How To Help A Depressed Teen

Jan 24, 2022Depression

Depressed woman sitting on the floor
Invictus Clinic
January 24, 2022

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than three million teenagers experience depression in any given year. The symptoms can be relentless and  the consequences severe. If your teen is depressed, the best way to help them is to learn about the condition and options for therapy.

What is depression

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a medical illness that can interfere with your ability to handle your daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or managing your schoolwork. Depression is common but that doesn’t mean it isn’t serious. Treatment may be needed for someone to feel better. Depression can happen at any age, but often symptoms begin in the teens or early 20s or 30s. It can occur along with other mental disorders.”

What causes depression?

Teens can face numerous challenges they’re ill-equipped to handle emotionally: abuse and neglect, divorce, learning disabilities, among others. It’s natural to feel powerless in these situations, with the effects felt far into their adulthood. But even teens who don’t face these challenges can be depressed, particularly if there’s a history of mental illness among blood relatives. Depression runs in families, but teen depression can also be caused by social environment, medical conditions, and bad thoughts.

Symptoms of teen depression

Like adults, teenagers with depression exhibit classic symptoms of mental illness that could have severe consequences if ignored:


  • Being sad, which may include crying fits without an apparent cause
  • Feelings of anger or frustration even over small incidents
  • Feeling empty or hopeless
  • Irritable or easily annoyed
  • Not interested in usual activities like video games or chatting with friends
  • Withdrawn from or in conflict with family and friends
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Changes in appetite, sudden weight loss or gain, binge eating
  • Using alcohol or drugs

Many of these symptoms are treatable with therapy or medicine like ketamine.

Risk factors and complications

There are many risk factors and complications for depressed teenagers to watch out for. If you know a teen that shows any of the signs below, reach out for help.


  • Issues that lower self-esteem, like academic problems, long-term bullying, obesity, or peer conflicts.
  • The teen was a victim or witness of violence, like incidents of abuse.
  • Other mental health conditions may be present, like anorexia, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, bulimia, or a personality disorder.
  • A learning disability or suffers from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
  • A family history of mental illness, especially with a parent, grandparent, or other blood relation with depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse problems.
  • The teenager has a family member who committed suicide.
  • There is family dysfunction and family conflict.
  • The teenager may be involved in alcohol and drug misuse.
  • There could be academic problems.
  • Family conflicts and relationship difficulties.
  • Problems with law enforcement.
  • Suicide attempts or suicide.

How to help a depressed teen

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are many steps that parents, family, and peers can take to help a depressed teen.


  • Understand the warning signs like low self-esteem and sadness and what they may foretell.
  • Contact a doctor who specializes in adolescent psychiatry.
  • Provide emotional support by spending time with your teen and listening to their concerns.
  • Set an example of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Encourage your teen to stay involved with friends.

How to diagnose depression

If your teenager is depressed, you should consult with a specialist in pediatric mental health. There may be a physical exam, but a mental health evaluation is necessary for diagnosis. The evaluation will try and uncover the source of depression, paying attention to thoughts, feelings, behavior, personal and family history.

Treating depression in teens

In most cases, a teenager suffering from depression will be treated with psychotherapy or medicine, or a combination of both. A parent or caregiver may attend the first counseling session, but all others are one-on-one afterward. The teen’s progress will be noted, helping to decide if other therapy is needed.

Ketamine for depression

An innovative new treatment option, ketamine started as a fast-acting anesthetic and pain reliever. Research in the last two decades has shown that ketamine is a powerful new tool for the treatment of depression.


Ketamine works to stimulate the growth and regrowth of neurotransmitters in the brain, essentially rewriting the parts of the brain causing distress. Up to 70% of patients may be able to find relief from the symptoms of depression after a series of IV ketamine infusions.


Contact us today to learn more about this innovative new treatment option.


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