Ask any parent what their most important job in the world is and they will tell you protecting their children and keeping them safe. But as your children get older it’s important to adapt to their ever-evolving needs. For example, learning how to spot the signs of depression in teens is a critical skill parents must have today. Especially in the post-pandemic, virtual world we live in – where teens have been forced to isolate and avoid the most important thing in their world – their friends.

But no matter how hard parents work to keep their kids safe, it’s virtually impossible to protect children against mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. According to the National Co-Morbidity Survey-Adolescence Supplement (NCS-A), depression affects roughly 11% of adolescents by age 18!


signs of depression in teens


1. More than just mood swings


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Let’s face it; teens are moody. But there’s a big difference between mood swings and depression.


Thanks to raging hormones, it’s fairly normal for teenagers to experience mood swings. But those suffering from depression will show more extreme and frequent swings into an out of anger, sadness, and irritability.


2. Academic problems


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Problems in school and academics is one of the signs of depression in teens to look out for!


A drop in grades and emails from teachers can be a big signal that something is going on. Is your teen getting to school late and/or skipping classes? Are they showing up at all? Never ignore academic problems and write them off as typical teenage stuff. Asking questions and staying involved in their day-to-day lives is a critical intervention.


3. Changes in social behavior


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Sudden changes in social behavior is one of the signs of depression in teens.


Is your teen spending less time with their friends? Do they suddenly have some new friendships that make you uneasy? Or are they spending more and more time isolated and alone? Changes in social behavior are often the first signal teens are struggling with emotional distress.


4. loss of interest in favorite activities


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Loss of interest in activities isn’t just one of the signs of depression in teens, it’s also one for parents too!


Did your teen used to love playing basketball or spend hours drawing? Have they suddenly lost interest in these activities? If your teen no longer shows interest in their favorite hobbies and activities, this is a major indicator that something is wrong.


5. lack of motivation


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Is it just a teen being a lazy teen or is it something else?


Granted, teenagers are not known for being highly motivated individuals, but those suffering from depression will show a significant decline in motivation. This can show up in the form of sleeping more or for longer periods, “forgetting” to complete household chores and responsibilities or not completing homework projects on time.


6. family history of depression


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If you or someone in your family has a history of mental health issues, this puts your teen at a higher risk for developing anxiety or depression.


If you or someone else in your family struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, there’s a good chance that your teen will suffer from it as well. Don’t ignore it, just accept it and face the facts.

If you’ve noticed one or more of these signs, it’s important to seek help from an awesome therapist or counselor you and your teen like and trust. While you may want, and even try to, you can’t love depression away. It needs attention and a plan for management.

Life is short. Parenting is not. And parenting teens can feel like an eternity at times. However, the more skills and knowledge you empower yourself with, the easier and more enjoyable it will be.


James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.