How to Detect Depression in Your Teen

Take a trip down memory lane to revisit your teenage years; were you a happy camper or did you spend most of your days moping, being angry or simply wading in sorrow?

If you chose the former, you probably had a good life, but unfortunately, one in five adolescent children go through depression, sometimes without getting any help.

Depression in Teens

Your child’s teenage years are likely the most chaotic years in yours and your child’s lives because a lot can be going on in their minds. From hormonal changes to keeping up with the latest fashion trends and continually trying to be cool among their peers, a teenager’s life is probably more stressed than ours.

How do they cope with all these emotions? Teenagers usually tend to be very vocal and expressive — think of all the slammed doors and screaming during these years.

Some children might resort to the opposite reactions and choose to be glum and silent until the emotion passes. But if the gloominess and sorrow last too long, you might want to intervene to find out what’s going on.

Detecting Depression in Teens

While it might be difficult to differentiate between the signs of growing pains and depression, at some point you may begin to notice that your child has been in a particularly sorrowful state for longer than usual.

A prolonged phase might also begin to impact your child’s eating habits, sleep and overall well-being. And, if they still deny any problem, when confronted, it is better to approach it with more seriousness.

These traits or behaviors might signal depression in your teen:

  • Extremely low self-esteem
  • Attempts to run away from home
  • Discipline issues and lower academic performance at school
  • Substance abuse
  • Addiction to their smartphone
  • Reckless behavior like rash driving

Unlike in adults with depression who tend to be morose and lonely, depression in teens manifests through anger and aggression.

Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation in any activity
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Frequent crying
  • A tendency to isolate from loved ones
  • Fatigue
  • New aches and pain
  • Frequent mention of suicide

You should also be aware of the close link between depression and suicide and look out for any instance where your teen may hint at committing suicide. Some teens write stories about death and dying, bid farewell to close family and friends or go around saying things like, “I’m better off dead,” or “There’s no way out now.”

Tips to Communicate With a Depressed Teen

Many adults find it difficult to effectively communicate with a normal teen, so you can imagine the effort required to get through to one who might be depressed. Mental health experts recommend the following tips for communicating with depressed teens:

  • Constantly show love and support
  • Be gentle
  • Encourage them to get healthy by switching up their diet and motivating them to exercise more
  • Introduce meditation and yoga
  • Be an active listener
  • Refrain from advising too much
  • Understand and acknowledge their emotions
  • Bring them out of isolation by roping them into activities at home and outside
  • Trust your intuition and seek professional help if required

While depression in teens may be difficult to notice, once diagnosed it can be treated with the help of medications and therapy. If your teen is depressed, try to understand the cause and help him or her return to being the dynamic teen he or she used to be.

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Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Born and raised in India, Aparna has made Orange County her second home. She loves being in a creative environment, and when not writing about health and wellness, this shutterbug/foodie can be found cooking for friends and family and clicking photographs of nature.