How to navigate adolescent depression

One of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the world is depression. Picture: Pexels

One of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the world is depression. Picture: Pexels

Published Feb 6, 2023


Sadness is only one aspect of depression. Depression is a range of mental health illnesses that can impair your capacity to function and are characterised by depressed, empty or irritated feelings.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that while emotional ups and downs are common, if they linger for two weeks or more and significantly interfere with your everyday life, it may be an indication of depression.

One of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the world is depression. Although it can strike at any age, the signs frequently appear in adolescence or the first few years of adulthood.

However, just because something is ubiquitous doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Depression therapy is the first step to getting well since it may have profound and pervasive consequences on your life.

Teenagers may experience depression differently than adults do, despite the fact that many of the symptoms are comparable. Adults often experience melancholy, while teens experience intense irritation more frequently.

It’s also critical to understand how depressive episodes differ from typical mood swings and feelings. Determining one’s depression is the first step in managing and receiving therapy.

Teenagers who experience depressive episodes frequently show the following signs and symptoms: frequent sobbing or crying; increased irritability or hostility; feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem or guilt; low energy, loss of interest or enjoyment in routine activities; persistent boredom; withdrawal from family and friends; difficulty concentrating or making decisions; poor academic performance; trouble sleeping; and problems with relationships or communicating,

Teens who are depressed may find it difficult to maintain a productive social and academic life. Improving present and future well-being requires addressing and treating depression.

Depressive illnesses seldom have a single underlying aetiology. According to research, several variables interact to induce depression.


As is true of affective disorders in general, research into family histories of significant depression points to a hereditary component. Bipolar illness and depression are examples of affective disorders.


Depression is influenced by brain chemicals including dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. The connections, development and functionality of nerve cells may also have a significant impact, according to a more recent study. According to research titled “Brain structural modifications in depression: Psycho Radiological evidence”, many brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, are also involved in the condition of depression.

Environmental depression is significantly correlated with a history of traumatic or unfavourable childhood events. These might be traumatic incidents, family deaths, or physical or sexual abuse.

Teenagers are more likely to experience depressive episodes due to a variety of additional risk factors for depression. Severe life stress, other mental health conditions such as anxiety, disparities based on income, race or gender, loss or bereavement experiences, family conflict, chronic disease, and substantial life transitions like relocating or parental divorce are a few of these.

The potential influence on teenagers’ mental health increases as they are exposed to additional risk factors.

The demands of society, including those from friends, family, entertainment and the media, can make mental health disorders more likely for youth.

In growing teenagers, problems with body image, looks, gender identity and sexual identity are frequent and can worsen depression.

Depressive disorders and other mental health diseases have a disproportionately negative impact on young people, and particularly girls, from immigrant or poor families. This also applies to communities of colour.

These youths are more prone to have depressive symptoms due to the higher number of environmental risk factors they generally encounter. These environmental elements consist of severe stress, poor dietary habits and a lack of stimulation.

Teens’ high-risk behaviours, including excessive substance use, self-harm, unprotected sex and suicide attempts, are also linked to depression.


It’s crucial to take depression seriously if you or someone you know appears to be experiencing it. Getting assistance may make a huge impact.

You can better understand what you’re going through and acquire coping mechanisms for troubling thoughts and feelings by speaking with a doctor or mental health expert. Medication may also be helpful on occasion.

Your doctor or therapist will ask you about your symptoms and how long you’ve had them in order to diagnose depression. They could also speak to your parents or other caretakers if you let them.

There are several varieties of depression, with major depressive disorder (MDD) and persistent depressive disorder (PDD) being the two most prevalent. Distinct types have different diagnostic standards.

For children and teens, a major depressive episode is one that lasts at least two weeks and is characterised by extreme sadness, irritability, or loss of interest in most activities. To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, at least four more symptoms must be present.

PDD, formerly known as dysthymia, is a more persistent but milder type of depression. Unlike in adults, when a period of two years is necessary for diagnosis, it is characterised by a continuous irritable or melancholy mood lasting at least a year.


Depressive illnesses can be treated in all its forms. A crucial first step is to speak with a doctor or mental health expert.

Your ability to receive the best and most effective therapy depends on a correct diagnosis. Teens who are depressed should seek therapy immediately since treatment during these crucial developmental years might enhance long-term mental and physical health.

Always consult a mental health specialist to identify the best course of action because the therapy should be personalised for you and your symptoms. You ought to feel free to communicate any uncertainties or worries and to ask questions. Try not to become disheartened if you don’t notice results right away; it can take some trial and error with various kinds of therapy or medicine.

How to assist a depressed adolescent

It’s crucial to be understanding and open to a teenager's sentiments whether you’re their parent, teacher, guardian or friend and suspect they may be depressed. Ask them to describe their feelings in a kind and non-judgemental manner.

Try to react in a way that shows you have listened and not by lecturing. Even though some children might be dismissive or reluctant to talk about their thoughts with you, making them aware that you care and are willing to assist them is a crucial first step. You can also speak to a medical professional or therapist who is familiar with teen depression.

If teens are included in the decision-making process, they may be more willing to get therapy, so pay attention to what they have to say. You can assist them in making sure their treatment is on track if they do take medicine or undergo counselling.

It can make a great difference in helping them feel better to gently encourage them to spend more time socialising with friends and family and to support them in obtaining enough exercise and sleep.

Take them seriously if they say anything that suggests self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Discuss these feelings and actions in open and sincere talks, and enlist the assistance and knowledge of a mental health professional.

It may be a good idea to start by talking to a family member, close friend, therapist or doctor if you or a teen you know is showing signs of depression.

Patience is essential for treating any mental health problem, including depression. Remember that getting better requires time and effort. Small self-care adjustments such as practising yoga or meditation at home, getting together with friends, journalling and maintaining a normal sleep pattern could make you feel better right away.