Adolescent depression

Teenagers are typically moody. They can go from upbeat to moping in a matter of seconds. It's normal for teens to feel sad from time to time, but when that sadness sticks around day after day, it could be depression. Let's talk about adolescent depression.

Teens have a lot of pressures in their lives that can lead to depression. They're growing physically, and dealing with a new surge of hormones. They're fighting for more independence from their parents while trying to figure out their place in the world. Some kids are bullied at school or abused at home. Others are faced with major life changes, like their parents' divorce or the loss of a loved one.

Kids who are very critical of themselves or who have low self-esteem are more likely to get depressed. Those with learning disorders, ADHD, or anxiety are also more prone to depression.

So, how do you know that your teen is depressed? Look for signs like: irritability, fatigue, trouble eating, sleeping, or concentrating, teens who are depressed may start using drugs or alcohol, their attitude changes... once good kids may start misbehaving, missing curfews and acting up to their parents and teachers. Also, their grades may drop and they may spend more time alone in their room.

If these symptoms go on for at least two weeks, have your teen seen by a doctor. When left untreated, depression can increase the risk for suicide.

Start with a visit to your family doctor, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. The doctor will tailor treatment to your teen.

Often treatment includes medicine, usually a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. Examples are Prozac and Lexapro. Adolescents who are on these drugs need to be watched very carefully for side effects, like nervousness, irritability, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

Most teens with depression feel better if they talk to someone. Meeting with a therapist can help them identify the negative thoughts that are causing their depression, and turn those thoughts around. Teens may meet with a therapist alone, with their family, or as part of a support group.

Depression can affect every aspect of your teen's life, from school to relationships. Teens who are depressed are more likely to start using drugs or alcohol.

Antidepressants and talk therapy can be very good at relieving depression. So if you suspect your teen is depressed, talk about it, and ask for help from a doctor or therapist you trust.

Most important, call for help right away if you're afraid your teen might be thinking about suicide. Signs include giving away possessions, talking about hurting themselves, and pulling away from family and friends. Any suicidal thoughts need immediate medical attention.

Adolescent depression

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 10/25/2011
  • Alan Greene, MD, Author and Practicing Pediatrician; also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.