depression in teens

Signs of Depression in Teens

In a world where the pressures on teens are greater than ever, understanding the signs of depression in your child is crucial. From the stress of academics to navigating complex social dynamics, today’s teens face a myriad of challenges that can impact their mental health. This article aims to shed light on the signs of depression in teens and how Positive Presence can offer a helping hand.

TW: This post discusses depression, emotional trauma, and mental health for teens. 

Recognizing the Signs: More Than Just Mood Swings

Depression in teenagers often manifests in ways that can be overlooked, as these signs differ significantly from adults. Understanding these subtle shifts is crucial for parents and caregivers, who play a key role in recognizing and addressing their teen’s mental health needs.

Behaviorally, irritability or anger can be a significant red flag, often more prevalent in teens than the stereotypical sadness associated with depression. This was notably observed in a mother’s account of her once cheerful son becoming increasingly irritable. Similarly, a decline in academic performance can also signal underlying issues, such as a top student whose sudden drop in grades was a sign of deeper emotional struggles.

Physical Changes:

  • Altered Sleeping Patterns: Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping can be a telltale sign of depression.
  • Eating Habit Fluctuations: Significant weight changes or altered eating patterns are important indicators.
  • Persistent Fatigue: This goes beyond typical teenage tiredness and can be a sign of deeper issues.

These physical signs are critical to note, especially in light of findings from the National Institute of Mental Health, which reported that an estimated 3.2 million adolescents had at least one major depressive episode in 2017, many exhibiting such symptoms.

Emotional Changes:

  • Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt: Excessive self-criticism or feelings of inadequacy are common in depressed teens.
  • Loss of Interest: A sudden disinterest in previously enjoyable activities is a significant warning sign.
  • Mood Swings: Rapid, dramatic shifts in emotions are more intense than typical adolescent moodiness.

The emotional and behavioral symptoms are corroborated by clinical studies, including MRI scans showing changes in the brain’s frontal lobe, responsible for emotion regulation, in adolescents with depression. Furthermore, hormonal changes during adolescence can intensify these symptoms, making the situation more complex.

With about 50% of teens with depression going unrecognized, as reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the importance of early recognition and intervention is clear. If these signs are present in your teen, it’s a call to action. The path to addressing teenage depression begins with understanding and empathy, recognizing these signs as the first step towards a healthier future.

The Impact of Depression on Teens

Depression in teenagers is not just a phase – it’s a serious health concern that can have profound and far-reaching effects on their lives. Understanding the impact of depression is crucial for parents, educators, and peers, as it goes beyond mere moodiness and can alter the course of a teen’s development and future.

Key Areas Affected by Teen Depression:

  1. Self-Esteem and Identity: Depression can erode a teen’s self-esteem, leaving them feeling worthless or overwhelmed by guilt. This can impact their identity formation and sense of self, which are critical during the teenage years.
  2. Academic Performance: Teens with depression often struggle to maintain their academic standing. Their concentration, motivation, and energy levels may drop, making it hard to keep up with schoolwork and resulting in declining grades.
  3. Social Interactions: Social withdrawal or difficulty in maintaining relationships is common. Teens might isolate themselves, affecting their ability to form and sustain friendships.

Severe Consequences:

  • Substance Abuse: In an attempt to cope, some teens may turn to drugs or alcohol, leading to substance abuse problems.
  • Self-Harm and Suicidal Thoughts: Depression can lead to self-destructive behaviors. The CDC highlights the gravity of the situation, noting that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers.
  • Long-term Health Issues: Untreated depression in teens can lead to long-term mental and physical health problems.


The impact of depression on a teen’s life cannot be overstated. It’s not just a temporary setback but can have lasting implications on their overall well-being and future prospects. This underscores the importance of timely recognition, support, and intervention in helping teens navigate through these challenging times.

With comprehensive support systems like Positive Presence, teens can find the guidance and help they need to overcome these challenges. By addressing the issue head-on, we can help steer teens towards a path of recovery and resilience, ensuring their depression does not define their future.

Supporting Your Teen: A Parent’s Role in Addressing Depression

When you start to notice signs of depression in your teen, it can be overwhelming, and you might wonder what steps to take next. The journey to support a teen with depression is nuanced, requiring patience, empathy, and often, a shift in parenting strategies. Here are actionable steps parents can take:

  1. Open Lines of Communication
    1. Initiate Gentle Conversations: Approach your teen with kindness and openness. Ask how they’re feeling and listen without judgment.
    2. Create a Safe Space: Assure them that they can talk about anything with you without fear of criticism or punishment.

  2. Educate Yourself About Depression
    1. Seek Information: Learn about teen depression, its symptoms, and its effects. This knowledge will help you understand what your teen is experiencing.
    2. Avoid Assumptions: Remember that depression is a complex mental health issue and not just a phase or a matter of willpower.

  3. Encourage Professional Help
    1. Consult a Mental Health Professional: Encourage your teen to talk to a therapist or counselor. Professional guidance is crucial for effective management and treatment of depression.
    2. Explore Treatment Options Together: Discuss the possibilities with your teen, making sure they feel involved in the decision-making process.

  4. Support Through Positive Presence
    1. Consider Mentor-Coaching: Programs like Positive Presence offer mentor-coaching that can complement professional treatment, focusing on personal growth and positive living.
    2. Emphasize Holistic Development: Encourage activities that promote self-esteem, resilience, and emotional well-being.

  5. Foster a Supportive Home Environment
    1. Practice Patience and Understanding: Be patient with your teen’s progress. Healing takes time.
    2. Encourage Routine and Healthy Habits: Help your teen establish a healthy routine, including regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep.

