Depression in Children and Teens


Depression can occur in people of all ages, but the symptoms of depression are often more easily identified in adults than in children and adolescents. Adults with depression often experience an extreme, persistent sadness and a loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities. There are often feelings of guilt, tearfulness, low self-esteem, low energy, poor concentration, as well as thoughts of death or suicide. Oftentimes an adult suffering from depression will have either a loss of appetite or will eat excessively, and will begin sleeping less or begin sleeping excessively. In some cases adults with depression experience hallucinations or delusions.

Children and adolescents may experience all of these symptoms as well, and when such clear problems are present it’s not difficult to diagnose depression. But at other times children and adolescents with depression can show symptoms that are more unique to their age level. Younger children may simply complain about aches throughout their bodies, tell adults that they are “always bored,” and stop interacting with their friends at school. Depression in children is often mistaken for moodiness or a bad temper because depressed children can become grumpy, angry, and irritable, while all the while denying that they feel depressed or down.

During adolescence rates of depression go up dramatically. However, often adolescents don’t recognize that they have depression, or don’t feel comfortable talking about it with others. Meanwhile, their grades may drop, and they may withdraw from friends, family and activities. Many depressed teens also suffer from problems with anxiety and substance use. Adolescent girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression as boys. This is partially due to the hormonal changes.