The Top 3 Signs of Depression in Teens - MCR Health

The Top 3 Signs of Depression in Teens

With the imminent prospect of adulthood, the teenage years can prove difficult for many individuals. While it is quite common for teens to experience mood swings, some teens suffer from depression, a very series condition.

Unfortunately, depression often goes unrecognized because its warning signs can prove difficult to identify.

In this article, we will discuss the emotional changes, behavioral changes, and warning signs that can indicate depression or worse. 

Emotional Turbulence 

The high school years can be turbulent for students for a variety of reasons: academic pressures rise; adult responsibilities increase; the freedom-to-responsibility ratio (often) loses balance; and on top of all of this, navigating new romantic relationships can prove heartbreaking.

When a teen is struggling, mood swings can be indicative of depression—manifesting itself as emotional changes. According to the Mayo Clinic, a few common emotional changes include but are not limited to, 

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness 
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure 
  • Trouble thinking or concentrating 
Some teens may feel hesitant talking to a mental health professional. But your communication, compassion, encouragement, and support can give your teen the confidence to express their feelings. Maintaining open communication with your teen can help ensure they feel safe enough to discuss what may be bothering them.

Just like adults, teens will handle stress and situations differently. When suffering from depression, teens may become more isolated and less active, often exhibiting behavioral changes that are problematic or even dangerous.  


Because teens may lack the understanding necessary to cope with their feelings, many often partake in dangerous/foolish/obnoxious activities out of frustration. As an adult it is crucial to keep an eye out, watching for any changes from their normal behavior. 

According to HelpGuide, there are a few common changes in a teen’s behavior that could indicate possible depression. 

  • Poor school performance
  • Substance abuse  
  • Missing school 
  • Reckless behavior 
  • Social isolation from family and friends
  • Attempts suicide or plans it out 

Teenagers will often rationalize these behaviors as the best solutions they can come up with in the moment. But a deeper look may add insight into the real reason.

  • A teen may choose to miss school to avoid bullying
  • A teen may be performing poorly due to emotional distractions
  • A teen may turn to substances because their lives lack true fulfillment

By talking about these things, young adults may come to understand the that these actions don’t solve any of the deeper, underlying issues that drive them to make these behavioral choices. With open constructive dialogue from their parents and professional help, teens can learn healthy coping skills that will serve them better as they mature.

However, not all teens who are depressed exhibit obvious symptoms. Some teens can hide their pain from loved ones but be silently suffering. Thus, it is important for parents to know their teens well and watch out for any warning signs that they might be suicidal.

Suicide Attempts and Red Flags

Because teens struggling with severe depression may be overwhelmed by certain challenges, they may consider suicide as a solution that can free them from their suffering.

But according to Mental Health America, only 5,000 young people ages 15-24 commit suicide every year. While this number is far too high as it is, it only shows a tip of the iceberg. This is because completed suicides are far outnumbered by suicide attempts.

Attempts themselves are warning signs, but there are many other less severe signs that something is not right. According to Mayo Clinic, warning signs of suicidal teenagers may include but are not limited to: 

  • Talking or writing about suicide
  • Withdrawal from social contact
  • Alcohol or drug abuse 
  • Feelings hopeless about a situation 
  • A shift in routine 
  • Giving away belongings 
  • A personality shift 

Not everyone who experiences depression will have suicidal thoughts, but it’s important to take any warning signs or mentions of suicide seriously. As a parent or guardian, you know your teen best, and if you have concerns about their safety, then it’s better to talk to them about it.

That said, many teenagers may not feel comfortable talking about their feelings. Despite wanting help, they may not be sure how to go about asking for help. So it’s best to make it as easy as possible by not being judgmental and instead acting in love towards them, treating them and their feelings with respect.

Finding help for your teen after recognizing that they need help is the first step for them to start living a happier life. 

Talk About It

When a teenager is suffering from depression, they’re stuck in the present. With professional help, teenagers can come to understand that more to life than adolescence.

With May being Mental Health Awareness month, we encourage parents to consider mental health screenings for their teenage children. MCR Health is here for you and your family to help provide health care.

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