Depression Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Teen Depression

Understanding Teen Depression

Depression is a common but serious mental health disorder that can cause a child or adolescent to experience persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. This disorder will not only impact how your child feels, thinks, and behaves, but can also lead to the development of a number of functional, emotional, as well as physical problems. Depression in a young person is much more than the occasional bad mood. Depression can have a debilitating impact on virtually all areas of a young person’s life.

Fortunately, depression responds well to treatment, and with therapy and medication a young person can overcome the symptoms of this disorder and begin to lead a happier life.



According to the World Health Organization (WHO), major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among U.S. citizens between the ages of 15 and 44. Furthermore, in the United States, it is estimated that approximately 10% to 11% of children and adolescents are depressed at any given time.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Depression

Research has indicated that multiple factors can lead to the development of this mental health disorder. More specifically, researchers have identified genetic, physical, psychological, and environmental factors that place a young person at an increased risk for the development of depression. These factors are described briefly below:

Genetic: Years of research have determined that children and adolescents who have a family history of depression are at increased risk for developing the disorder themselves. In fact young people who have close relatives with depression are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop depression than are members of the general population.

Environmental: Many environmental factors can contribute to the development of depression in a child or adolescent. For example, being the victim of physical or emotional abuse, losing a parent, or experiencing a traumatic event can cause changes in the brain that will make a young person more susceptible to the development of depression. Furthermore, having a chronic medical illness, such as cancer, has also been associated with depression.

Risk Factors:

  • Pre-existing mental health condition
  • Being a female
  • Hormonal imbalances in the brain
  • Low self-esteem
  • Having a chronic medical illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Trauma or grief
  • Experiencing a painful major life experience
  • Social isolation
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Certain types of medications
  • Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered

Signs of Depression

Signs of Depression

The symptoms associated with depressed children or adolescents tend to differ from the symptoms that are present in a depressed adult. If you notice one or more of the following signs or symptoms in your child, you should seek help from a mental health professional. Symptoms of depression in children and adolescents may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Disruptive or risky behavior
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Frequent absences from school
  • Poor school performance
  • Neglected appearance

Physical symptoms:

  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches or headaches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss (associated with changes in appetite)

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Slowed thinking
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble staying focused on tasks at hand
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Changes in temperament
  • Frequent thoughts of death or dying
  • Fixation on past failures

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim
  • Exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism

Effects of Depression

Effects of Depression

If left untreated, the presence of depression can cause emotional, behavioral, and physical health problems that can affects all areas of a young person’s life. The following are some possible negative consequence that could develop as the result of untreated depression:

  • Academic problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Family conflicts
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Running away from home
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • Involvement with juvenile justice system
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Children and adolescents with depression are often struggling with the presence of an additional mental health disorder. The following are disorders that are commonly experienced by young people who are also dealing with depression:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Learning disorders

SUWS gave me self confidence and the tools I need to live a better life

– Anonymous Patient