Depression in youth, warning signs


Depression in young people is a serious mental health problem affecting teens globally. The World Health Organization identifies it as the leading cause of illness and disability among teenagers.

Depression in youth background

    • Depression affects an estimated 13-20% of adolescents globally. It is a major public health concern.
    • Onset is typically between ages 11-14, though it can develop earlier. Depressive disorders increase through adolescence.
    • Girls are diagnosed with depression twice as often as boys. Hormonal changes during puberty may be a factor.
    • Up to 60% of teens with major depression will experience recurrent episodes later in life.
    • Risk factors include family history, trauma, chronic illness, personality traits, bullying, and poverty.
    • Warning signs include persistent sadness, irritability, sleep/appetite changes, declining school performance, social isolation, and suicidal ideation.
    • Youth depression may exhibit itself differently than adult depression.
    • Irritability, anger, and risk-taking behaviors are more common.
    • Leaving depression untreated is linked to increased risk of substance abuse, self-harm behaviors, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts.
    • Social media use, peer pressure, body image issues, and bullying can exacerbate depressive symptoms.
    • Stigma prevents many adolescents from seeking help for depression. Mental health education is important.
    • Treatment typically involves psychotherapy like CBT, family therapy, and in moderate-severe cases, antidepressant medication.
    • Early intervention leads to better treatment outcomes. Support from family, school, and mental health professionals is key.

It is important to provide mental health services for teenagers and create a supportive environment to tackle this worldwide health issue.


Depressive symptoms in youth

Adolescents with depression may experience the following symptoms:

Persistent sad mood and frequent crying
One of the main indicators is a constant state of sadness and low spirits. The young person is apathetic, without the desire to carry out activities and may cry frequently without apparent reason.

Irritability and anger
Instead of showing sadness, some depressed teens may become irritable, angry, or rebellious in any situation. They have emotional outbursts and are highly sensitive.

Loss of interest in activities
Teens with depression lose interest in hobbies, sports, and activities they used to enjoy. They prefer to isolate themselves in their rooms and reduce their social circle.

Changes in sleep and eating habits
Significant alterations in sleep and appetite are common. Some sleep or eat too much, while others suffer from insomnia or lack of appetite.

Persistent tiredness and fatigue
Depressed teens feel exhausted during the day, even if they sleep enough. They lack energy to perform simple tasks and move or speak slower.

Concentration problems
Depression impairs teens’ ability to concentrate in class and negatively affects their academic performance. The young person seems distracted and forgetful.

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Low self-esteem is common. The teenager underestimates himself, feels like a failure or a burden to others because of his emotional problems.

Recurrent thoughts about death
Suicidal ideas are red flags. Depressed youth may think about taking their own lives or planning a suicide attempt. They should be taken very seriously.

Causes of youth depression
There are multiple factors that contribute to the development of depression in young people:

Biological and genetic factors
A family history of depression or anxiety disorders increases risk. Also chemical imbalances in the brain such as serotonin.

Personality and temperament
An obsessive personality, low self-esteem, pessimism and tendency to ruminate on negative thoughts are individual vulnerabilities.

Stressful situations
Events such as changing schools, parental divorce, bullying or romantic breakup can trigger a depressive state.

Illnesses and medical treatments
Drug use, anemia, diabetes, epilepsy, and certain medications have depression as a side effect.

Abuse and trauma
Experiencing abuse, violence, bullying, or loss increases the risk of depression.

Causes of Depression in youth

Here are some of the main causes that can contribute to depression and anxiety in youth:

    • Genetics – Having a family history of mental health issues increases risk. Genes affect brain chemistry related to mood.
    • Trauma – Events like abuse, neglect, bullying, violence, or sudden loss of a loved one can trigger anxiety and depression.
    • Stress – School pressures, social difficulties, family discord, and other stressors can overwhelm youth.
    • Medical conditions – Thyroid problems, chronic illness, headaches, and other conditions can lead to mood changes.
    • Brain chemistry – Imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine link to depressive and anxious moods.
    • Personality traits – High sensitivity, innate shyness, negative thinking patterns, and poor self-esteem put some at risk.
    • Drug/alcohol abuse – Substance use, especially heavy, can worsen mental health and lead to mood instability.
    • Social media use – Cyberbullying, pressure to get likes/follows, exposure to unrealistic images, and comparisons feed anxiety.
    • Sleep issues – Lack of quality sleep disrupts mood regulation and heightens stress sensitivity.
    • Identity issues – Confusion around sexual orientation, gender identity, or role in life can manifest as inner turmoil.
    • Transition periods – Times of change like puberty, starting a new school, or family moves can be destabilizing.

