Is Teenage Depression the Cause of Your Child’s Strange Behaviours?

Teenage depression and mental health

Depression is underrated that the symptoms are seen as normal life challenges like stress. But when teenage depression is is the culprit, it could disorganize a teenager’s entire life.

I was once a victim of teenage depression around the age of 19 when I had a university admission crisis which was resolved, but the depression didn’t resolve immediately.

I was withdrawn and kept to myself, had several bouts in short while. No motivation to do anything, was irritable and had violent tendencies.

I knew it was still there after resolving the admission problem because I never was my real self again. I continually had this worthless feeling and it affected everything.

As an observant, empathic and introverted person, I was likeable and was not given to aggression or violence.

But I found myself having those tendencies and being harsh to my parents. Sometimes I would withdraw and find solace in my solitude, not given any information to anyone about anything.

I became low in emotional intelligence and was just merely existing and drifting along life. I couldn’t nor did I seek help.

The teenage depression resolved on it’s own, I believe, but not after it had affected my studies and career, and social life negatively.

It was much later I knew I battled teen depression after knowing about it, and I was able to manage another bout when I had a relationship crisis after many years.

Understanding teenage depression

Teenage depression can disorient a teenager's life
Depressed teenager

Teenage depression, is an emotional and mood disorder that is characterized by continuous low feelings that can be described as sadness which also makes the teen lose interest in activities he enjoyed.

It affects a teenager’s thinking, emotions and behaviour and can disrupt his physical function. Depression in teens can have similar symptoms with those of adults but there are clear symptoms that differentiates them.

The teen years can be extremely tough and mental issues affect teenagers far more often than many of us realize because of their fragile, developing personality.

One in five teenagers will have depression sometime in their teen years. However, many depressed teens do not get help even though the illness is treatable.

Teen depression goes beyond moodiness and a melancholic mood. It can destroy the essence of a teen’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, and anger.

Academic expectations, peer pressure, and changes in the body caused by puberty can stir unpleasant feelings and anxiety in teenagers.

For some, the feelings are just more than temporary feelings and can become symptoms of being depressed.

Symptoms of depression in teens

Identifying the signs of depression in growing kids
A teenager doing drugs – Symptoms of teenage depression

Teenage depression symptoms manifest as deviation from previously known behaviours to strange negative attitudes that raise concerns.

It’s an observant, curious parent that would be able to identify there is something wrong, and not just the normal youthful ups and downs.

Occasional low moods are normal and are part of life, but having it consistently, and stretching into weeks or months requires professional attention.

Many teenage exuberances and unhealthy behaviours are indications of depression.

This is a result of developing or changing hormones, physical, mental, and social changes exerting pressure on them. This leads to emotional conflict which manifests as depression.

The symptoms can be different depending on the individual involved and the extent of the illness.

Teenage depression symptoms are classified into emotional and behavioural symptoms.

Emotional symptoms

  • Persistent feeling of hopelessness
  • Persistent feeling of emptiness
  • Intolerance and irritability
  • Frustrating moments
  • Lack of enthusiasm in favourite activities
  • Self-guilt and self-blame
  • Lack of confidence in self
  • Lack of motivation in tasks
  • Indecision
  • Lack of ambition
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts

Behavioural symptoms

  • Weight gain or loss
  • Smartphone addiction
  • Engaging in fights and violence
  • Sleep disorder
  • Change in eating pattern (inconsistent appetite)
  • Weeping without any reason
  • Low energy or tiredness
  • Drug abuse or resorting to alcohol
  • Unexplained solitude
  • Disinterest in academics
  • Outbursts of anger even to parents
  • Fidgety or restlessness
  • Self-harm
  • Self-neglect (not keeping clean)
  • Sluggish thought, speech, and movement
  • Abscondment
  • Body aches
  • Digestive disorder
  • Suicide

Causes of teenage depression

Depression can be a result of the complex interplay of psychological, biological, and chemical factors.

It can be caused by conflicts of thoughts and emotions while the teenager tries to develop a personal identity.

According to Polaristeen, researchers have had their eyes on the study of teenage mental health. Around 2012, there was an obvious increase in the cases of teenage depression which continued to rise in the following years.

