Teen boy isolating

Symptoms of anxiety and depression in adolescence are on the rise as youth mental health needs trend upward, so it’s important to understand depression among teens, recognize warning signs and know how to help teens with depression.

Signs of Depression in Teens

It’s normal for teens and tweens to feel ups and downs on a regular basis. After all, they’re exploring their independence and figuring out their identities, while also navigating the rules and expectations of their household, school, social media and peer social dynamics.

While everyday life experiences may cause negative moods and bad days, depression is the persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. Depression can interfere with daily activities like eating, sleeping, participating in class or spending time with friends and can lead to dangerous behavior changes.

Depression in youth is a serious mental health problem, and it’s important to know the symptoms of depression in teens and be ready to help.

Signs of Depression in Teens:

Emotional Changes:

  • Mood changes 
    Your teen may seem uncharacteristically sad and quiet, or conversely, very sensitive to criticism and more likely to have emotional outbursts.

  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
    Your teen saying “What’s the point?” or “I don’t make a difference anyway” can be signifiers of depression and feeling disconnected from their world.

  • Restlessness and difficulty concentrating
    Be on the lookout for changes in performance in school, less attention to their personal hygiene and lack of focus during their usual activities.

  • Low self-esteem
    Low self-esteem in tweens and teenagers can often lead to depression, so it’s important to know and regularly check in on how your teen considers themself, their value and their contributions.

Behavioral Changes:

  • Appetite changes
    Be aware of changes in appetite, such as skipping meals, increasing cravings for food and rapid weight gain or loss.

  • Changes in sleep
    Depression in teens may show up in changes to their sleep habits, either through persistent fatigue or insomnia.

  • Isolation
    Teens who are depressed may withdraw from relationships and begin keeping to themselves more.

  • Substance abuse and risky behavior
    Teens may use alcohol or drugs to try to alleviate their depression or disconnect further or engage in other risky and acting-out behaviors.

  • Self-harm and suicidal ideation
    Cutting, burning oneself, excessive picking at skin are examples of self-harm. Attempted suicide or making plans for suicide are very often a clear sign of depression.

Parents often wonder about the cause of depression in teens, and it can be unique to each individual. Today’s kids and teens face considerable challenges to their mental health, from peer pressure, school shootings and social media’s impact on self-esteem, to systemic inequities and the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trained, caring staff at Boys & Girls Clubs establish trusting relationships and open dialogues that help staff and youth recognize changes in thoughts, feelings and behaviors, as well as know when to get help.

Knowing the signs of depression in teens ensures you are able to help your child during a time of need. Dealing with teenage depression is difficult but knowing the warning signs and next steps to support your teen will ensure you’re their ally in getting help.

Stay in the Know

Boys & Girls Clubs of America provides youth mentorship, mental health services and meaningful life experiences that boost youth self-esteem, build confidence and contribute to healthy mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest resources and stories.

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