Depression can affect people of all ages — but it can often start during your teen years.

Serious depression often begins in adolescence, and the American Academy of Pediatrics even endorses universal depression screening for young people ages 12 and up. Your primary care doctor can do this screening.

It’s important for teens to know how to recognize depression symptoms. Recognizing depression may help you get earlier treatment.

A note on depression and COVID-19

Many adults and teens are experiencing challenges associated with the isolation we’ve all had because of COVID-19. Feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even sadness have resulted from the impact the pandemic has had on our usual lifestyle.

Feeling sad about the pandemic isn’t the same thing as having major depressive disorder. Being sad is a normal reaction to disappointment. Sadness tends to be short lived and is typically a reaction to something that’s happened (or didn’t happen the way we hoped it would). This is much different from depression.


Sometimes depression can mask itself behind the typical emotions felt as a teenager. But depression isn’t uncommon among adolescents.

Having a close family member — like a parent or grandparent — with depression can raise your risk of developing it.

Research also suggests that 15–23 percent of young people live with a parent who has a mental health condition, and at least 15 million U.S. children and teens have a parent living with depression.

Millions of young people worldwide may have a higher risk of experiencing depression in the future.

So if you think you might have depression, seek help from someone you trust like close family or a 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 cope and feel better.

It’s also important to recognize the impact the pandemic has had on us. Many people are feeling a bit lost amid the considerable changes in all of our lives.

Advice from an expert

It’s OK if you don’t feel OK. Feeling down is usually unpleasant for anyone — no matter your age. The good news is there are some science-based treatments for managing mental health conditions such as depression.

To learn more about these, contact your doctor, school counselor, or a psychotherapist. If you’re unsure about where to begin, consider calling one of the hotlines below:

Jennifer Litner, LMFT, CST