To overcome anxiety and depression, youth can receive proper treatment, learn coping skills, create a support system, and address underlying causes.


How to help a depressed young person

Family and teachers should be on the lookout for warning signs. Some ways to provide support are:

    • Generate an environment of trust and active listening, without judging or minimizing their feelings.
    • Do not force them to tell their problems, but let them know you are willing to help when ready.
    • Avoid saying stuff like “cheer up” or “get over it”, their depression isn’t that easy to control.
    • Gently motivate them to resume activities they used to enjoy and maintain sleep and diet routines.
    • Consult a psychologist for cognitive-behavioral therapy and in some cases antidepressant medication.
    • Seek a psychiatrist if there is a risk of self-harm to assess treatment.
    • Show them there is hope and that with proper support they can improve their mood.

Early detection and treatment of depression in teens is crucial. If we provide tools to manage it, they can recover and avoid long-term problems.

How to prevent and combat depression in youth

Here are some tips on how to prevent and combat depression in youth:

    • Promote open communication in the family. Create an environment where kids feel safe expressing their feelings. Listen without judging.
    • Help teens develop self-esteem and a positive self-image. Compliment their talents and qualities. Encourage them to pursue their passions.
    • Teach healthy coping strategies like exercise, meditation, journaling, and creative hobbies. These can naturally boost your mood.
    • Monitor their social media use and internet habits. Set reasonable time limits and rules. Tell them not to compare themselves to others online.
    • Help youth connect with peers. Group activities, sports teams and in-person social events protect against isolation.
    • Push for bullying prevention at school. Watch for signs of bullying and intervene if necessary. Support policies against bullying.
    • Make sure your kids get enough exercise, sleep, and good food. Lack of these increases the risk of mood disorders. Stick with routines.
    • Be alert to major behavioral changes like angry outbursts, recklessness, or withdrawing from others. Don’t just brush it off as “normal teen stuff”.
    • End the stigma around mental health issues.
    • Educate teens that no one is at fault for depression and it can be managed with help. Suggest getting counseling.
    • Limit teen exposure to news/media about self-harm and suicide. This can plant ideas in vulnerable minds. Focus on the positive stories.
    • Know the suicide warning signs: hopelessness, giving away possessions, saying goodbye, seeking lethal means. Get help ASAP.
    • Be patient and keep showing your love. Recovery from depression takes time. Offer support without pressuring them.

With family support, social connections, professional help if needed, and developing coping skills, youth can overcome and prevent recurring depression.


Depression casts a shadow over our brightest days, but we cannot let it eclipse our light. Though the path is winding and steep, we must walk it together, step by step.

When depression tries to isolate us, we must reach out to friends and let them in.

When the lies say you’re all alone, remind each other of your worth.

Together, we have the power of community, empathy, and the knowledge that so many share in this journey.

We must empower those fighting in the darkness to see the dawn ahead. There will be setbacks and storms, but by holding fast to each other, we will weather them.

If we stand united, depression will never gain a foothold over our hearts and minds.

The road ahead remains long, but the horizon clears with each uplifting voice and act of compassion. Struggling friend, don’t lose hope, we’re in this together.

Together, step by step, we’ll find the light.

If your child or teen is exhibiting signs of depression, get them help early. Left untreated, youth depression can have devastating consequences.

Contact Dr. Benejam today to explore therapy options for your child, including cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy.

With compassionate care tailored to your child’s needs, we can equip them with tools to manage depression symptoms and thrive. Don’t wait – your teen’s wellbeing is at stake here.

Call (561) 376-9699 / (305) 981-6434  to schedule a consultation with Dr. Benejam. There is hope, and with professional support, your child can overcome depression.