Adolescent Depression

One of the most common disorders affecting children is adolescent depression. This type of clinical depression can easily result in chronic and/or severe despair, low self-esteem, low-confidence levels and/or a marked decrease in interest towards daily activities and/or routines.

Causes, Incidences & Risk Factors

Adolescent depression can be triggered by a variety of reasons and situations. Some of the most common reasons that can cause clinical depression in adolescences are:

  • Stress which results from the natural process of growing up, owning up to responsibilities and maturing
  • Male and female sex hormones
  • Issues revolving around the need for more independence
  • The demise of a loved one
  • Failure of a relationship with a significant other
  • Bad grades
  • Unpleasant experiences such as harassment of any form and/or bullying
  • Sexual, emotional and/or physical abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Learning disabilities
  • Chronic illness
  • A lack of support at home
  • The demise of a parent or a divorce

Adolescent females are more prone to developing depression than males. A family history of clinical depression may also contribute to the development of this disorder in adolescents.

Signs of Depression in Adolescents

Adolescent Depression

Low self-esteem and anxiety are signs of adolescent depression.

Stressful events and traumatic experiences can lead to the development of clinical depression in adolescents. It is important to recognize the following signs early:

  • Low self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Self-judgmental and highly critical
  • Feelings of dejection
  • Nervousness and/or anxiety
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anorexia nervosa or bulimia

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Depression is relatively hard to diagnose due to the fact that adolescences are prone to fluctuating moods. When you have adolescent depression you may experience rapidly cycling (fluctuating) mood swings. One minute you are laughing and the next minute you are sad and crying. You may fail to acknowledge whether you are sad or happy when asked, because you are afraid of what will happen to you next. It is important not to be afraid. The medical professionals only want to help you feel better.

The medical professionals must perform all necessary tests and lab diagnostic procedures in order to check for the presence of any other medical conditions and get you the treatment that you need. It is also important that the medical team ask you question about substance abuse. The best way to develop an effective treatment protocol is by interviewing your parents, teachers, siblings and/or close friends.

The following factors must be taken into account when diagnosing an adolescent for depression:

  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Frequent marijuana use
  • Use or abuse of any other drug that may have marked side-effects
  • Signs of a mental health condition such as: mania, anxiety, psychosis and/or schizophrenia
  • Abnormal personality traits such as: a history of irritability, sadness and/or the loss of pleasure and interest in normal activities
  • Risk for homicide or suicide

Alcohol intake and drug abuse tend to aggravate depression symptoms in adolescents. This condition has to be screened for very carefully.


Adolescent depression consists of a combined treatment approach.

The treatment options include:

  • Medical care
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and/or psychotherapy
  • Anti-depressant medications (if severe)
  • Family therapy
  • Support groups


Medications usually consist of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Most anti-depressants are not suitable for adolescents or children as they may increase suicide risks in these age groups. Tricyclic anti-depressants are also not suitable for children or adolescents due to negative side-effects.


If you are severely depressed and have thoughts of suicide or harming yourself and/or others, hospitalization may be deemed necessary. This is especially true if you present other symptoms indicative of a psychiatric disease. You may be admitted to the hospital for observation and in severe cases you may be placed on “suicide watch” until the risk for self-harm has abated.


  • Take your medications on time
  • Recognize the signs of depression
  • Exercise and/or participate in a variety of activities
  • Avoid alcohol and/or drugs (those substances may increase your risk of suicide)
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Avoid all activities and people who contribute to your depression
  • Make sure you eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep

Prognosis and Complications:

The prognosis is usually good if treatment is received early. Adolescents, who suffer from clinical depression, tend to develop adult clinical depression. If you also have a drug abuse problem, you exacerbate the depression. Clincal depression can have a negative effect on your school performance and also on your relationships. If you suffer from adolescent depreesion, you may resort to violent behavior and seek the company of other adolescents participate in reckless behaviors.


Empfield, M. & Bakalar, N. (2001). Understanding teenage depression: A guide to diagnosis, treatment, and management. Retrieved from

Mondimore, F. M. & Aarseth, E. (2001). Adolescent depression: A guide for parents. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press

PubMed Health. (2012). Adolescent depression. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from


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