depression symptoms in teens and kids

Clinically Edited & Approved by: Deena Altman, PA-C

How to Tell if Your Child or Teen May Have Depression

An adolescent dies from suicide every 100 minutes, making it the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24. Even after teens and children overcome depression, it can have long-lasting effects on their brains. Untreated depression can cause the brain to deteriorate, which can lead to cognition problems.

Despite the reality of these shocking facts, only 30% of teenagers with depression get treatment for the disorder. Several factors contribute to the low numbers of children with depression seeking help, including lack of access to healthcare, embarrassment of the condition, and parents being unaware of their children’s’ mental struggles . Unfortunately, many parents don’t know how common depression is, and the common signs to look for in their children. 

It’s essential that parents, teachers, and other adults who care for minors learn about depression in children and teenagers. Early intervention can help and even save lives.

How Common is Depression in Children and Teens?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 3.2% of Americans between the ages of 3 and 17 have depression. While depression among young children is rare, it does happen. When it comes to depression in teenagers, the numbers skyrocket. 


At any given time, 10% to 15% of adolescents exhibit symptoms of depression. In total, one in five teens develops depression, at least temporarily, before they reach adulthood. The CDC reports that many of these patients also show signs of behavioral or anxiety-related disorders.

What Causes Depression in Minors? 

As with depression in adults, there is no singular cause for depression in children and teens. Instead, minors may develop the illness due to many factors, including hormone changes, bullying at school, difficulty in their home lives, grief, or chemical imbalances in the brain. Trained psychiatric professionals can help families determine if their child is suffering from depression, and figure out the best treatment option.

Signs of Depression in Children and Teens

Young children do not have the same emotional regulation or communication skills that many adults possess. Children and teenagers with depression may hide their feelings and any psychosocial problems they are experiencing from their parents, especially as teenagers begin to want more independence.. 

For all of these reasons, parents should not rely on their children or teenagers to tell them if something is wrong. Instead, they should diligently look for the signs of depression which include:


  • Frequent irritability and angry outbursts
  • Not wanting to spend time with friends or family
  • Extreme changes in sleep patterns, whether sleeping too much or too little
  • fatigue
  • Frequent stomach pains and headaches that do not respond to medications
  • Trouble concentrating at home or school
  • Not interested in activities they used to love


By themselves, some of these signs are normal. For example, changes in sleep and appetite can signal a growth spurt. However, when children show several of these symptoms, it warrants a visit with a psychological professional. 

What Parents Can Do to Help

There’s no doubt that when a child receives a diagnosis of depression, the parents may panic. It’s terrifying to watch a child suffer. However, parents of children with depression must know that help is available. Although depression is a serious disorder, it is treatable. 


The first line of treatment for children and teens with depression is counseling. Parents should look for therapists who specialize in treating minors. These well-trained professionals can talk to children and teens in ways that they understand. Counselors also check in with parents, and give families healthy coping skills to use. 


In some cases, adolescents with depression may need medication. Parents should keep in mind that doctors only recommend this course of action when they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. This may be the case when the patient is suicidal or develops depression as a result of a chemical imbalance. 


If you believe your child or teen may suffer from depression, do not delay in seeking help. The caring therapists at LifeStance Health can help your child cope with, and one day overcome their depression. 

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