Diagnosing and Treating Teens With Depression

When you suffer from depression, your entire outlook on life is altered, causing you to see the world differently than the average person. While everyone has periods of their life where they feel sad, lonely, or frustrated, this is situational depression and goes away with time. Clinical depression, however, does not go away on its own and leaves an individual with a feeling of inescapable despair.

Understanding the Three Types of Depression

It is important to understand that only a medical professional can adequately diagnose whether or not your teenager has depression. However, it is worthwhile to recognize the three types of depression so that you are better aware of what your child may be suffering from.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Those who are persistently irritable and often engage in unreasonable physical or verbal aggression may have disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Formerly known as dysthymia, those who suffer from this disorder experience depressive episodes that are not as severe as major depressive disorders, but tend to last longer, usually a year or longer.

Major Depressive Disorder

When people talk about depression, they are most likely referring to MDD. A person with MDD experiences excessive bouts of depression that will last anywhere from weeks to years, but separated by spans of stable moods.


US Statistics On Teen Depression

While most consider depression to be something that mainly adults struggle with, the reality is that about 20 percent of teenagers experience depression before reaching adulthood. This should be a cause for concern for every parent with a teenager because when your teenager is depressed, it can lead to a number of other factors such as…

  • 12 times more likely to commit suicide
  • 30 percent of depressed teenagers also develop a substance abuse problem.
  • Less likely to excel in school and later on, their career.
  • Smaller social circle.
  • Less likely to seek out educational opportunities.
  • Violent Behavior
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Inflicting self-harm
  • Internet Addictions
  • Runs away
  • Anorexia/Bulimia

How Teenage Depression Differs From Adult Depression

Withdrawing vs. Isolating – even when suffering from depression, teenagers enjoy maintaining friendships but may withdraw from other important relationships. Adults with depression tend to isolate themselves completely.

Extremely Sensitive - teenagers who are depressed experience feelings of insignificance and therefore react poorly to any type of rejection, failure or criticism.

Irritability - While adults are more practiced in their ability to hide their unhappy moods, teenagers are more prone to outbursts where their angry mood is very well known. Depressed teenagers seem irritable rather than sad.

Anonymous Aches and Pains - Teenagers with depression may complain of physical ailments such as frequent stomach aches or headaches that have no medical cause. This is often a sign of depression.

How Parents May View Teen Depression

If you feel that your teen may be experiencing depression, you want to provide them with the necessary help immediately. Here are some questions you should ask yourself to help indicate whether your teen is experiencing the emotional symptoms that can accompany teenage depression.

  • Does my teen seem sad or depressed the majority of the time?
  • Has their behavior persisted longer than two weeks?
  • Has my teenager lost interest in the things they used to love?
  • Does my teen seem to feel worthless or hopeless?
  • Does it seem like my teen doesn’t enjoy life the way they used to?
  • Does my teen struggle to concentrate?

Some physical symptoms include…

  • Feeling tired a majority of the time.
  • Lack of energy
  • Excessive Sleep Problems
  • Physically slow or restless
  • Change in appetite, either an increase or decrease

How Teens View Their Depression

Emotional Symptoms

  • You feel like something is wrong with you and have low self-esteem.
  • You feel overly sensitive.
  • You have no interest in the things that you used to love.
  • You’ve thought about suicide or death- seek help immediately if this is true!
  • You can’t concentrate and your grades have suffered because of it.

Physical Symptoms

  • You’re sleeping either too much or not enough.
  • You’ve lost or gained weight without meaning to.
  • You frequently have headaches or other body pains.

What Parents Can Do To Help Their Teen Struggling With Depression

Proper Diagnosis - Have your teen evaluated by a medical professional so that you both have a better understanding of the type and severity your teen is struggling with.

Empathy - Simply showing your teen support by being empathetic and willing to listen will be extremely beneficial.

Treatment - If you, your teen, and your doctor think your teen may benefit from treatment, be willing to try whatever is necessary to get them the help they need, whether that be therapy, medication or a combination of both.

How Teens Can Help Themselves

There are various steps you can take to help manage your depression and get you back to feeling like yourself again.

Talk to a Trusted Adult - The most important thing to realize is that depression is not your fault, and you did nothing to cause it. While your parents may seem angry by your irritability, in reality, they’re just frustrated that you’re sad and hurting and feel powerless to help. Having an honest conversation with your parents about your depression is the first step to feeling better because they will be able to provide you with the tools necessary to get the help you need.

If you feel uncomfortable talking to your parents, then talk to another trusted adult like a teacher, school counselor, or coach. If you would rather avoid face-to-face contact altogether, call a hotline and talk to a professional who can give you proper guidance.

You’re Not Alone - You may fear that opening up about your feelings will leave you feeling weak and vulnerable when in reality it almost always leaves you feeling lighter and happier. Simply having another person who understands what you’re going through and how you feel will go a long way to making you feel better.

Don’t Isolate Yourself- try and submerge yourself in social activity and you’ll be surprised by how much better you feel.

Volunteer - It’s hard to be depressed when you are serving others. Find a cause that you are passionate about and dedicate at least an hour a week to volunteer for it, you’ll quickly find how therapeutic helping others can be.

Get Involved In What You Love - Whether it be sports, art, drama, music, skateboarding, cooking, dance, etc. get back into doing what you love. When you’re depressed you tend to let go of the things that make you happiest. Make it a point to bring those activities back into your life.

Spend Time with GOOD friends - Avoid those people who abuse alcohol and drugs and leave you feeling sad and insecure. Spend time with friends who are optimistic, understanding, upbeat, and active because these friends can make all the difference when it comes to overcoming your depression.


If you think your teenage son is suffering from depression it’s time to get him help. One of the best ways to get him the help he deserves is through a residential treatment center like Liahona Academy. Here at Liahona Academy, we have trained professionals who have made it their life’s mission to help struggling teenage boys get back on the right track.

At Liahona Academy, we help teenage boys from 12-17 who are headed towards a dark future, and through our programs help them turn their lives around. This is accomplished by being in a therapeutic environment far from the negative influences back home, having 24/7 access to trained professionals, and through our daily programs. Let us help your son, as we have for so many other parents.