Depression: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


Depression is a serious mental health issue that can occur at any point in life. However, adolescents and adults may experience depression differently. Teenagers often experience social hierarchies and expectations, academic pressure, bullying, and puberty which can affect how they perceive themselves and warp their mental health.

 These issues can certainly bring about feelings of sadness, but if those feelings occur on a regular basis, your teenager could be experiencing depression. Continue reading to recognize the signs and find help for your child.


If your teenager is depressed, he or she might exhibit changes in their normal behavior or emotions. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed or become socially isolated. A range of behavioral and emotional changes may appear, so be on the lookout for the following:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of energy
  • Appetite changes
  • Prolonged feelings of sadness including crying for no reason
  • Feelings of anger over even small situations
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Engaging in risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol use
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Not taking care of personal hygiene
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Obsessing over past failures
  • Poor school performance
  • Overly sensitive to rejection
  • Spending less time with friends and family
  • Engaging in self-harm
  • Reoccurring thoughts of death and suicide
  • Suicide attempts


No one really knows the exact cause of depression but research suggests factors like brain chemistry, hormones, or childhood trauma could play an integral role. When neurotransmitters, which carry signals from your brain to other parts of your body, are abnormal then nerve receptors and systems change thereby causing depression.

 Teenagers typically experience a change in hormones and some science points to a change in the balance of hormones as leading to depression. If a teenager experiences a traumatic event at a young age, such as abuse or losing a parent, they might be more likely to develop depression. In terms of teen depression causes could stem from learned patterns of thinking meaning adolescents have learned to feel helpless as opposed to capable of tackling life's problems.

Many risk factors are associated with depression, such as family history, violence, or having another mental health disorder. Bullying can also increase the likelihood of depression. If your teenager is bullied over their appearance or sexuality, depression may develop. Statistics also show that teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender are at an increased likelihood of developing depression if they are in an unaccepting environment.


If you suspect your teenager has depression, talk to your doctor or mental health professional about what you can do. If untreated, depression can worsen leading to increased thoughts of suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and even trouble with the law. Before undergoing treatment your doctor may do a physical exam to determine what is causing your teen's depression, lab tests, or a psychological evaluation. Treatment depends on the severity and type of depression, but usually, a combination of medication and psychotherapy or talk therapy from Polaris Teen Center Clinical Team is recommended.

 Medications prescribed are antidepressants and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two specific drugs for teen depression: Fluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro). Finding the right medication and dosage may take some time, so you and your child need to be patient with the treatment. Side effects may occur as your teen's body adjusts to the medication.

 Health care costs for depression might add up so look into short term health insurance plans that could remedy a difficult, but a potentially temporary, situation. You have more health care coverage options than you may think, and the process of finding what's right for you doesn't have to be overwhelming. The Affordable Care Act has made it simpler for individuals diagnosed with depression to get help without financial burdens. Your insurance plan can cover evaluations, psychotherapy, medications, case management, and crisis intervention.

 If legal factors are dividing your family and potentially contributing to your teen's distress, don't hesitate to speak to family law attorneys to help your family return to stability. Even though teenagers sometimes think they have all the answers, they are still children who need to be protected by some stasis in the home.

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