Depression in adolescents can manifest in various ways, and while everyone's experience can be different, there are some common symptoms to look out for. Here are a few signs of depression in adolescents:

It's important to note that these symptoms can vary from person to person, and a professional diagnosis is essential. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing depression, it's crucial to reach out to a healthcare professional or a mental health provider for an accurate assessment and appropriate treatment.

4 Main Types of Depression that Commonly Affect Teenagers

1. Adjustment Disorder With Depressed Mood

An adjustment disorder occurs in response to a life event. Moving to a new school, the death of a loved one, or dealing with a parents’ divorce are examples of changes that can spur an adjustment disorder in teens.

Adjustment disorders begin within a few months of the event and may last up to six months.1 If symptoms persist beyond six months, another diagnosis would be more appropriate.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) is a low grade, chronic depression that lasts for more than a year. Teens with dysthymia are often irritable and they may have low energy, low self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness.

Their eating habits and sleeping patterns may also be disturbed. Frequently, dysthymia interferes with concentration and decision making. It's estimated that roughly 11 percent of teens, ages 13 to 18, experience dysthymia.

3. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of depression followed by periods of mania or hypomania (a less severe form of mania). Both the depressive and manic states will last anywhere from a couple of weeks to many months. Symptoms of mania include a reduced need for sleep, difficulty focusing, and a short-temper.

During a manic episode, a teen is likely to talk fast, feel very happy or silly, and be willing to engage in risky behavior. Many teens engage in high-risk sexual behavior during a manic episode.

4. Major Depression 

Major depression is the most serious form of depression. It is estimated that 13 percent of teens, ages 12 to 17, experienced at least one episode of major depression in 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  Younger children have about equal rates of depression based on gender. After puberty, however, girls are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.

Symptoms of major depression include persistent sadness and irritability, talk about suicide, a lack of interest in enjoyable activities, and frequent reports of physical aches and pains. Major depression can cause severe impairments at home and at school. Treatment usually involves therapy and may include medication.

Signs of Teenage Depression

While depressed adults often talk about emotional pain, depressed teens tend to report physical aches and pains. They may report headaches, stomach problems, or say they just don’t feel well. In the case of depression, physical exams won’t reveal any findings.


Adults usually describe feeling sad when they’re depressed, but teenagers often become increasingly irritable. They may behave disrespectfully or may have less patience than usual. They also may become defiant.

Academic Changes

Teens may experience a sharp decline in their grades when depression strikes. But, that’s not always the case. Some teens maintain a high grade point average (GPA) even in the midst of emotional turmoil.

In fact, sometimes the pressure to maintain good grades becomes a factor in depression. A teen who feels the need to get accepted into an Ivy League college, or one who insists a disappointing SAT score could ruin their life, may remain driven to achieve despite being depressed.

Sensitivity to Criticism

Depression can lead to an intense sensitivity to criticism. Sometimes teens deal with this increased sensitivity by avoiding activities where they fear failure. A teen may refuse to try out for the soccer team or may refuse to invite a date to a school dance in an attempt to avoid rejection. 

At other times, teens may deal with this fear by becoming an overachiever. A depressed teen may become a perfectionist in an attempt to avoid the risk of being rejected. It’s important to monitor how your teen responds to risk, criticism, and failure as changes in your teen’s behavior could signal your teen is depressed.

Social Withdrawal

Social isolation is a common problem for someone with depression, but teens don’t necessarily withdraw from everyone when they become depressed. Sometimes they simply change peer groups.

A teen may begin to hang out with the wrong crowd or may stop talking to certain friends or family members.

At other times, teens withdraw from real-life activities and focus their attention on the online world when they’re feeling depressed. A depressed teen may create an online persona and may engage in online chats or play role-playing games for hours on end to escape the realities of life.

Above from:

Adult vs. Teenage Depression Facts: Similarities

Adult vs. Teenage Depression Facts: Differences

It’s important to note whether or not you are seeing changes in a child's behavior. This is especially true if they used to be more motivated at school and had a more positive perspective.

Another difference between adults and teens is why teens experience depression. Teenagers have many stressors in their lives that can be a depression source.

For example:

Another way that teens are susceptible to depression is due to divorce. When parents separate, it creates a dramatic and usually unwelcome change in the lives of teenagers. All of a sudden what was once a certainty, even taken for granted, is now gone. Thus, your teen must deal with a “new normal” that they were not expecting.  Other dramatic life changes that can cause depression include developing a major illness or the death of a family member.

Being a teenager also means experiencing hormonal fluctuations. Teenage bodies are changing from adolescence to adulthood, both physically and biochemically. This can be confusing and frustrating for teens as they deal with these changes.  Also, as they experience puberty, they may begin to compare themselves to their peers. If they don’t think that they are somehow meeting what they think is ideal, that can also be a depression source.

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