Types of Depression in Teens

Teens often have a penchant for the dramatic, so when your adolescent child says “I’m so depressed,” you may not take them seriously. Once symptoms of depression start to show up, however, it’s time to sit down and have a talk with them about their feelings.

These are some basic symptoms to look for if you think your teenage child may be suffering from depression:

  • Feeling sad &/or hopeless
  • Changes in appetite & weight
  • Unwelcome changes in sleep patterns
  • Physical aches & pains without physical cause, lack of energy
  • Lack of interest & enjoyment in activities that used to be fun
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, &/or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death & suicide

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.54.58 AMThe symptoms vary from one type of depression to another, so they can be a little tricky to spot in certain cases.  While they can vary from doctor to doctor, there are four types of depression that are most commonly recognized in teens. They vary in duration, severity, and, to an extent, symptoms. 

Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

Also known as Reactive Depression, this is the least severe of the recognized types of teen depression. In fact, these short-lived dips in mood aren’t even recognized as forms of mental disorder. Reactive Depression normally occurs as a response to an event that the sufferer regards as negative; an insult, rejection, loss, or life change, and can last from a few hours to a few months.


More severe than Reactive Depression, Dysthymia is a low-grade chronic depression that often presents itself as irritability. Instances of Dysthymia commonly last for a year or more, and are characterized by periods of low energy, low self-esteem, and hopelessness. Dysthymia isn’t as severe as major depression, but its prolonged duration can have negative developmental effects on the sufferer.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is characterized by severe mood changes — periods of depression and periods of manic or hypomanic behavior. During manic periods, the sufferer will experience extreme highs, difficulty focusing, reduced need for sleep, and a short temper. One of the dangers during these manic periods is an increased willingness to participate in risky behavior, such as sexual behavior and experimentation with drugs and alcohol.

Major Depression

Major Depression can be extremely frightening because the symptoms are more severe or intense than other forms of depression. Fortunately, major depression doesn’t usually last as long as Dysthymia. It can still have harmful long-term effects, however, and should be treated as soon as symptoms are recognized.

All of the types of teen depression are dangerous and should be addressed as soon as the adolescent shows signs of depression. The first step in treating any of these disorders is to sit down and talk to your child. Try to find out if they know the source of their depression. Once you have talked to your child, you can determine whether further treatment will be necessary.


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