7 signs your teenager might have depression

Working out whether your teenager is experiencing low mood or depression isn’t an exact science. We’ve pulled together seven of the most common signs of depression in teens, but even if your teenager is showing a few of these it doesn’t mean they definitely have depression. If you spot a sign, the most important thing to do is to talk with your teen to see where they’re at. If you think they might have depression, you can get some help on what to do next here.

1. They’re down on themselves.

Feelings of worthlessness, sadness, hopelessness or pessimism are common symptoms of depression. Low energy and lack of motivation are also common when someone has depression.

cartoon boy looking down in the mirror

2. They have withdrawn from friends and family.

Isolating yourself is common when you have depression. When your teen’s energy levels are low, they may find it hard to leave the house (or their room) to do the things they normally would. There’s also a strong urge to pull away from others and to shut down.

cartoon girl standing separate from group of friends

3. They’re not enjoying the things they usually do.

A telltale sign of depression is the loss of interest in activities and hobbies a person usually enjoys. For example, maybe your teen usually loves drawing or playing sports, but they’re not doing those things anymore.

cartoon boy walking away from basketball on ground

4. Their sleep pattern or appetite has changed.

Loss of appetite and weight loss are common symptoms of depression, but some people also ‘comfort eat’, so weight gain may also be a sign. Changes in sleep include difficulty sleeping, over-sleeping or staying in bed most of the day.

You might notice these changes more at certain times of the day – for example, your teen can’t get out of bed in the morning.

cartoon girl sitting up in bed looking out window

5. They’re having trouble concentrating at school or on homework.

This sign can present as not performing as well as they normally do at school.

cartoon boy with book looking away distracted

6. They’re engaging in risky behaviour.

Risky behaviours can be a sign that your teen has depression, and can also make their depression worse. These behaviours include alcohol or drug abuse and having unprotected sex.

cartoon girl smoking

7. They seem more emotional than usual.

It’s common for teens to have frequent mood changes and to ‘act out’ emotionally. But when it’s an obvious change – such as frequent angry outbursts, irritability, or crying episodes for no apparent reason – and there are also other symptoms, your teen could have depression.

cartoon girl crying into hands

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  • I need to know more - Read our factsheet on depression.