  6. Stay Involved and Informed
    1. Monitor Progress: Keep track of your teen’s progress without being intrusive. Respect their privacy while ensuring their safety.
    2. Communicate with Other Caregivers: Stay in touch with therapists, teachers, and anyone else involved in your teen’s care.

  7. Take Care of Yourself
    1. Seek Support for Yourself: Managing a teen with depression can be stressful. Consider seeking support for yourself, whether through counseling, support groups, or leaning on a trusted network.

Remember, your role as a parent is pivotal in your teen’s journey with their mental health. Your support, understanding, and willingness to seek help can make a significant difference in their well-being.

How Positive Presence Can Help

In the face of teen depression or other mental health concerns in teens, Positive Presence stands as a beacon of hope and support. Our innovative mentor-coaching approach is tailored to meet the unique challenges that teens face in today’s world. Through our S.E.L.F curriculum, we focus on holistic development, empowering teens to navigate through their struggles towards a path of resilience and positive living.

The Pillars of Our Approach:

  • Skill-Building: We emphasize the development of practical life skills, from emotional intelligence to effective communication, equipping teens with the tools they need for both present challenges and future endeavors.
  • Honest Reflection: Encouraging self-awareness and introspection, our mentor-coaches guide teens in understanding their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This self-reflection is pivotal in fostering personal growth and self-acceptance.
  • Creating a Positive Living Plan: Our approach goes beyond temporary fixes; we help teens devise actionable plans for positive living, setting the foundation for sustainable well-being and success.

The Power of Virtual Coaching: 

  • Our virtual coaching environment breaks down geographical barriers, allowing us to connect teens with the ideal mentor-coach regardless of location.
  • This platform provides a safe, accessible space for teens to openly discuss their feelings and challenges without the pressure of a traditional face-to-face setting.
  • Virtual coaching offers flexibility and convenience, essential elements in engaging the tech-savvy, modern teen.


At Positive Presence, we firmly believe that every teen holds the potential to overcome their struggles and emerge stronger. With our support, teens are not only able to confront and manage depression but also build a foundation for a thriving, positive life. Our mentor-coaches are more than just guides; they are partners in our teens’ journey to self-discovery and empowerment.

Empowering Parents, Empowering Teens

The journey of navigating a teen’s depression is not a solitary one; it’s a collaborative effort where the role of parents is just as crucial as the support provided by professionals like those at Positive Presence. Empowering your teen starts with empowering yourself as a parent – by understanding, supporting, and being an integral part of their journey towards wellness.

At Positive Presence, we believe in the power of partnership. By involving parents in the coaching process, we create a circle of support that surrounds the teen with understanding, acceptance, and positive reinforcement. Our guidance extends beyond the teen to include the entire family, providing tools and strategies that foster open communication, strengthen family bonds, and build a nurturing environment conducive to healing and growth.

Building Bridges of Understanding

> We help bridge the communication gap between teens and parents, facilitating a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives.

> Our approach encourages empathy, helping parents to see the world through their teen’s eyes and vice versa.

A Supportive Network

> You’re not navigating this path alone. Positive Presence is part of your extended family, offering guidance, support, and a listening ear whenever you need it.

> Our network extends beyond individual families to a community of parents and teens, sharing experiences and learning from each other.

Looking Towards a Brighter Future

> With every step taken in the coaching process, we’re not just addressing the present; we’re building skills and resilience for the future.

> The journey with Positive Presence is one of transformation – turning challenges into opportunities for growth and self-discovery for both teens and parents.

As we conclude this article, remember that the journey of empowerment is ongoing. Each day is an opportunity to reinforce the positive strides made and to continue nurturing the unique strengths of your teen. With the right support, guidance, and a shared commitment to growth, the possibilities for your teen’s future are limitless.

Together, we can turn challenges into stepping stones towards a future filled with hope, resilience, and a positive presence that lights up every path they choose to embark upon.

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Jessica Waugh

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Jessica has roughly 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, curating premier wine programs in Las Vegas and developing educational programs for the largest beverage distribution company in North America. In 2022, Jessica altered her focus and is now utilizing her educational, management, and organizational skills to positively impact others on a grander scale. She is now developing multiple modalities focused in emotional intelligence, executive functioning, meta-learning, and positive psychology for struggling teens and young adults.

Favorite Mindfulness Techniques:

Meditating with sound bowls!

A Fun Fact:

I was the architect for my grandmother’s house

State: Nevada

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Missy Vandenheuvel

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Missy is a revitalized mother of two teenagers who understands the resilience it takes to raise children in the midst of a global pandemic. She is a passionate mentor because she recognizes there isn’t nearly enough support for the overwhelming number of people silently struggling. Her sincere and compassionate personality is what makes her thrive as a coach and a leading member of our company. As our Sales manager she recognized that her role is to listen and learn as much about your child (or yourself) as possible. While listening, I am identifying a mentor coach that I believe your child will not only like based on their personality, but also one who has experienced and overcome similar pain points, and areas of opportunity, optimizing relatability. Ultimately, setting your child up for growth and fulfillment socially, mentally, and physically. 

Favorite Mindfulness Techniques:

My Favorite Mindful technique is to Shifting Thought Patterns by focusing on the Grounding Technique. Starts with a big belly breath in. Then, you tap into your 5 senses, to quickly and effortlessly shift your current focus. Choose a sense- any sense, and count down from 5 (order or senses can be altered): 5 things you see, 4 things you smell, 3 things you feel, 2 things you hear, 1 thing you taste.

A Fun Fact:

 I travel to Florida from Wisconsin 3-4 times a year, and we plan to relocate somewhere with the state in 1.5 years. I’ve been dreaming about this since I first saw the ocean at the age of 14 years old. 

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