Signs & Symptoms of Depression in Adolescents

Understanding Depression

Learn about depression

Rather than occasional feelings of sadness, depression describes a pervading sense of hopelessness or emptiness. Depression is a diagnosable mental health condition that is often characterized by a low or “down” mood, feelings of sorrow or gloom, a lack of energy, and a disinterest in activities the individual normally enjoys. While sadness is a mood, depression is a condition. There are several types of depression, but the two primary depressive disorders are major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder.

  • Major depressive disorder is a markedly severe form of depression that often proves crippling for the person experiencing it, as the symptoms of the disorder impair a great deal of daily life and activities. An individual with major depressive disorder will have symptoms nearly every day for most of the day and for a duration of at least two weeks.
  • Persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia, is a milder form of depression. However, what the disorder lacks in intensity, it makes up in persistency. The symptoms of persistent depressive disorder are considered chronic, so they often last longer than those of major depressive disorder. At least two years of symptoms warrant a diagnosis of persistent depressive disorder.

Depression does not fade as quickly as normal feelings of sadness and can be a sign of a deeper underlying issue. Because of this, it is important to see a medical professional if you believe that your adolescent may be experiencing depression. No matter what form of depression your adolescent may be living with, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of their disorder to determine the best possible treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of depression

People experiencing depression can have symptoms in all shapes and sizes. No matter what form of depression your adolescent may be living with, the signs and symptoms can have a disheartening, if not harmful, effect on your adolescent’s life and wellbeing. It’s important that you’re able to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression in your adolescent so that you can find them the best possible treatment. The following are the most common symptoms of depression:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Frequent absences from school or work
  • Lack of desire to participate in social activities (such as extracurricular activities, events, sports, quality time with friends, etc.)
  • Waning interest in hobbies they normally enjoy
  • Withdrawal and/or isolation
  • Failure to fulfill basic self-care tasks (such as bathing, personal grooming, etc.)
  • Neglect of physical appearance
  • Aggressiveness
  • Comments about death or dying

Physical symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Frequent tears or inability to cry
  • Changes in appetite (such as overeating or not eating enough)

Mental symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Inexplicable sorrow
  • Constant sadness
  • Suicidal thoughts


Effects of depression

Short-Term Effects: Those with depression may experience short-term effects if their symptoms are left untreated. But “short-term” does not necessarily mean that the effects will quickly go away or that they are of minor importance. Rather, short-term effects are often the beginning signs that further treatment is necessary. The following are the short-term effects of untreated depression:

  • Aggressiveness, outbursts of anger, and/or “picking fights” with family or friends
  • Isolation or withdrawal from family or friends
  • Neglect of hobbies or activities they normally enjoy
  • Poor performance in school or work
  • Persistent low self-esteem
  • Decline in happiness and sense of wholeness or wellbeing
  • Drug and/or alcohol experimentation
  • Suicidal thoughts

Any adolescent who experiences any of the above short-term effects of depression should seek immediate professional treatment.

Long-Term Effects: If further left untreated, adolescents with depression may suffer from more long-term, or chronic, effects. The following long-term effects can vary depending upon the individual and the type of depression they live with:

  • Academic failure
  • Job loss
  • Loss of friendships or romantic relationships
  • Perpetual isolation
  • Addiction
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal behaviors

Any adolescent who experiences any of the above long-term effects of depression should seek immediate professional treatment. Seeking treatment for depression will dramatically decrease both the short-term and long-term effects of depression and might eliminate potential physical or emotional harm to your adolescent.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Depression and co-occurring disorders

It is not uncommon for adolescents with depression to suffer from a co-occurring disorder, or another mental health disorder at the same time. Some common co-occurring disorders of depression include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorders (addiction)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Some adolescents will experience the above mental health disorders while living with depression. Others, however, may develop a co-occurring disorder after the onset of depression symptoms. Southstone Behavioral Health in South Boston, Virginia, treats a wide variety of mental health disorders, including depression. At Southstone Behavioral Health, adolescents who live with depression are treated with the utmost respect and care. Adolescents receive top-of-the-line treatment at Southstone Behavioral Health as they learn to cope with their depression and build themselves a more hopeful tomorrow.