How to Help a Teen with Depression

Although a relatively common mental health disorder, teen depression is still often overlooked in many cases. Since teenagers notoriously experience a range of emotions as a normal part of adolescence, it can be challenging to see depression for what it is. As a parent, how can you accurately identify whether or not your teen actually has depression?

Here, we take a closer look into the causes and symptoms of teen depression to better understand this common mental health condition. We then examine some ways that you could help your teen cope with their depression. Being diagnosed with depression (for a teen or adult) is not the end of the world. There are many methods and treatment options to help individuals with depression live happy and successful lives.


While everyone feels low or sad at times, depression is a far more serious condition. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a "medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act."

Depression can cause intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and cause you to lose interest in things that you once enjoyed. This disorder affects people of all ages around the world. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 264 million people suffer from depression.


Primarily, there are four types of depression that affect teens: adjustment disorder with depressed mood, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and major depression. While there are similarities, each form of depression is unique, and thus, requires unique treatment.

1. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood.

This form of depression occurs as a response to a major life event. If a teen undergoes a significant event, such as a move, parent’s divorce, or the death of someone close to them, they can slip into this type of depression. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood usually lasts up to six months.

2. Persistent depressive disorder.

This is a low grade and chronic form of depression. Also known as dysthymia, teens with this type of depression generally have low energy levels, disturbed eating and sleeping habits, and hopelessness. Persistent depressive disorder can last for over a year. While often less severe than other types of depression, the length of this disorder can make a major impact on your teen’s life.

3. Bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is experienced by a combination of manic states followed by depressive states. During manic periods, teens will have unusually high energy, have trouble focusing, and may not sleep. During a depressive state, they will have much less energy and express symptoms similar to persistent depressive disorder.

4. Major depression.

Major depression is the most serious form of teen depression. Symptoms for this form of depression include irritability, anger, lack of interest, thoughts of suicide, and even physical pain.

It is important to remember that if your teen is suffering from depression, regardless of the type, there are treatment options available.


There is no one direct cause of depression in teens. Rather, there are various factors, some internal and some external, that can cause depression in teens. Here’s a look at some of the most common causes:

1. Biochemical imbalances.

While this theory is still unproven, some research suggests that a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters between nerve cells and the brain could be a cause of depression. Additional research is still needed to prove this cause.

2. Genetics.

If you come from a family with a history of depression, there’s a higher chance that you may also experience this mental health disorder.

3. Trauma.

Following significant trauma, such as the loss of a loved one or assault, a teen may experience depression of varying severity. These depressive symptoms could be short lived or develop into a longer, more chronic form of depression.

4. Bullying and social exclusion.

Experiencing bullying is, regrettably, common for many children and teenagers. If bullying or social exclusion extend for a long duration of time without any relief, it can develop into depression.


Depression can be a difficult condition to identify because everyone experiences it in a unique way. Additionally, teens often express unique symptoms as compared to adults with depression. While it’s challenging for non-medical professionals to see the difference between a period of sadness and actual depression, here are some of the most common symptoms.
Some of the most common warning signs for teens with depression include:
· Intense feelings of sadness.
· Irritability.
· Frustration and anger.
· Low self-esteem.
· Feeling hopeless.
· Trouble concentrating.
· Lack of interest in hobbies and activities.
· Extreme sensitivity to rejection.
· Trouble connecting with others.
· Thoughts of suicide or death.


While many parents may feel helpless in the face of depression, you can help your teen deal with and manage their symptoms. The first step is to have an open and honest conversation. Most likely, your teen may not even understand what they’re going through so you need to be delicate and supportive when broaching the subject. Let them know that they are not alone and that millions of people experience this issue throughout the world. Having depression does not make them strange or unusual.
Following an open and honest discussion, you should then reach out to a doctor so you can begin to consider various treatment options. A doctor will perform a professional diagnosis to confirm that your teen is experiencing depression. They will also be able to help pinpoint the type of depression, which will determine which treatment option will be most effective.


If you’ve never experienced this mental health condition, you’re probably wondering: what does depression feel like? Depending on the type and severity of depression, it can have a range of symptoms, including irritability, restlessness, disruption of eating or sleeping habits, anger, sadness, or thoughts of suicide. If you believe your teen is experiencing depression, it’s important to first talk with them and then consult a doctor. These professionals can help identify the type of depression and then develop the most effective treatment option.