Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Teenagers and Depression

There was a study that was recently released that suggests teenagers who are depressed and do not receive help are at greater risk of developing serious mental illness later in life.  The implication is that teenagers experiencing depression greatly benefit from receiving treatment and face a reduced risk of developing more serious problems down the road. An article on BBC News that details this study can be found here.

In light of this news, it might be helpful to discuss the warning signs and symptoms of teenage depression, as it differs slightly in presentation from adult depression.  The following are symptoms to watch out for if you believe your teenager is depressed: 

**feelings of worthlessness                               
**tiredness, lack of energy, lethargic               
**frequent crying (more than is typical of your teen)
**losing interest/enjoyment in activities which use to be of interest/enjoyment
**social withdrawal (from friends and family members)
**changes in sleep habits and appetite
**difficulty with concentration
**suicidal thoughts or thoughts about dying

Here is a chart, courtesy of, which details the major differences between teenage and adult depression.  For more information on this topic, visit       

The difference between teenage and adult depression

Depression in teens can look very different from depression in adults. The following symptoms of depression are more common in teenagers than in their adult counterparts:

  • Irritable or angry mood – As noted above, irritability, rather than sadness, is often the predominant mood in depressed teens. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.
  • Unexplained aches and pains - Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomachaches. If a thorough physical exam does not reveal a medical cause, these aches and pains may indicate depression.
  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism - Depressed teens are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure. This is a particular problem for “over-achievers.”
  • Withdrawing from some, but not all people - While adults tend to isolate themselves when depressed, teenagers usually keep up at least some friendships. However, teens with depression may socialize less than before, pull away from their parents, or start hanging out with a different crowd.

If you’re unsure if an adolescent in your life is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been present, how severe they are, and how different the teen is acting from his or her usual self. While some “growing pains” are to be expected as teenagers grapple with the challenges of growing up, dramatic, long-lasting changes in personality, mood, or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem (, 2009).

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