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How do I know if my teen is depressed?

By Dr. Poonam Khanna, D.O./Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

As the name suggests, depression usually causes a teen to be sad for no apparent reason. The sadness could be accompanied by irritability, anger or anxiety, or these symptoms might be present alone.

Increased rates of physical illness are also common in teens with depression, and they might complain of headaches or stomachaches and be apathetic about school. Poor academic performance in a teen who did not struggle before could be another sign of depression.

If your child or teen cries unexpectedly, is extremely irritable or is highly sensitive to rejection or failure, get him or her evaluated for depression. A doctor will be able to consider the duration and severity of symptoms and decide whether they qualify as depression or normal teenage development.

Other symptoms to look out for include:

  • A feeling of helplessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Anger
  • Withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy
  • Apathy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Substance abuse
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Troubled relationships
  • Behavior problems
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions