We all feel low or sad or irritable from time to time. It’s a natural human reaction to the struggles we face during the course of life. “But what people don’t realise is that depression is not just about being sad. One of my friends described it as a persistent lack of motivation to do anything, a state of extreme emptiness without actually being able to pinpoint the reason as to why you’re feeling that way,” says Jannat Behl, founder of BabbleMe – an online therapy portal which connects people to qualified therapists.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India has the highest rate of depression with 36% of our population battling this serious mood disorder. “And yet, having a mental health problem such as depression has somehow become equivalent to losing your sanity and not being completely able, in India. As a result, mental problems are often shoved under the carpet due to the very apparent stigma in our society,” says Jannat Behl. This may be changing with Deepika Padukone and Hrithik Roshan going public about their own battle with depression, and breaking the silence around mental disorders.

But the the majority of patients suffering from depression fall in the age bracket of 6 and 25, and don’t seek assistance (unlike adults). Sadly, they suffer alone. Why? Because they rely on parents, teachers and other caregivers to recognise their suffering and give them the help they need. The same parents and teachers who tend to blame it on hormone havoc.

However, there are multiple reasons why teenagers might suffer from depression. They face a host of pressures, right from questions about who they are and whether they fit in, to the changes that occur during puberty. So it’s easy to see why their moods swing like a pendulum. They can develop feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness over their grades, appearance, social status with peers, family life, unrealistic expectations, lack of a proper support system, relationship problems – you name it. But whatever the cause, when their family or friends don’t try to improve their mood or sense of isolation, there’s a good chance he or she may get depressed. “If you have a teen in your life, it’s important to spot the warning signs,” says Dr. Bhav

Signs of Depression in Teenagers

Now with all this uncertainty, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between teenagers’ growing pains and depression. “For one, teenagers with depression don’t necessarily appear sad. The most prominent symptoms may in fact be anger, irritability and rebellion. Teens with depression may have no motivation, feel directionless and even become withdrawn,” adds Dr. Bhavna Barmi, Senior Clinical Psychologist. They may shut their bedroom door after school, staying in for hours, or even complain frequently of unexplained headaches, stomach pain, which may result in repeated visits to the school nurse.

Dr. Sunil Mittal, Consultant Psychiatrist, Adiva Hospital says, “Symptoms of depression in teenagers can vary in severity, but they can be divided into two categories – namely mood (emotional) and behavioral symptoms”.

Here are 25 signs of depression in teenagers that you need to watch out for.

Emotional Changes:

Loss of interest in normal activities

Feelings of hopeless and worthlessness

Irritable or annoyed

Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters

Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason

Conflict with family and friends

Low self-esteem

Fixation on past failures

Exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism

Cognitive dissonance — for example, trouble making decisions, concentrating and remembering things

Ongoing sense that the future is grim

Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Feelings of guilt

Behavioral Changes:

Tiredness and loss of energy

Insomnia or oversleeping

Frequently skipping school

Changes in appetite — either decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings and weight gain

Use of alcohol or drugs

Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing or the inability to sit still

Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches

Social isolation i.e. withdrawal from friends and family

Poor school performance

Neglected appearance

Angry outbursts, rebellious or disruptive behavior such as shoplifting

Self-harm — cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing.

Depression is very damaging when left untreated, and people tend to neglect the signs due to the stigma. They only decide to consult a psychiatrist or psychologist when it is too late. But, if caught early, depression can be prevented or treated. Therefore, instead of saying “snap out of it” or waiting for the worrying symptoms to go away, consult a therapist,” says Jannat Behl, BabbleMe.

And did you know: “Having a depressive episode as a teenager more than doubles the risk of having another depressive episode in young adulthood,” says Dr. Sunil Mittal, Adiva Hospital. So, if you ignore teen depression, it may never go away… 

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