If left untreated, teenage depression can result in a number of severe short and long-term adverse side effects. Furthermore, it is important to note that an untreated, teenager struggling with depression may be at risk of suicide even if the signs and symptoms do not appear to be severe. The treatment plan for a teenager diagnosed with depression will be tailored to the nuanced needs of the young person and will likely comprise of one or more psychotherapeutic modalities (i.e. specialized individual therapy, group therapy, creative arts therapies, etc.) and in some cases include antidepressant medication.

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at or through our contact form.

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