According to a report published by the National Academies Press, an estimated 15 million children under the age of 18 in the United States have parents suffering from depression. Having a close family member with depression raises your risk of developing depression. This means that at least 15 million American children are at risk of facing depression in the future.

Since serious depression often begins in adolescence, it’s important for teens to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of this condition. Recognizing depression may help you get early treatment. Answer the questions below to learn if you are at risk of depression.

Question 1: Do You Currently Live with a Family Member Who Suffers from Depression?

Whether the cause is environmental or genetic, studies have shown that living with a mother or father who has depression increases your risk of developing the condition. Whether your depressed family member lives with you or is simply a blood relative, you might be at risk.

Question 2: Does Life Seem Pointless?

We all have occasional feelings of hopelessness, especially teens, who are still trying to find their way in the rough terrain of high school. However, when that sense of pointlessness is ongoing and begins to affect your daily behavior, interrupting your ability to enjoy time with your friends, it’s a sign of something more serious.

Question 3: Does It Seem Like It’s Impossible to Concentrate?

Sure, lots of people have a hard time focusing on schoolwork for a long period of time, especially when it’s dry reading from textbooks. But if you have a tough time concentrating even when you’re reading or watching something you enjoy, such as a great movie or your favorite TV show, depression could be the culprit.

Question 4: Have You Withdrawn from Your Friends and Family?

While a certain amount of separation from your parents is normal during adolescence, it’s generally a time to bond with your friends. Have you begun to withdraw from everyone? Do you choose to be alone when you could be spending time with others? Depression may be to blame.

Question 5: Have You Noticed a Sudden Change in Your Weight?

Extreme weight loss or weight gain can be a symptom of depression. If you’ve lost your appetite or find yourself seeking consolation in food, the cause may be related to brain chemistry imbalances that are present in depression.

Question 6: Do You Have Insomnia?

Throughout life, you may go through periods of sleeplessness and even periods where you tend to oversleep. If your insomnia has lasted for an extended period of time, however, depression might be the cause.

Question 7: Do You Have Aches and Pains?

This can refer to everything from persistent unexplained lower back pain to frequent stomach aches unrelated to other causes. Aches and pains can, of course, have many other causes. However, in depressed patients, these feelings are thought to be related to the brain’s production of chemicals. The same imbalance that causes you to feel sad may factor into the way you perceive pain.

Question 8: Have Your Grades Dropped? If You’re Involved in Extracurricular Activities, Have You Stopped Participating or Has Your Performance Decreased?

Inability to concentrate can cause your grades to fall. The apathy and lack of energy that come with depression can also affect your performance at school and extracurricular activities. That passion you once had for basketball, band, or the school newspaper may fade away once feelings of depression set in. It doesn’t have to be this way. With treatment, you can start getting back to your old self, putting yourself on course to graduate along with your classmates at the end of your senior year.

Question 9: Have You Thought of Suicide?

If you answer yes to this question, you’re not alone. In patients with depression, suicidal thoughts can be persistent and even dangerous.

One thing a professional will ask you, if you’re thinking about suicide, is to hold off on doing anything until you get treatment. With counseling and possible medical treatment, you will probably begin to feel better and thoughts of suicide will disappear.

Sometimes depression can mask itself behind the typical emotions that come with adolescence. However, depression is not uncommon among adolescents. If you think you might be suffering from depression, seek help from a close family friend, your school guidance counselor or nurse, or your doctor. Even a trusted teacher may be able to help guide you in the direction you need to go. Support is available to help you get back to your old self.


How is depression treated?


There are many approaches to the treatment of depression. You will work with your doctor to discuss the approach that is right for you. Very serious cases involving suicidal ideation are generally treated with hospitalization and medications. Less severe cases may be treated on an outpatient basis with a combination of medication and psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy”). The important thing to know is that help is available and depression can be successfully treated.

Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PMHNP-BCAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.