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Recognizing Depression in Teens

teen girl sitting alone and isolating herself can be a sign of depression in teens

While it’s natural to experience emotional ups and downs, depression in teens is not always benign. Though signs of depression are varied, key indicators can point to a chronic condition needing medical and therapeutic intervention. The teen years bring hormonal changes, mood shifts, and increasing expectations for social-emotional adjustment.

Further, as social networking has grown more popular, the experience of being addicted to an online presence—from cultivating our own to viewing that of others—can lead to low self-esteem and impossible expectations in real life. At HillsidesCares, our depression treatment program in Los Angeles specializes in medical and mental health resources to help teenagers combat depression. Call us at 323.641.4842 to better understand all of our treatment programs.

Signs of Depression

Depression in teens can manifest as losing interest in things that provide joy, like hobbies or friendships. At the same time, peer and academic pressure may cause acute anxiety, which often leads to depression. Any combination of factors may play into a prolonged depression, but familiarizing ourselves with common symptoms can assist with early intervention. Knowing what to look for can help pinpoint whether the teenager in your life is struggling with depression:

Emotional Symptoms

While emotional and physical symptoms are rarely mutually exclusive, it can be helpful to explore indicators of each. Emotional symptoms of depression take many forms:

  • Feelings of guilt and unworthiness – Many teenagers feel guilty or unworthy for real or imagined reasons. These feelings can lead to a sense of unworthiness of forgiveness and love. An inability to overcome temporary setbacks can contribute to growing feelings of depression.
  • Commitment to self-blame and negative self-talk – A repetitive tendency for self-blame, regardless of the circumstance, as well as self-criticism, indicates a notion of self-defeat. When negative self-talk becomes second nature, any hope for change can diminish.
  • Low self-esteem and heightened sensitivity – When a teen needs over-the-top reassurance and validation, there may be an increased sensitivity to notions of failure or ineptitude. Low self-esteem may contribute to depression because teens cannot support or comfort themselves in times of perceived failure or rejection.
  • Social isolation – Unfortunately, one of the by-products of the recent pandemic was a lack of socialization. Isolated from peers and activities, both of which play a significant role in adolescent development, many teens report feeling isolated, lonely, and out of practice with developing relationships. Paired with an increase in online activity, this lack of face-to-face interaction easily feeds into growing depression.

Physical Symptoms

Related physical symptoms of depression manifest outwardly and may be simpler to spot with the teens in your life. While cause and effect may be harder to pinpoint, both emotional and physical symptoms may indicate depression:

  • Growing fatigue and listlessness – The desire to retreat and an overall lack of energy often indicate increasing feelings of depression. Loss of appetite, energy, and an absence of physical drive augment feelings of helplessness or apathy.
  • Insomnia or excess sleep – Two sides of a problematic coin, sleep-related issues can indicate growing depression. If your teen is unable to stay or fall asleep, a racing mind and emotional overwhelm may be keeping them awake. Likewise, if a teenager sleeps to excess, retreating to a couch or bed with extreme lethargy, depression is likely a factor.
  • Fluctuations in appetite — Eating too little or too much can indicate your teen is trying to manage the instability of depression. Some turn to food to drown out negative thoughts and feelings; others, when faced with self-defeating thoughts and mindsets, lose their appetites altogether. Extreme shifts in appetite may be a key indicator of someone struggling with depression.
  • A decline in academic work/involvement and chronic absenteeism – When an otherwise involved or active teen loses interest in everyday activities, their academic and attendance records may suffer. Lower grades, notes or calls from school, and skipping school more regularly can all indicate depression in teens.

Navigating the transition to adulthood isn’t easy, and depression can have long-lasting consequences. These outward manifestations of inner struggles can help parents, counselors, and concerned family or friends recognize when a teenager needs help.

Depression Treatment Program in Los Angeles at HillsidesCares

At HillsidesCares in Los Angeles, we understand the challenges of overcoming depression. Our well-versed team of mental health professionals treats teenagers battling depression, while our medical experts support the therapeutic process. If you suspect your teen is struggling with depression, HillsidesCares can help. Call us at 323.641.4842 to get started.