teen depression

What is Teen Depression?

What is teen depression? 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression, or major depressive disorder, is a medical illness that can interfere with the ability to handle daily activities such as eating, sleeping, or managing schoolwork. For teens, however, the negative effects of depression go beyond a dismal mood. It can destroy the essence of a teen’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger. In severe cases, teen depression can lead to teen suicide

Teens sometimes participate in destructive risk behaviors in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain. These include: 

  1. Drug and alcohol abuse 
  2. Low self-esteem 
  3. Smartphone addiction 
  4. Violence or teen dating violence 
  5. Running away
  6. Sexual Activity  
  7. Problems at school 

Types of Depression Found in Teens

According to verywellmind.com, there are four main types of depression that commonly affect teenagers.

  • Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood: Occurs in response to a major life event (i.e., moving to a new school, death of a loved one, parents’ divorce). 
  • Dysthymia: Low grade of chronic depression that lasts more than a year. Teens with dysthymia are often irritable, have low energy, low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. 
  • Bipolar Disorder: Characterized by episodes of depression followed by periods of mania or hypomania. During a manic episode, a teen is likely to talk fast, feel very happy or silly, and be willing to engage in risky behaviors.
  • Major Depression: This is the most serious form of depression. It can cause severe impairments at home and at school. Symptoms include persistent sadness and irritability, talks about suicide, lack of interest in enjoyable activities and reports of physical aches and pains.  


teen depression statistics
Teen depression statistics 

According to a 2016 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, symptoms of teen depression are often missed by parents, guardians, teachers and even doctors. Here are some hard-hitting teen depression statistics:

  • 3.1 million young people in the United States between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year 
  • 20% of adolescent girls have experienced a major depressive episode
  • 6.8% of adolescent boys have experienced a major depressive episode
  • 71% of adolescents who experienced a major depressive episode in the past year also experienced a severe impairment (meaning limitations to an individual’s physical or mental abilities, interfering with their ability to perform basic work activities). 

Source: Social Security Administration 

  • 60% of adolescents with depression are not getting any type of treatment

Signs of teen depression 

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression can be key in getting a teen treatment. If your child or student is experiencing one or more signs of teen depression, it is important to talk with them about what they are going through, and seek medical attention if the signs continue or worsen:

  • Sadness or hopelessness 
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility 
  • Tearfulness or frequent crying 
  • Withdrawal from friends and family 
  • Loss of interest in activities 
  • Poor school performance 
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits 
  • Restlessness and agitation 
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt 
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation 
  • Fatigue or lack of energy 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Unexplained aches and pains 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 

Can teen depression be prevented? 

According to the Mayo Clinic, teen depression is not preventable. However, there are strategies that can help to manage it: 

  • Take steps to control stress: Increase resilience and boost self-esteem to help handle issues when they arise
  • Stay Connected: Reach out for friendship and social support, especially in times of crisis
  • Get treatment: At the earliest sign of a problem, seek professional help to prevent depression from worsening
  • Be consistent: Maintain ongoing treatment, if recommended, even after symptoms let up, to help prevent a relapse of depression symptoms

How Just Say YES programs address teen depression 

Through awareness and education, many teen lives can be saved from depression. Our Just Say YES programs can address teens struggling with self-harm, depression, eating disorders and suicide. Students learn the function of their emotions and the importance of expressing themselves, as well as the signs of depression and suicide so they can recognize them in themselves and their peers. For more information on our programs, please visit our Contact Us page. Once you fill out and submit the form, a Just Say YES representative will respond to you promptly.  

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