Getting Help for Teen Depression

Over the last decades, teen depression has become a hot topic for many researchers and healthcare professionals. With over 322 million depression sufferers worldwide, some experts believe early intervention strategies can prevent this problem from causing more suffering than it already does.

But tackling teen depression can be a bit tricky, considering that adolescence is a transitional period marked by constant mood swings, risky behaviors, and unexpected attitude changes.

Teen Depression

Let’s take a closer look at how depression affects the younger generation.

What is Depression?

In broad lines, depression is a mood disorder that can affect us on all levels. From a lack of motivation and low self-esteem to feelings of helplessness and despair, this condition comes with a wide array of debilitating symptoms.

Why Do Adolescents Get Depression?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons why teens get depressed. As in the case of many other mood disorders, there is a mix of genetic, biological, and environmental factors that contribute to the early onset of depression.

In other words, things like hormones, brain chemistry, childhood trauma, and dysfunctional parenting styles could all be among the reasons why adolescents get depression.

Is Depression in Teens Serious?

Teen depression is as serious as any problem that can affect your personal, social, and professional life. A recent report by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association revealed that since 2013, the number of people diagnosed with depression has risen by 33 percent. [1]

The worst part is that this rate seems to be growing even faster among adolescents and millennials (approximately 47 percent).

Teen depression is very serious and it should not be taken lightly. Teenagers with severe depression should get treatment as soon as possible.

Causes of Depression and Other Mental Health Disorders

As mentioned before, no one knows the exact causes of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. What we do know is that teens and adolescents are perhaps the most vulnerable groups.

Teen Mental Health Conditions

Most experts agree that today’s teens are at risk for developing all sorts of mental health conditions like anxiety, stress, mood disorders, eating disorders, and the list goes on.

However, nothing compares to the profoundly negative impact that depressive disorders can have on our teens and adolescents. In fact, one study published in Pediatrics concluded that teen depression could have a lasting negative effect on peer, family, and school functioning. [2]

Risk Factors for Teen Depression

Let’s face it, it’s almost impossible to exercise control over the biological and genetic factors that can contribute to teen depression. Perhaps identifying and eliminating environmental risk factors could lead to fewer cases of depression in teens.

Some of the factors that can increase the risk of teen depression are substance abuse, trauma, bullying, domestic violence, learning disabilities, and even being part of a sexual minority. [3]

Complications of Teen Depression

Depression rarely comes alone. In many cases, depressed teens also struggle with other emotional and behavioral problems.

Substance Abuse Problems

Teens with depression often resort to alcohol and other substances to cope with their pain and suffering. Unfortunately, substance abuse can have lasting effects on the body and mind, not to mention other problems that may result from acquiring and using illegal substances. Teenagers with substance abuse problems need treatment.

Relationship Issues

If left unchecked, depression can slowly turn a healthy relationship into a living nightmare for everyone involved.

Relationships are typically a source of comfort, satisfaction, and emotional healing. Which means that being unable to form or maintain a bond with another human being can be problematic.

Academic Problems

One of the first signs of teen depression is poor academic performance. Depressed teens often find it challenging to stay focused and motivated enough to achieve their educational goals.

Also, as you can probably imagine, having trouble in school can translate to anxiety, stress and other problems. Not to mention the fact that it can jeopardize your professional future and overall quality of life.

Teen Suicide

Suicidal ideation is one of the most worrisome symptoms of teen depression. Being unable to cope with depression on your own can lead to a profound feeling of hopelessness. Inevitably, suicidal thoughts can begin to develop.

Some teens end up contemplating suicide as a way of putting an end to all the suffering and difficulties associated with this disorder.

Symptoms of Depression in Teens

Since adolescence can be a tough period of life, healthcare professionals are urging parents, teachers, and caregivers to be “on guard” and spot the early signs of depression.  

How Can You Spot a Depressed Teen?

Spotting a depressed teenager can be quite challenging, especially for the layman. It’s hard to tell the difference between a major depressive episode and the “normal” mood swings that many adolescents often display.

However, there are some warning signs and depressive symptoms that can help you determine if a teenager is dealing with depression.

What Are the Warning Signs?

While mood swings are like summer rain (they come and go quite fast), depression is a problem that can last for weeks (even months).

Another common sign that can point towards teen depression is poor academic performance. Furthermore, teens who struggle with this disorder tend to spend a lot of time indoors.

The Symptoms of Depressive Disorder

Some of the main symptoms of depression are:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Lack of focus
  • Low self-esteem
  • Irritability
  • Exhaustion
  • Poor academic performance
  • Social withdrawal
  • Use of alcohol and drugs
  • Angry outbursts
  • Self-harm

I Might Have Depression: What Should I Do?

If you have persistent feelings of sadness or if you have had thoughts of suicide, it may be time to seek treatment from a mental health professional.

Tell Someone

When dealing with emotional or behavioral problems, one crucial factor that predicts recovery is social support. Talk to your family, friends, or any other person that you can trust about your feelings.

How Do I Get Help?

Nowadays, getting help is easier than ever. Aside from hospitals and clinics, numerous nonprofit and for-profit organizations offer quality mental health treatment.

On top of that, the online environment offers plenty of support groups, mental health platforms, and other resources that make it easy for you to access proper treatment options.

Depression Treatment Options

Over the years, researchers and healthcare professionals have developed a wide array of treatment options for depression. Some of the most effective and popular ones are:

  • Counseling and talk therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Medications like antidepressants
  • Residential treatment

What if I Know Someone Who is Suffering From Depression?

Are you concerned that a friend, or family member might be suffering from depression? The best thing you can do is encourage him/her to consult a professional for treatment. Whether the person you know is dealing with teen depression or any other mood disorder, make sure to help them access all the resources they need to get back on track.


  1. “Major Depression: The Impact on Overall Health,” Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, 10 May 2018. [Online]. Available:
  2. L. H. Jaycox, B. D. Stein, S. Paddock, J. N. Miles, A. Chandra, L. S. Meredith, T. Tanielian, S. Hickey and A. Burnam, “Impact of Teen Depression on Academic, Social, and Physical Functioning,” Pediatrics, vol. 124, no. 4, 2009.
  3. “Teen depression,” Mayo Clinic, [Online]. Available:
author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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