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What are teen depression symptoms and signs?

Clinical depression, also called major depression, is more than sadness that lasts for a day or two before feeling better. In true depressive illnesses, the symptoms last weeks, months, or sometimes years if no treatment is received. Depression often results in the sufferer being unable to perform daily activities, like getting out of bed or getting dressed, much less working, doing errands, or socializing.

General symptoms of depression regardless of age include having a depressed or irritable mood for at least two weeks and having at least five of the following clinical signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or blue
  • Crying spells
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite
  • Significant weight loss, failing to gain weight appropriately, or gaining excessive weight
  • Change in sleep pattern: inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
  • Agitation, irritability, or anger
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • A tendency to isolate from friends and family
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Teens with depression may also experience the classic symptoms but may exhibit other symptoms as well, including

  • poor school performance,
  • persistent boredom,
  • frequent complaints of physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches,
  • more risk-taking behaviors, and/or showing less concern for their own safety.

Examples of risk-taking behaviors include driving recklessly or at excessive speed, socializing with strangers or otherwise without sufficient regard for their own safety, engaging in promiscuous or unprotected sex, or becoming intoxicated with alcohol or other drugs, especially in situations in which they are driving or may be in the presence of others who engage in risky behaviors.

Parents of teens with depression often report noticing the following behavior changes in the adolescent:

  • Crying more often or more easily
  • More irritability or hostility than usual
  • Eating changes, changes in sleeping patterns, or weight change significantly or the teen fails to gain weight appropriately for their age
  • Unexplained physical complaints (for example, headaches or abdominal pain)
  • Spending more time alone, withdrawal from friends and family
  • Becoming more "clingy" and more dependent on certain relationships (This is less common than social withdrawal.)
  • Overly pessimistic or exhibits excessive guilt or feelings of worthlessness
  • Expresses thoughts about hurting him or herself or exhibits reckless or other harmful behavior
Return to Teen Depression

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