The Causes of Teen Depression and How to Deal With It

A depressed teenager.

Teen depression can affect your adolescent's behavior and physical or emotional functions. (Image: Motortion via Dreamstime)

Teen depression can affect your adolescent’s behavior and physical or emotional functions. Depression can occur at any stage of life, but teen depression symptoms differ from adult depression symptoms.

This article will introduce teen depression, how it develops and what adults can do to help deal with it. 

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Teen depression

Teen depression is a serious mental and emotional health illness that manifests when the symptoms of severe feelings of sadness, irritation, hopelessness, and detachment from daily life activities are present for two or more weeks. Studies have shown that one in five teenagers suffer from depression. While depression can be diagnosed and treated, many teens go untreated because the symptoms are overlooked. 

Teen depression can have a significant negative impact on your teenager. Therefore, seek medical attention as soon as you notice depression symptoms.

How to tell if your teen is depressed

It can be difficult for parents to identify teen depression symptoms instantly because they can often be mistaken for the onset of adolescence or teen rebellion. However, changes in your teen’s emotional and behavioral characteristics can be indicators of depression.

Below are emotional and behavioral changes that can help you detect if your teen is depressed.

Low self-esteem

According to a 2019 Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy research study, low self-esteem was associated with depression, anxiety, and academic stress. This significantly affected students’ performance and quality of life and led to suicidal thoughts. Depression can also make one feel inferior, ugly, and ashamed of oneself, leading to low self-esteem. 

Teen depression can make you feel inferior, ugly, and ashamed of yourself, leading to low self-esteem.
Teen depression can make you feel inferior, ugly, and ashamed of yourself, leading to low self-esteem. (Image: Antonio Guillem via Dreamstime)

Detachment from daily activities

Losing interest in your passions, hobbies, and daily activities that initially gave you happiness remains one of the most common signs of depression in teens and adults. This can be overwhelming and negatively affect your work or school productivity. It can also affect how you relate with family and friends.

Irritability and sadness 

Depression can manifest as your teen getting easily annoyed over simple things and being tetchy and impatient with themselves and others. Depression can also make teens sad more often, resulting in crying, agitation, and anger. 

Substance abuse and risky behavior

Depressed teens may be tempted to drink alcohol and use drugs to deny or run away from their depression. They can also engage in reckless activities such as driving at high speeds, running away from home, or engaging in unsafe sex.

What causes teen depression?

As a parent, you may wonder what makes your teen depressed. There’s no specific known cause of depression. However, here’s a summary of factors that may cause or contribute to teen depression.

Previous and present traumatic life events

Past traumatic life events such as abusive or violent parents, broken homes, and sexual abuse can lead to depression since children do not have well-developed stress coping mechanisms.

Current events, such as the death of a loved one or divorce, can also trigger depression in teens.


Depression and anxiety can be passed down the genetic line if your blood relatives also have similar conditions. Studies show that one is likely to inherit the above conditions if their kin suffers from the same. Still, no gene is linked directly to depression. However, despite your blood relations, anyone is at risk of suffering from depression.

A woman's eye and a DNA helix imposed on an image of a microscope sitting next to a computer monitor.
Depression and anxiety can be passed down the genetic line if your blood relatives also have similar conditions. (Image: Vivilweb via Dreamstime)

Learned patterns of negativity

Children and teens learn how to cope with stress or handle difficult situations from parents. Persistent exposure to negative thinking by parents can trigger depression. 

Teens can also experience feelings of helplessness and presume themselves to be unworthy, leading to severe self-criticism and depression.

How to handle depression

Suppose your teen exhibits the above or more noticeable depression symptoms. In that case, it is important to have a medical diagnosis and seek professional mental health guidance. When left untreated, depression can be harmful.

Seek medical help

A mental health professional may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), among other remedies. CBT mainly focuses on replacing pessimistic thoughts and emotions with positive ones. In addition, interpersonal therapy (IPT) may help them enhance their communication and problem-solving skills.

Be a good listener

Listening to your teen and making them understand that you’re there for them is also essential as a parent. Be gentle and acknowledge their feelings, assuring them of your love and support.

Avoid social isolation

Depressed teens will draw away from social activities, but isolation and loneliness will only worsen things. Encourage your teen to go out with friends or engage in after-school activities like dance, music, or soccer practice.


Last but not least, encourage your teen to exercise. Thirty minutes of physical activity 3 to 5 days a week can alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms.

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