Recognizing Teen Depression

There is no typical picture of teen depression.  Not all teens with depression are going to look alike. However, there are some classic symptoms. There are common signs of teen depression that parents, teachers, and school administrators can look for in teens.


Using common signs can be particularly important when adults can’t tell the difference between typical adolescent moodiness and mental illness. In general teens can be moody, emotional, or impulsive, which can sometimes appear like symptoms of depression. These traits of teens are common because of the way the teen brain is still developing. The logical part of the brain is still growing in teens, which creates the tendency in them to be more emotional than logical, more impulsive than reasonable.


For this reason, it can be useful to rely upon warning signs, indicators that might point to depression. At the very least, these symptoms can encourage a parent to get their teen assessed. If there’s no diagnosis of depression, then you’re able to address the signs you are seeing accordingly. However, if there is a diagnosis of depression then the mental health professional can develop a treatment plan to address the depression.


The following are typical warning signs of teen depression:

  • Poor self esteem or guilt
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities that one enjoys
  • Poor performance in school
  • Feelings of not being able to satisfy one’s ideals
  • Anger or rage
  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy, or motivation
  • Sadness and hopelessness
  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Substance abuse
  • Falling grades
  • Isolating from friends
  • Spending too much time alone
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
  • Problems with authority
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or actions
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Indecision, lack of concentration, or forgetfulness


Parents should keep in mind that just because their teen isn’t displaying the typical signs shouldn’t be a reason for not having your teen assessed.  In fact, if you want to gather some information yourself about whether your teen is depressed, you can use one of the many depression screening tests online. Although there are many to choose from, not all of them are reliable. One good screen for depression can be found on PsychCentral:

This is an 18 question test that can help parents determine whether or not to take their teen to a therapist or psychologist for a more thorough assessment.  It can also be used to track the improvement (or lack of improvement) of the symptoms of depression once a teen has already been diagnosed.


Depression is an illness that affects millions of teens around the world. If you have any concerns at all about depression in your teen, you might start with the online test for depression. However, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health provider. If not treatment, depression can lead to severe consequences.