Today’s teenagers are remarkably the most depressed in decades and the rate has increased tremendously.

The factors below are believed to be the causes and reasons why today’s teens are having depression at an alarming rate.

  • Today’s teens have shown in all ways that they were raised to have unrealistic goals and expectations without much effort. From media to teachers, to parents, the message is always to be happy, and when the reality of failures and disappointments which are actually the way of life sets in, they become depressed because they were not raised to cope and endure stress or hardship. This usually happens to teenagers from wealthy countries who hardly know hardship.
  • Teenagers who are females are twice more susceptible to developing mood disorder than males
  • Neglected teens are predisposed to depression
  • Teens who have a physical impairment or other long-term illnesses are at risk of being depressed
  • Hereditary plays a huge role in predisposing a teenager to depression and other mental disorders
  • 2 out of 3 untreated teens with depression also struggle with other mood disorders including antisocial behaviours, anxiety, or substance abuse
  • Kids of separated couples, young people who experience trauma, death of parents are likely to develop depression
  • Changing hormone levels
  • Stress
  • Divorce of parents
  • Death of a parent or a loved one
  • Near-death experience
  • Violent attack
  • Bullying
  • Uncertain future
  • Disability

The advent of social media also has put a certain measure of pressure on teens, studies have shown.

As teens spend more time on social media, they pick up some negative thought-provoking triggers that can make them have feelings of inadequacy.

How social media affect teenagers is summarized below.

  • There is always a gap in social media interactions that leave teens with a lot to desire. Images of peers having fun would inspire in the teen a sense of missing out and inadequacy.
  • Teens try to measure up with the fake painted lives they see on social media even when they are unrealistic.
  • The social media glue can stop a teenager on his way to success by slowing performance and skill acquisition which when realised can trigger depression.
  • Spending too much time on social media can distort sleep patterns which have a way of triggering mood disorders.
  • The modern teenage lifestyle may also play a part in the depression rise. Most studies and jobs are now done remotely which makes a teenager remain indoors without adequate exposure to sunlight, lack of exercise, and less community which can trigger or exacerbate depression.

How common is teenage depression?

Tackling teenage mental health challenges
Unexplained solitude is a symptom of teenage depression

After a record decline in the late 80s and early 90s, statistics show that suicide by teenagers has increased through the years.

It is not clear why the sharp and continuous rise, experts suggest it is a result of pressure in the home, school, family finances, and drug abuse.

However, whatever statistics are available will not be accurate because, in most places, the psychiatric examination is not popular.

For example, people in Nigeria do not recognize depression as a serious illness and so are oblivious of the dangers that accompany it.

According to the discovery mood blog, teen suicides have increased tremendously recently and are a cause for concern. Here are some statistics:

  • A teen commits suicide every 1hr 30 minutes
  • Suicide is the third reason for death in teenagers
  • 2 out of 100 teens experience depression before adulthood
  • 70% of teens who are depressed do not receive treatment

The distribution of the occurrence of depression in teens varies from country to country but seems to be higher in poor countries where access to basic livelihood is lacking.

In other words, mood disorder and other mental illnesses have a direct relationship with poverty.

In 2021 in Lagos Nigeria, a young boy also jumped into the lagoon after lamenting several times of family neglect.

He must have shown signs of depression, but because people hardly understand it or even know what it is, the boy took his own life.

When also healthcare is scarce and reserved for the rich, most incidences of teenage depression are not even detected and reported.

So, it’s hard to know the extent of damage it has caused apart from the spillovers in suicides and crimes.

Depression in teens is not a weakness that can be beaten by physical power or by instinctively reacting to the feelings.

It can disappear or become latent without any treatment but most times it requires psychological counselling and treatment.

In Nigeria, suicide was not a thing in the 2000s. It was very rare to hear of people killing themselves. People were resilient and could bear emotional or mental traumas and pull through.

This shows that there’s something happening that people don’t know. Suicide incidence has a correlative rise with the increase in poverty and hardship.

While it is normal to feel down occasionally, it is a cause for concern when a teenager has persistent low moods for weeks or months. It is like being trapped in a hole without any help in sight.

What parents can do for their depressed teen

What parents can do to help their growing children overcome mood swings

Teens who are depressed can find it difficult to express their feelings or might not even understand what is going on with them as they might think their symptoms are normal.

