Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions.\u00a0 Many people think of depression as a disorder that primarily impacts adults.\u00a0 However, it also impacts a significant number of teens.\u00a0 As with adults, a bout of depression in teens may range from mild to severe.\u00a0 It may last for a couple weeks, several months, or a year or longer.\u00a0 For some teens, depression may elicit suicidal thoughts and even result in death by suicide.\u00a0 Needless to say, it should never be ignored or dismissed as a typical \u201csymptom\u201d or phase of adolescence. The clinical picture of adolescent depression often looks quite different than adult depression.\u00a0 This is one of the many reasons why parents sometimes completely miss the signs.\u00a0 They often misinterpret things like irritability, laziness, excessive sleep, low motivation, and moodiness \u2013 attributing them to adolescent hormones and assuming they\u2019ll eventually pass. Symptoms of depression can vary significantly, so one depressed teen may look quite different than another.\u00a0 Gender often makes a difference as well.\u00a0 Adolescent boys battling depression may be more withdrawn, irritable, restless, or hostile, while adolescent girls may be more tearful, sad, agitated or moody. Here are some of the most common warning signs of depression in teens: Low energy and loss of motivation If your usually active, energetic teen has become increasingly lazy, it could be a symptom of depression.\u00a0 Depression robs a person of energy, enthusiasm and excitement.\u00a0 It becomes very difficult just to get up out of bed or off the couch, let alone to get moving. What may look like laziness may be an inability to find the energy to do anything.\u00a0 Take note if your teen is often lying around the house doing nothing, feeling listless, or complaining of boredom \u2013 especially if this is a significant change from normal behavior. Even if it\u2019s not new behavior, it could be due to underlying depression that\u2019s been there for a long time. Isolation and withdrawal Not all teens are gregarious extroverts who love spending time with friends and family.\u00a0 Some teens are happy investing significant amounts of time exploring solo interests.\u00a0 But most teens, regardless of where they fall on the introvert \u2013 extrovert continuum, enjoy spending at least some of their time with others, especially their closest friends. Social isolation and becoming increasingly withdrawn may signal depression. \u00a0Depressed teens may frequently go off by themselves or spend hours on end in their bedroom, pushing everyone else away.\u00a0 Social events \u2013 particularly those they once enjoyed \u2013 are no longer fun or interesting.\u00a0 Time with family may take too much energy or feel uncomfortable.\u00a0 They may find it too difficult to put on an upbeat fa\u00e7ade or show enthusiasm when their internal world has become dark and bleak. Depression can take a serious toll on relationships with both friends and family, creating even more internal pain for the suffering teen.\u00a0 Friends begin to resent being shut out, pushed away, and having plans cancelled time and again. Some friends eventually give up and walk away, leaving the teen feeling more hurt, misunderstood, and alone.\u00a0 Family members often get tired of and frustrated with the teen\u2019s sullen, moody, \u201cleave me alone\u201d attitude.\u00a0 When loved ones attempt to reach out, they\u2019re often met with hostility, irritability, or the socially acceptable but tiresome \u201ceverything\u2019s fine (so leave me alone)\u201d response. Depressed teens often feel that no one truly cares or could possibly understand them.\u00a0 They may also feel that they\u2019re not worthy of anyone\u2019s time or love. It\u2019s often easier to just shut out the whole world than risk having their worst fears validated. Notable changes in sleep or appetite As mentioned earlier, teens who sleep excessively may not be doing so out of laziness.\u00a0 Granted, teens require more sleep than adults due to growth spurts and other factor unique to their age.\u00a0 But depression may be playing a major role in hypersomnia as well.\u00a0 Insomnia can also be an indicator of depression, especially if anxiety is also present.\u00a0 If your teen constantly struggles to get out of bed on school days, wants to sleep well past noon on the weekends, or needs frequent naps, don\u2019t just assume it\u2019s normal adolescent behavior. Staying up late every night to watch TV or spend time on the computer may also be a way of avoiding a nightly battle with depression-induced insomnia. Just as sleep may increase or decrease due to depression, appetite changes are also a common symptom.