Depression in Teenagers

Depression is a common mental heath issue characterized by changes in mood and behavior, effecting multiple environments, that persists for at least several weeks and causes significant difficulties in functioning. For teenagers this might mean academic or behavioral issues at school, difficulties interacting with peers, or withdrawing from family. Depression is more than simply being in a bad mood, feeling sad, or having a negative attitude and includes other significant psychological, biological, and behavioral changes.

Signs of Depression in Teenagers 

Frequent mood swings
Feeling worthless
Frequent crying
Social withdrawal
Loss of energy or fatigue
Low self-esteem
Thoughts of death, suicide or self harm
Difficulty sleeping
Difficulty concentrating
Academic  difficulties (e..g, drop in grades, not doing school work)
Behavioral issues (e.g., getting into trouble at school, school refusal)
Changes in appetite
Feeling angry

Treatment of Depression in Teenagers 


Certain medications (i.e., SSRIs) are commonly used to treat depression in teenagers and like psychotherapy have been proven to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms. While the use of medication to treat depression in adolescents has grown steadily over the past couple of decades there remains concern regarding the safety of some medication use in teenagers. For more information regarding the use of medications in treating depression in children and adolescents click here to visit the NIMH website on the matter.

Family therapy

Family therapy is also commonly recommended for teenagers who are experiencing depression. Family therapy aims to help parents and caregivers learn how to more effectively provide support and create a less stressful environment for their children. Family therapy can often increase the effectiveness of individual therapy with teens.


Psychotherapy (i.e., talk or behavioral therapy) is an effective treatment for depression in teenagers.  It is considered a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression.  For more severe cases of depression a combination of medication and psychotherapy is typically recommended.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most researched and scientifically proven psychotherapy for treating depression in adolescents. CBT is a practical and easy to understand treatment approach that emphasizes the here-and-now and the development of effective coping skills and strategies. With teenagers, a combination of insight-oriented (e.g., changes in thinking, developing understanding) and behavioral interventions are typically utilized.