About 1 in 5 teenagers have depression at some point. Your teen may be depressed if they are feeling sad, blue, unhappy, or down in the dumps. Depression is a serious problem, even more so if these feelings have taken over their life.
Your teen is more at risk for depression if:
If your teen is depressed, you may see some of the following common symptoms of depression. If these symptoms last for 2 weeks or longer, talk to your teen’s doctor.
Notice changes in your teen’s daily routines that can be a sign of depression. Your teen’s daily routines can change when they are depressed. You may notice that your teen has:
Notice changes in your teen’s behavior that could be a sign of depression. They could be having problems at home or school.
Teens with depression may also have:
If you are worried that your teen is depressed, see a health care provider. The health care provider may perform a physical exam and order blood tests to make sure your teen doesn’t have a medical problem.
The health care provider should talk to your teen about:
The health care provider should ask about drug or alcohol abuse. Depressed teens are at risk for:
The health care provider may speak with other family members or your teen’s teachers. These people can often help identify signs of depression in teenagers.
Be alert to any signs of suicide plans. Notice if your teen is:
Call your health care provider or a suicide hotline right away if you are worried that your teen is thinking about suicide. Never ignore a suicide threat or attempt.
Call 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-999-9999. You can call 24/7 anywhere in the United States.
If you notice:
Most teenagers feel down sometimes. Having support and good coping skills helps teens through down periods.
Talk with your teen frequently to check in with them. Ask them about their feelings. Talking about depression will not make the situation worse, and may help them to get help sooner.
Get your teen professional help to deal with low moods. Treating depression early may help them feel better sooner, and may prevent or delay future episodes.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and treatment for major depressive disorder in children and adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Pediatrics. 2009;123:1223-1228.
Zuckerbrot RA, Cheung AH, Jenson PS, Stein REK. Identification, assessment, and initial management guidelines for adolescent depression in primary care. Pediatrics. 2007;120:e1299-e1312.
Cheung AH, Zuckerbrot RA, Jenson PS, Ghalib K. Treatment and ongoing management guidelines for adolescent depression in primary care. Pediatrics. 2007;120:e1313-e1326.
Bostic JQ, Prince JB. Child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 69.
Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). January 13, 2010. Accessed March 25, 2012.
Updated by: David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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