\u00a0 Some teens will start eating more than usual, while others lose interest in food and struggle to eat anything.\u00a0 Increased eating, especially starchy comfort foods high in sugar or salt, \u00a0may also be a way to soothe or \u201cstuff\u201d painful emotions.\u00a0 Unfortunately, an increase in appetite \u2013 especially combined with no energy or motivation to exercise \u2013 quickly leads to unwanted pounds, lowered self-esteem and self-loathing, and even more feelings of depression. While it\u2019s not always the case with depression, it\u2019s not uncommon for the pattern to be either a combination of increased sleep and appetite, or difficulties sleeping with a decrease in appetite. Loss of Interest \/ Feelings of Apathy One of the hallmarks of depression in both adults and adolescents is a loss of interest in anything and everything they once enjoyed.\u00a0 With teens, this apathetic attitude is often expressed with phrases like \u201cwho cares,\u201d \u201cI don\u2019t care,\u201d \u201cI don\u2019t know,\u201d or \u201cwhatever.\u201d\u00a0 For normal teens, this time of life should be filled with a variety of activities and experiences such as sports and other extra-curricular activities, hobbies, spending time with friends, dating, movies and music.\u00a0 Depressed teens, however, tend to lose interest in almost everything.\u00a0 Having fun and experiencing joy become difficult, if not impossible. Not to mention, everything begins to take far too much effort. Interests and goals may change often during adolescence. However, \u00a0it\u2019s important to pay attention if your teen suddenly drops out of a much-loved sport or activity (e.g. quits the football team or no longer wants to take dance lessons).\u00a0 This could be a possible sign of depression and not just a change of heart. Poor School Performance, Increased Absences Depression makes it difficult to concentrate, focus, make decisions and think clearly.\u00a0 It also causes fatigue and lethargy.\u00a0 Each of these things can have an adverse impact on your teen\u2019s academic performance (as well as his or her performance at a job or in sports and other activities).\u00a0 Increased absences may also occur as part of the desire to isolate or because schoolwork simply takes too much effort.\u00a0 Depressed teens may also find it too draining to maintain an upbeat fa\u00e7ade several hours a day, five days a week.\u00a0 Constant interaction with friends, classmates, and teachers can feel very draining. When grades begin to suffer, depression often worsens.\u00a0 This is especially true for a teen who\u2019s planning to go to college, as a drop in GPA can quickly ruin the chance of getting into a prestigious or competitive college. If he or she is already attending college, poor grades or frequent absences can lead to a suspension or being kicked out altogether. Drug or Alcohol Abuse Many teens experiment with alcohol or drugs at some point, often due to peer pressure, curiosity, or the desire to \u201cfit in\u201d or \u201clook cool.\u201d\u00a0 But some teens turn to substances for a much more serious reason.\u00a0 They use them as a means of escape \u2013 a way to self-medicate painful symptoms of depression or other mental health disorders.\u00a0 If your teen is abusing alcohol or drugs (including \u201clegitimate\u201d prescription drugs that aren\u2019t prescribed for him or her), it needs to be addressed.\u00a0 An evaluation by a mental health professional can help determine if depression or another disorder is part of the problem, and suggest the best treatment approach. Angry or Irritable Mood While depression is often associated with profound feelings of sadness, sadness may not be the observable (or even conscious) emotion.\u00a0 Many depressed teens become irritable or angry, acting out their painful feelings. Their anger is often aimed at their parents, but friends, siblings, coworkers, and other adults may feel the brunt of it as well.\u00a0 Lashing out verbally can be a sign of thinly veiled depression.\u00a0 Attempts to cope with internal anguish \u2013 e.g. loss of hope, excess guilt, grief, pessimism, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, and despair \u2013 are often expressed in the form of sarcasm, aggression, hostility, cynicism and harsh criticism. Hopelessness Hopelessness is a very common part of depression.\u00a0 For teens, this is partially because every negative event or feeling often seems so big, so powerful, so major, so life-altering, so \u201cforever.\u201d For example, the painful end of a three-month romantic relationship can feel like the end of the world to a 16-year-old who\u2019s never dated before.\u00a0 Most adults have a more realistic perspective when a relationship ends, knowing that the pain will eventually pass and someone new will come into their life. Teens lack that perspective because they simply don\u2019t have the life experience. \u00a0And that can quickly lead to an overwhelming sense of hopelessness in a vulnerable teen. Another reason teens are particularly vulnerable to feelings of hopelessness is because they have little control over their lives. Unlike most adults, they don\u2019t have the luxury of finding a new home or a new school if they are in a difficult or unbearably painful situation.\u00a0 For example, adults can (usually) end a toxic relationship with a spouse, significant other, or boss.\u00a0 Teens, however, have little to no options if they live in a toxic home environment or endure relentless bullying at school.\u00a0 The harsh realization that they are trapped or stuck in an unbearable situation for a few or several more years can dangerously fuel their sense of hopelessness. Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior One of the greatest dangers of depression (and especially feelings of \u00a0hopelessness) is that it can trigger suicidal thoughts.\u00a0 While people commit suicide for a variety of reasons, hopelessness is one of the greatest motivators.\u00a0 Hope is what gives people the courage to keep going during times of crisis, pain, or despair.\u00a0 Without it, suicide often appears to be the only solution.\u00a0 Teens, who are naturally short-sighted and impulsive anyway, are especially prone to regarding suicide as the best (and only) means of escape. The catch-22 is that most depressed teens keep their thoughts and feelings of hopelessness and suicide to themselves.\u00a0 If suicide is regarded as especially taboo (e.g. due to religious beliefs), most teens will be even more secretive about how they are feeling. This is usually due to fear of being reprimanded, ridiculed, or punished for such sinful, foolish, or selfish thoughts.\u00a0 The mere mention of suicide is often shunned in highly religious homes, making a depressed, hopeless teen feel even more hopeless because he or she can\u2019t confide in anyone. Some teens reveal their feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide in subtle ways.\u00a0 For example, they may hint at not having a future or give their most cherished possessions to friends or loved ones.\u00a0 They may talk about being a burden or suggest that everyone would be better off if they were no longer around. Other teens are much more straightforward with regard to how they\u2019re feeling and what they\u2019re planning.\u00a0 They may post \u201cgoodbye\u201d statements on Facebook or other social media sites.\u00a0 Some will state several times that they wish they were dead or threaten to kill themselves.\u00a0 If no one takes them seriously, this can increase the risk of a suicide attempt by 1) reinforcing their belief that they don\u2019t matter or have a voice and 2) making it easy for them to carry out a suicide plan.\u00a0 There\u2019s nothing more tragic than hearing a grieving parent say something like, \u201cIf only I\u2019d taken my child seriously.\u00a0 I thought she (or he) was just being dramatic (or manipulative or seeking attention)\u201d. \u00a0 For Parents Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents. Take any and all warning signs of depression and suicide seriously.\u00a0 Parenting is hard enough, but it\u2019s even more difficult if your teen is struggling with depression.\u00a0 If your teen is expressing anything that suggests feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide, or displaying any of the signs of depression listed above, don\u2019t ignore it.\u00a0 Don\u2019t make the mistake of assuming it\u2019s just hormones or a phase of adolescence that will pass soon enough. Reach out to your teen.\u00a0 Don\u2019t pressure, ridicule, shame, or lecture.\u00a0 Do calmly and gently express genuine concern and show real support. \u00a0Make sure your teen knows that you are always willing to listen and help in any way you can (and be sure to follow through on that promise). If you suspect that your teen is struggling with depression, set up an appointment for an evaluation with a mental health professional.\u00a0 With proper treatment \u2013 which typically includes psychotherapy and, in some cases, medication as well \u2013 symptoms of depression can be significantly reduced and even overcome.\u00a0 Don\u2019t let your teen suffer in silence, and please don\u2019t ignore the signs and risk a tragic outcome.