7 Unique Depression Symptoms Teens May Experience
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Depression isn’t always obvious, and it doesn’t look the same for every person who is diagnosed with it. It can be tempting to shrug off mental health struggles. But it’s important to practice some self-reflection and take note of your emotions, thoughts and behaviors that may be signs of a disorder like depression. Teens who take the time for such self-reflection and noting of feelings, thoughts and behaviors have a better chance of noticing signs of depression before their symptoms worsen. 

From the outside looking in, having depression can look a lot like “being lazy.” This is not the case. Depression is a legit mental health condition that can negatively impact nearly every aspect of a person’s life.

Depression is difficult, but it’s also treatable. This article provides some basic info to help you better understand depression symptoms. It will also highlight some teen depression “red flags.”

Common symptoms of depression in teens

Major depressive disorder, or depression, is a mood disorder that causes overwhelming negative feelings, such as sadness, hopelessness and malaise. It’s a common mental health disorder that can affect all ages, including adolescents. In 2022 alone, approximately 15% of U.S. adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode.

If you’re a teen living with depression, you can feel its impact in nearly every aspect of your life. It can make it difficult to complete your schoolwork, maintain important relationships with your peers and explore your interests.

Common symptoms of depression in teens include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Difficulty finding enjoyment in activities
  • Changes in sleep behavior
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Concentration issues
  • Unexplained aches and pains

7 unique depression symptoms in teens

Even though you should be aware of any common symptoms of depression that you’re experiencing, it’s also worth noting some less-talked-about symptoms that can stem from the disorder.

Since these symptoms are atypical for many depression diagnoses, experiencing one or two of these every now and then doesn’t mean that depression is the only cause. If any of these are recurring, it’s worth bringing up to your health care provider.

Here are seven depression red flags in teens:

  • School refusal — Teens with depression may want to avoid school for a variety of reasons. For example, you may lack the motivation or energy to learn/study, or want to withdraw from the social aspect of school. It’s OK to feel this way. It’s also important to seek help before you fall so far behind that you begin to feel hopeless about the future.
  • Change in friends — As a teenager, it’s normal for friend groups to shift over time as your interests evolve. However, a sudden desire to change or withdraw from long-standing friendships could be a result of the big emotions that result from depression.
  • Noise sensitivity — Noise sensitivity (aka “noise annoyance”) can occur in individuals struggling with depression. This sensitivity can increase stress levels, making it more difficult to cope with depression. 
  • Excessive apologizing — Some teens with depression become overly apologetic to those around them. You may blame yourself or feel guilt for your negative emotions and behaviors that stem from the disorder. You may also feel the need to apologize if you think you are being a burden to others.
  • Perfectionism — Since depression can lead to you feeling out of control with your emotions, you may try to overcompensate in other parts of your life. You may strive for an unrealistic standard of perfection with controlling tendencies.
  • Excessive technology usage — While it’s no secret that teens tend to have technology on them at all times, especially their phones, depression can cause you to seek as much distraction from your symptoms as possible. That’s why you may overuse technology to escape from your negative thoughts and feelings. It’s normal to want to avoid emotions and thoughts that come with depression, but spending a lot of time online can actually make depression symptoms worse.
  • Forgetfulness — If you’ve been forgetting things more and more, the forgetfulness may stem from depression. Depression can cause “brain fog,” which means that you’re experiencing a lack of mental clarity and focus. 

Don’t struggle with depression alone. Lightfully Teen is here for you

Every teen struggling with depression deserves to have the unique support and tools they need to treat their specific symptoms. That’s why we have three levels of care that can help you when your unique depression symptoms interfere with your overall quality of life: Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), Residential Treatment, and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also called our Day Treatment Program.

Change is possible for teens with depression. When you’re ready to find customized, whole-person care for your depression, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps on your depression treatment journey together, and work toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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