It is the duty of the parents to dig deep and probe further when some changes begin to manifest.

Teens let out their depression differently from adults, so much attention should be paid to unusual behaviours towards eating and appetite, mood changes, sleep patterns, and social behaviours.

The duration of these changes should be of utmost importance as it is the most important parameter to knowing the next step to take. Any unusual change extending more than a week is a red flag.

Be curious about any comments hinting at suicide or being tired of this world. If you are not sure of what the teen is passing through, still consult a professional for diagnosis to be on the safe side.

Good communication should be maintained at all times as it will be easier to identify any deviation from normal behaviour.

Give them the matured shoulder to lean on. Regularly confide in them and reassure them of your love

Teenage girls and depression

When a scary external world and a developing internal world collide, there is confusion and without proper direction, the teenage girl can take any emotional route.

Depression incidence is higher in teenage girls than boys and a lot of validating factors are responsible.

The ever-active hormones which determine the changes at puberty and beyond continue to exert their power on the young lady.

Many young developing teen girls suffer stress resulting from sexual, emotional and physical harassment and abuse which without a resilient coping ability, results in depressive sessions.

Teenage girls like boys also are influenced by what the media portrays as the perfect body and look should be. When their body does not fall into this media ideal body, they feel down.

A young girl who feels she does not have a desirable body won’t have the best of feelings and become vulnerable to depression.

One out of five teenage girls or about 2.4 million in America experienced at least one depressive episode while about 845,000 teenage boys experienced same since 2017.

The percentage of teenagers who experienced depression in recent times increased by 65% from 2010 to 2022. Teen girls’ rate of growth was faster than for boys.

Suicide warning signs in depressed teens

An increasing number of seriously depressed teens who abuse alcohol or use drugs and think, talk or make attempts at suicide succeed at an alarming rate.

Suicidal thoughts and talks are tell-tell signs of a potential suicide-prone teen. The warning signs are as follows:

  • Comments about dying and obsession with death
  • Being reckless and having accidents that result in serious injuries
  • Giving away belongings
  • Becoming hostile and aggressive
  • Asking questions about pills and substances that can kill

Diagnosis of teenage depression

On suspicion of depression in a teenager, the doctor will perform physical exams and tests.

The exam would include in-depth questions and an inventory of the teenager’s behavioural history to know the changes that have occurred. Sometimes, depression may be present as a result of an underlying medical condition.

A thyroid test should be done to ascertain the state of the thyroid which plays a major role in the development of the human body by releasing hormones into the bloodstream.

There also should be a psychological evaluation of the teen by a doctor who can have a professional talk about feelings, thought patterns, emotions, and how they influence his behaviour.

The evaluation might come in the form of a questionnaire which the teen will fill out on his own. This gives him time and an air of freedom to bare his mind.

Treatment and management of teenage depression

Untreated depression will worsen and leads to an undesirable end even if it doesn’t lead to suicide.

If you feel your teenager is showing signs of depression as described in this article, the following treatment options should be considered:

  • Psycho-educational group therapy can aid depressed teens to understand the causes of their depression and hone the required skills to cope and learn how to manage the already present symptoms. It also involves a conducive environment where depressed teens can try difficult events, feelings, and experiences.

Psychotherapy is administered in various models including group, single or entire family therapy.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy helps depressed teens in changing their negative thoughts and accustom themselves to better ways to cope and react to emotions and events.
  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on inducing depressed teenagers to hone better relationships wherever they find themselves by inculcating emotional and social intelligence in them which helps to have appropriate interpersonal communication skills.
  • Medication also is an effective treatment for depressed teenagers and can be combined with the other treatment types to deliver effective results.

Medication can alleviate some of the symptoms, depending on the individual. The doctor is in the best position to deliver the most appropriate combination for the situation after a thorough mental health assessment.


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A Personal Development Content Creator and an author. I write about life ethics and love to document and share life hacks and experiences of people to help others make good life decisions.

Every content published on The Conducts Of Life is well-reviewed by experienced professionals in the field. Contents are fact-checked for accuracy, relevance, and timeliness and we include links to sources at the bottom of every article for more insights.

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