Depression in adolescents

Depression in teens/adolescents can be different from that in adults. It can be a serious mental issue that may make them sad and lose interest in routine and other activities, studies, etc. by affecting their thinking ability, behavior, emotional state.

Depression may not be just a sad feeling, lows experienced by adolescents, that can get better with willpower, mind deviation, etc. but can be severe and long lasting needing medical attention with treatment, counseling, etc. as it doesn’t get better on it’s own usually.


Depression may change the adolescent/teenager’s attitude, behavior leading to changes in emotions, problems in school/college, at home, social life, etc.

A few symptoms are

  • Feeling extremely low with outbursts of crying, anger, agitation, irritability for no apparent reason or simple issues.
  • Loss of interest in normal and regular activities, hobbies, etc.
  • Feeling of worthlessness, guilt, loss of self esteem and self confidence.
  • Loss of interest and conflict with family and friends.
  • Feeling hopeless, empty, extreme sensitivity to rejection, failure.
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep.
  • Loss of appetite or food cravings with weight gain.
  • Body ache, tiredness, restlessness.
  • Difficulty in thinking clearly, focus and concentration.
  • Social isolation and a look of negligence on personal appearance or self grooming.
  • Excessive use of alcohol, drugs, etc.
  • Thoughts of self harm, suicide.

Temporary lows and depression can be very difficult to differentiate. One may be able to handle feeling of low well in a typical situation but may not be able to when depressed. Assessment of this behaviour by parents in the teenage children may help in estimating the risk and chances of depression.


  • Changes in the levels of neurotransmitters (messengers in brain to other parts of body).
  • Hereditary factors with family members, parents, siblings with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.
  • Hormonal changes in the body.
  • Emotional trauma in childhood in the form of physical, sexual abuse, etc.
  • Evolving self to feel helpless with negative thinking, being submissive to a difficult situation, rather than solving or trying to deal with life’s challenges.

Risk factors

Risk factors which increase chances of depression can be

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, etc. that can make one feel low.
  • Bullying at school/college, difficulty in coping up with studies.
  • Physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse.
  • Conflict or issues in family, divorce of parents, staying far away from parents and loved ones.
  • Family member with serious medical conditions.
  • Loss of a person.
  • Change in location, new job, etc.
  • Physical disability.
  • Alcohol, drug abuse.


Diagnosis is made by a psychiatrist after talking for some time to know about one’s feelings, attitude, behavior, approach to life, to estimate probable underlying cause. Tests such as thyroid test may be done to rule out thyroid disorders as a cause. A mental health assessment is done and diagnosis may be made with criteria from DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders).


  • Medications may help in treating depression, that may be prescribed by the psychiatrist after grading the severity and type of depression.


  • Psychotherapy or talk therapy or counseling may be done one-on-one, with family members or in a group to help address the symptoms and educate on how to tackle and approach issues better.


Education on causes, ways to help get relief from symptoms, changes in lifestyle, etc. may be guided through. Psychotherapy includes cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy.


  • Lifestyle changes with a healthy diet and sleep cycle, regular exercises, working around the ways to control emotions and deal life challenges better.



  • Other options that night help to some extent can be yoga, meditation, laughter therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, etc.
  • Support groups help in coping up better.




  • Keeping self in the teen’s position to understand the cause, feelings.
  • Helping them understand and decide future goals, helping with setting realistic goals.
  • Going for walks and spending a lot of time together to help them open up better.
  • Avoiding family conflicts at home.
  • Making sure prescribed medications are taken regularly.
  • Keeping a watch on symptoms and making a note of it, maintaining a journal, etc


Depression when left untreated or unnoticed or discontinuation of prescribed medications or treatment may lead to complications, that worsens the lifestyle.

  • Suicide- It is very important to keep an eye on teens with depression and if you notice any any behaviour that indicates suicidal ideation, seek expert help immediately. Remove all sharp objects, chemicals, etc. around them.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Failure in academics.
  • Family conflicts ruining relationships.


Dr. Divya Teja

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