How can Parents Identify Depression in Adolescents?

teen depression
Nothing is more important to parents than their children's health. Parents are always very curious to know if their children are progressing well or not. Adolescence is a critical period during the development of a person from a child to an adult. If something goes wrong during adolescence, it impacts the whole life of an individual.

Mental health is an important part of overall health. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Adolescent depression is being increasingly recognized now a days because of increasing incidence of suicidal attempts in this age group. Research has shown that about 20 - 24% adolescents with depression attempt suicide ( and an even higher number of adolescents have suicidal ideation. Depression also causes poor scholastic performance, social isolation, behavioral problems, relationship problems, increased use of addictive substances and poor personality development.

Due to its adverse consequences, it is very important to identify and treat depression as early as possible. It is possible to identify depression at the early stages and prevent it from progressing to a stage where a person starts thinking of killing self. The symptoms and signs of depression vary with age and sex. The following points can help parents, teachers or other authority figures to identify depression in adolescents.

1. Depression in adolescents is characterized by heterogeneous and often changing symptoms.
2. In adolescents, physical symptoms like headache, body aches, lack of energy, abdominal pain are often a result of underlying depression ( If these symptoms persist on a regular basis, you should suspect depression as a cause.

3. Another very common symptom of depression in adolescents is irritability (as compared to sadness of mood which is more common in adults). Be careful if your adolescent child has started becoming irritable on minor issues.

4. In girls, feeling lonely, weeping spells, feelings of guilt and over concern about body structure are more common. On the other hand, boys present mainly with behavioral problems, anger, disobedient behavior, drug abuse, restlessness, poor concentration and poor decision making.

5. Always suspect depression as a possible cause if your adolescent starts avoiding social and family interactions.

6. One of the most important indicators of depression in the adolescent age group is decline in school performance. An unexpected dip in the performance of your child in school should make you suspicious of depression.

7. Never ignore if your son or daughter ever talks of harming himself or herself or talks about committing suicide, even if he does it during a burst of anger. Research has shown that persons who communicate suicidal ideas are at a much higher risk of attempting and committing suicide than those persons who do not communicate such ideas.

8. Always beware of changes in the diet of your adolescent. Adolescents with depression often start eating more or have loss of appetite. This can result in a corresponding change in weight also.

9. Poor quality of sleep is another frequent symptom of depression in adolescents. Adolescents with depression often cannot get to sleep even after lying down on bed. If they sleep, their sleep is frequently disturbed due to nightmares. Further, they often get up early in the morning and have difficulty in falling asleep again. This also results in daytime drowsiness and worsening of other symptoms of depression.

10. You can take the help of teachers also. Teachers are the first persons who would notice a change in the students. In class, if your son or daughter remains lost, inattentive, does not interact with peers as before or starts remaining absent from classes, depression is a strong possibility.

Thus, you can see that most of the symptoms relate to change in pattern of every day life. We can easily identify them if we are aware of the signs and symptoms of depression. Early identification and treatment of depression can greatly help to reduce the consequences related to depression in later life. It can also reduce the chances of losing life to suicides which is one of the most preventable causes of death in this age group.


1. Nardi B, Francesconi B, Catenna-Dellosso M and Bellantuono C. Adolescent depression: clinical features and therapeutic strategies. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2013; 17: 1546 - 1551.

2. Wong SS, Zhou B, Goebert D and Hishinuma ES. The risk of adolescent suicide across patterns of drug use: a nationally representative study of high school students in the United States from 1999 - 2009. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology 2013; June.

Written By : Dr. Aastha, Mohali, Punjab, India

Recommended Resources

Adolescent Depression: A Guide for Parents: Tired of all those guides for idiots and dummies? This book will provide some welcome relief... The author provides a solid reference tool for anyone who works with adolescents. It is highly recommended for education professionals as well as public libraries.

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice