Teenage depression treatment: what you need to know

Teenage depression is a sensitive issue that calls for redress, especially because this is a critical stage of human development preceding adulthood. Statistics in prevalence of teenage depression paint a scary picture. According to WHO, one in every six people experiencing depression is aged 10-19 years.  NHIM reports that at least 3.2 million people aged 12-17 years have experienced at least one depression episode. Teenage years are identified as a period when children face various bodily changes and are highly predisposed to peer pressure and its effects which expose them to unexpected outcomes. Due to lack of resilience, they may endure serious problems associated with depression.


Definition, causes and common signs

Depression is a serious mental illness that affects a person’s moods, feelings, thoughts or actions. A teenager with depression may experience problems with schooling, experience difficulties socializing or even lack interest in participating in activities that were previously fun.

Teenage depression may be associated with a variety of causes, including:

  • Genetic predisposition-existence of a person in the family line previously diagnosed with depression puts other younger members at risk of it.
  • Traumatic experiences- a teenager might suffer depression after a terrifying experience, such as the death of a parent, an accident, a breakup with a girlfriend/boyfriend, being bullied, failing an exam or confirmation of pregnancy.
  • Self-esteem issues- a teenager may be stressed after feeling unnoticed or unloved. This is normal in social media users, where s/he may get frustrated by receiving negative reactions after posting a photo.
  • Drugs and substance abuse- teenagers using drugs are likely to drown in depression.

The symptoms of teenage depression are similar to those you would look for in adults. The common symptoms include irritability and withdrawal, regular headaches, being unmotivated, feeling fatigued and low energy. S/he may appear distant and moody, exhibit signs of lethargy and will want to stay in bed throughout without being disturbed. A sudden change in sleeping and eating habits may also point to depression. Normally, a depressed teenager may experience a consistent lack of appetite and insomnia. If the teenager exhibits these signs for a while, then it’s time to take a step and look for immediate intervention. Luckily, teenage depression is treatable.

Why it’s a concern

Teenagers constitute a vulnerable group that lacks stable coping skills. Some do not recognize its onset and may suffer in silence until severe stages. The prevalence of teenage prevalence is likely to rise particularly in the social media age, which is a major cause of self-esteem issues among teenagers. This elicits the concern that we are likely to witness more emotional injuries, more suicides and more teenagers resorting to drug use due to depression. It’s time to act and defend our teenagers!

Treatment and prevention methods

Treatment of teenage depression starts with a diagnosis of the problem by a psychologist to determine the possible cause(s) of the problem. This is necessary to identify the most effective treatment plan for the teen. Common diagnostic routines involve physical examination, lab-testing to evaluate thyroid and hormone levels and psychological examinations to evaluate feelings, behaviors and thoughts.

The correct treatment type (individually or combinations) is then chosen based on severity of the condition or age of the child, among other factors. Common treatments for teen depression include:


FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approves and recommends two medications for teen depression- escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac). These medications are rated effective in controlling severe depression symptoms, such as suicidal thinking and behaviors among teenagers. However, close monitoring is an essential necessity. The doctor should help in assessing the side effects and the benefits versus risks of the chosen medication, and change the dosage or use an alternative medicine if the prescribed seems not effective.


Therapy works by assisting the teenager to develop coping skills, which implies reduced vulnerability to stressors and general causes of depression. Alias psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves a mental health professional helping the patient face depression and its causes by talking about it. For teens, psychotherapy can be done in various formats, including family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy

Psychotherapy, also called psychological counseling or talk therapy, is a general term for treating depression by talking about depression and related issues with a mental health professional. Different types of psychotherapy can be effective for depression, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy and interpersonal therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment method for teen depression. it works by helping the teen understand and acknowledge that s/he is depressed, then teaching him/her on swapping depressive thoughts with better, positive thoughts ones. Gradually, the teenager develops a coping mechanism, which is in the ability to cope and have positive attitudes towards unfavorable occurrences that depress them or may cause depression in the future.

Interpersonal therapy is focused on treating depression by improving relationship skills. Its focus is thus centered improving social functioning of the teenager, through their communication and problem-solving skills. In any case, the ability to speak about a problem is basic in solving depressing issues.

Family therapy– teenage depression is largely associated with family problems, such as financial problems, domestic violence, and marital problems between parents, among others, all of which affect the teenager.  Family therapy focuses on mending troubled relationships at home. During this therapy, family members are educating on how to iron their issues amicably without endangering the welfare of children. The rationale of this therapy is that serenity at home plays a critical role in protecting the teenager from mental health issues, such as depression.

What parents can do to protect their children from depression

  • Be a friend to your child and encourage talking-this will make him/her feel free to talk about anything, including his/her troubles.
  • Model resilient behavior– ensure your child has high self-esteem to help handle issues when they arise
  • Be supportive- teenagers may compare themselves with others. Ensure you provide what is required for your child to feel satisfied.
  • Allow him/her to make mistakes-being over-protective and having too high expectations may pressure the teenager, and lead him/her into depression
  • Use positive reinforcements-avoid harsh words that may make the child feel inadequate when disciplining them
  • Be a listener– always have time to listen to the child’s concerns and fears. This will help note onset of depression and solve it before aggravating it.
  • Seek immediate intervention if you suspect that your teenage child is experiencing depression.


Last Updated on October 16, 2021