8 Signs of Teen Depression

By Heather Senior Monroe, LCSW

Signs of teen depression are important to recognize. Teen depression can impact the family. Teens feel a lot! Furthermore, adolescence is a time of turbulence and strong emotions. It’s important for parents and those who work with young people to learn how to distinguish between “teens being teens” and signs that might indicate a risk of depression.

Here are a few depression symptoms to watch for:

1. Teens may avoid social situations

Teen hiking a mountain to overcome depression symptoms

Adolescence is typically a time when friends and social activities are particularly important. Therefore, if you see a teen withdrawing from peers they were once close with, or skipping the kinds of get-togethers they used to look forward to, it could be a depression symptom.

2. They seem sad and hopeless

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources Teen Depression Sad

There’s a big difference between moodiness and feeling that there’s no point to anything, even things that mattered in the past. Hence, we must be aware of how often and how intensely these feelings surface. Expressing suicidal thoughts is always an indicator that must be attended to.

3. Shame or feeling ashamed of who they are

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources Teen Depression Shame

Shame is an indicator of depression. Many teens are self-critical, but a depressed teen might consistently say things like “I’m stupid” or “I’m a failure.” Therefore, they might feel that something is “wrong” with them, that they’re not “normal” like everybody else.

4. They don’t care 

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources Teen Depression Detach

A lack of motivation and enthusiasm can be an indicator of depression, especially when teens don’t seem to care about things they used to get excited about. Leaving behind old interests can be a healthy sign of growth, but those pursuits need to be replaced by new things they’re interested in.

5. A hard time concentrating and making decisions

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources Teen Depression Concentrating

Sure, adolescents can be forgetful and distracted at times. But if you notice a teen who used to be focused and decisive having difficulty buckling down to their homework or other projects, or not being able to make choices—even little ones—be sure to investigate further.

6. Their sleep patterns are disturbed

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources Teen Depression Sleep

Depressed teens often want to sleep all the time—or they don’t want to sleep at all, because putting down the smartphone and closing their eyes means being alone with their painful thoughts. Teens do need more sleep than adults. Consequently, sleeping till noon on a weekend isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

7. Eating habits change

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources Teen Depression Eating

Loss of appetite in a teen who used to enjoy all kinds of food can be a warning sign. Or they might crave sugary foods as a way to self-soothe, since sugar creates a temporary spike in dopamine levels.

8. Abusing alcohol or drugs

Newport Academy Mental Health Resources Teen Depression Drugs Alcohol

There is never substance abuse without a mental health issue. Therefore, drinking and drug use are unhealthy coping mechanisms for dulling pain. If your teen is using, the underlying issues must be addressed.

In conclusion, if you are concerned about any behaviors you are seeing, please call us. We are here to support you and your family. You are not alone.

Heather Senior Monroe, LCSW, a Senior Clinician at Newport Academy, is a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker who specializes in teenage depression, anxiety, and trauma. She has worked in the fields of teen treatment and prevention for more than 10 years.

Photo courtesy of iStock.