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Know the Signs of Teen Depression

Embark Behavioral Health
March 15, 2021

20% of teens suffer from depression at some point during their adolescence. However, teenage depression is complicated to identify since many symptoms of depression overlap with normal adolescent behavior and changing hormones. So, how can you tell if your teenage daughter is depressed? 

Teen Depression vs. Normal Teen Behavior

It is normal for your teen to have mood swings, become frustrated with you or other authority figures in her life, and even have a bad attitude now and then. The difference between a mentally healthy teenager and a depressed teenager is that a mentally healthy teenager will also get excited about her life, enjoy being with her friends, and pursues hobbies and interests.

Change is the keyword when trying to tell if your daughter is clinically depressed. Consider the normal for your daughter and then identify how she has deviated from her baseline behavior. A child who prefers a few friends or a quiet book isn’t depressed if that’s always been a norm in her life. If she’s never been a great student, low grades aren’t an accurate indicator.

If you are still unsure, seek a professional opinion. If your daughter is going through a depression, a therapist will be able to help your child start their recovery. If she is not depressed, she may still benefit from the experience. 

5 Signs Your Daughter Could be Depressed 

Because identifying depression in teens is so difficult, here are a few key factors to watch:

1. Changes in mood  

In teenagers, depression doesn’t always look like sadness. She could frequently burst into tears or feel down, but teens are also more likely than adults to be irritable or have angry outbursts. 

2. Changes in her interactions and interests 

Unlike adults, teens can become selectively withdrawn. Your daughter may be withdrawn from certain friends but still interact with others. Some family activities might be fine, but others may feel overwhelming. 

Someone who is feeling depressed or anxious might use technology, alcohol, or drugs to self-medicate. If you’ve discovered substance abuse or have noticed changes in internet or video game use, definitely consider seeking help from a mental health professional. 

3. Changes in sleeping and eating habits 

Teens need a lot of sleep—up to ten hours a night. But if your daughter is sleeping longer than that—or isn’t getting much sleep at all, be aware. Take her schedule into consideration, but if her schoolwork and activities are keeping her from getting a healthy amount of sleep, it might be time to consider an adjustment.  

Depression or anxiety can trigger changes in your daughter’s eating patterns—either more or less than she nsignificantormally would. Depressed teens sometimes show a preference for sugary foods because sugar gives a temporary mood lift. 

4. Changes in self-talk and how she interprets criticism 

Depressed teens struggle with feelings of worthlessness. These feelings incorporate how your daughter takes criticism and feedback. She may respond to a simple suggestion as an attack or feel like a failure when that wasn’t the message you intended.  She also might speak or think harshly of herself, either in her thoughts or out loud. 

5. Changes in her sense of hope 

Part of depression is an intense lack of joy and hope. For a depressed teen, it can seem like nothing will change — like how she feels now is how she’s always going to feel. 

If she says things like “I’d be better off dead” or “I wish I didn’t exist,” these aren’t passing moods and suicidal ideations. They’re cries for help. If she talks about suicide or even romanticizes it, seek help immediately. 

If she’s talking about harming herself in any way, get help. If your child is in immediate risk of harming herself, call 911. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or engage one of their counselors on chat on their website. If you’re outside the U.S., find other helplines by going to www.suicide.org

Embark Behavioral Health Can Help Your Teen Heal from Depression

If your daughter isn’t at high-risk, but you still suspect she’s dealing with depression, our short-term residential program for teen girls is a safe environment to help her work through the underlying causes of her depression. 

We invite you to contact us. We’ll help you assess whether she needs professional help and if she’d benefit from a residential, evidence-based therapy program like ours. 


Additional Helpful Online Resources for Parents: 

HelpGuide.org: Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression 

Stanford Children’s Hospital: Understanding Teenage Depression 


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Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health is a leading network of mental health treatment centers, for young people, that is dedicated to reversing the trends of anxiety, depression and suicide by 2028. Our therapists are experts at engaging with teens and helping entire families heal and rebuild.