Five Warning Signs of Depression to Watch for in Teenagers

  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings and Expression of Suicidal Ideation
  • Lack of Interest
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Changes in Appetite

Depression in teens has historically not been taken very seriously, says the National Institute of Mental Health – but now, we are aware that depression and other mood disorders represent a prevalent problem not only in adults but adolescents as well.

Teen depression may exhibit somewhat different from adult depression, but a variety of signs and symptoms of teen depression may present. While these symptoms vary from individual to individual, these five warning signs of depression in teens may help parents to identify the problem – and help them get professional help.

Hopelessness

Hopelessness is one of the most common indicators of depression in both teens and adults. Hopelessness may not always be expressed, but statements like “there’s no point in anything” or “it doesn’t matter anyway” with any sort of frequency can indicate hopelessness. Hopelessness may lead teens to neglect not only pleasurable activities but responsibilities, such as schoolwork, chores, college and scholarship applications, and so on.

Feelings and Expression of Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation is one of the clearest indicators of depression. The teen might express their desire to die, and may even talk about ways they’ve considered ending their life. While many people experience suicidal ideation a few times in their life due to extenuating circumstances, such as the death of a spouse or family member, depression is often hallmarked by regular suicidal ideation in either the conceptual phase or the planning phase. If the teen has expressed either conceptual or planning phases, they should be receiving appropriate professional help from a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or counselor.

Lack of Interest

Depression sufferers often lose interest in things they once valued or enjoyed, from friendships and social activities to personal goals and hobbies. Teens with depression are especially susceptible to isolating themselves, and in addition to lack of interest in previous areas or activities that brought them joy, they may also avoid going to school or fulfilling other responsibilities, even ones they took seriously or enjoyed carrying out.

Low Self-Esteem

Extreme low self-esteem is another central hallmark of depression, especially in teens. They may be extraordinarily self-critical, saying things like “I’m so ugly” or “I’m worthless” or “I’m not good at anything.” They may also be totally unresponsive to those who try to reassure them that these statements are not true. While low self-esteem is often a common problem among adolescents, particularly among those who are not “popular,” low self-esteem placed in context with other symptoms of depression can be a strong indicator of the condition.

Changes in Appetite

Sudden and even dramatic changes in appetite may indicate depression. Overeating, or barely eating anything at all, can be a strong indication when paired with other symptoms that the teen is suffering from depression. Changes in appetite may also herald the development of eating disorders, which teens are at significant risk for – and have high comorbidity with depression.

Teens exhibiting any or all of these symptoms with measurable frequency may be at risk for or already suffering from depression. Depression is a debilitating illness, and often affects sufferers for their entire lives. However, appropriate management of this illness and treatment can make depression easier to live with, in addition to preserving life and increasing its quality and joy for years to come.

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