Unexpected Symptoms of Teen Depression

Teenage girl in front of a mirror, Sweden.
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Quick Link: Parent's Guide to Teen Depression | Quiz: Could Your Teen Be Depressed?

Depression in teens deeply affects those who suffer from it, but the symptoms are often notably different from depression in adults. Here's what you need to know about how depression shows up in teens.

What does depression in teens look like?

Adults expect teen depression to show up as a pervasive sense of sadness and withdrawal, and sometimes it does.

But what most adults don't know is that in teens, depression is more likely to show up as angry or irritable behavior.

A teen who is yelling at others, grumpy, easily frustrated, defiant or quick to snap at a parents' benign comments may in fact be suffering from depression.

In addition to anger and irritability, teens suffering from depression may also exhibit the following symptoms:

1. Health problems such as a chronic headache or stomachache.

Unexplained health problems are often a sign of depression in teens, who are likely to experience sadness as a physical sensation. Other complaints include feeling dizzy or nauseated. If your teen has such complaints, have them initially checked out by an MD. In cases where no physical illness is detected, depression may be the reason for these symptoms.

2. A change in social interactions or patterns.

Depressed adults tend to withdraw from others, but this is less likely to happen with teens, who build their lives around interactions with peers.

Sudden or significant changes in a teen's participation with others can signal depression. This can include changing friends, spending less time in activities with peers or being alone more often.

3. Very low self-esteem.

Depressed teens are likely to react badly to any negative event, perceiving failure or apparent criticism of them.

A seemingly small failure may be perceived as substantial and reinforce their sense of negativity and poor self-worth. A benign comment may be blown out of proportion by the teen.

Teen depression can manifest in many different ways and therefore the presence of depression should always be considered as part of the assessment and treatment of a teen who is exhibiting troubling behaviors.

Quick Link: Parent's Guide to Teen Depression | Quiz: Could Your Teen Be Depressed?

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