Depression in Adolescents

Depression in Adolescents

Adolescent depression is a disorder occurring during the teenage years marked by persistent sadness, discouragement, loss of self-worth, and loss of interest in usual activities. An adolescent who is depressed may not show obvious signs of depression. Adolescents who have low self-esteem, are highly self-critical, and who feel little sense of control over negative events are particularly at risk to become depressed when they experience stressful events. Depression presents in adolescents with essentially the same symptoms as in adults; however, some clinical shrewdness may be required to translate the teenagers’ symptoms into adult terms. Lack of motivation and lowered energy level is reflected by missed classes. A drop in grade averages can be equated with loss of concentration and slowed thinking. Boredom may be a synonym for feeling depressed.

Adolescence is a time of rebellion and behavioral experimentation. Depression is also associated with eating disorders, particularly bulimia. Risk factors include: stressful life events, unstable caregiving, chronic illness; and family history of depression. Treatment options for adolescents with depression are similar to those for depressed adults, and include psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. Adolescent girls are twice as likely as boys to experience depression. The consequences of untreated depression can be increased incidence of depression in adulthood, involvement in the criminal justice system, or in some cases, suicide.

Signs of depression in an adolescent

  • Overreaction to criticism.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed.
  • Feelings of anger and rage.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Excessively irresponsible behavior pattern.

Risk factors of depression in an adolescent

  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes.
  • A loss of a parent or loved one.
  • Abuse or neglect.


  • Treatment for depressive disorders in children and adolescents often involves short-term psychotherapy, medication, or the combination.
  • Continuing psychotherapy for several months after remission of symptoms may help patients and families consolidate the skills learned during the acute phase of depression.
  • Medication as a first-line course of treatment should be considered for children and adolescents with severe symptoms that would prevent effective psychotherapy, those who are unable to undergo psychotherapy