Causes of Depression in Teens

Teenagers aren’t exactly known to be rays of sunshine all the time. There are days when they become so moody that many parents ask themselves, “What gives?” So, as a parent, you give them the space they need while still trying to ensure they keep up with their responsibilities at home and school. When they eventually snap out of their moodiness, you breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that whatever that was, it has passed.

But if you notice that your teenager’s moodiness seems to be happening more frequently, you might worry that there could be something more than teenage angst. If you think they might be exhibiting signs of depression, let’s talk about the causes of teen depression, its symptoms, and finally, how to support them through this.

Causes of Depression in Teens

In most cases of adults and teens, there is no singular cause of depression. Instead, it is often a combination of genetic and environmental factors contributing to depression. Teens might experience depression because of:

  • Bullying in school
  • Academic pressure to be high-achieving and succeed
  • Performing poorly in academics or sports
  • Lacking a social support system from their peers
  • An existence of another type of mental health problem, such as anxiety

Teenagers, especially, are facing a unique challenge that has not been seen with previous generations: social media usage. There likely is not a teenager out there who doesn’t have at least one social media account. Whether that be Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter(X), teens have flocked to social media in great numbers. During the pandemic, these channels were the only outlets they had besides texting and video chatting to stay connected with their close friends, peers, or family members.

While it is fantastic that they have such an outlet, it’s massively impacting their mental health by:

  • Constantly comparing themselves to their peers, influencers, and celebrities
  • Causing the fear of missing out (FOMO) from social gatherings
  • Giving them less chances for face-to-face interactions
  • Disrupting their sleep patterns by late-night scrolling

Signs of Depression In Teens

Knowing what signs to look for is a huge piece of the puzzle. Some signs that your teenager might be experiencing depression are:

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Negative outlook or talk
  • Changes in hygienic upkeep of their appearance
  • Social isolation
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches

Depression Can Be Overcome

It’s hard as a parent to watch your child or teen struggle with mental health. It’s common for many parents to feel helpless and unsure of what they can do to help them. Here are some tips that can help your child during this period.

Show empathy

You might not be able to fully grasp everything that they have going on in their life. No matter how you slice it, their life as a teenager differs from your experience. While the basics are still there, it can help to recognize this. Even if you can’t fully understand it, validate their feelings by letting them know that you understand how challenging life can get.

While it might seem like a good idea to try and force them to open up, they should never feel coerced into doing something. Let them know that you will be there for them when they are ready to talk.

Focus on the positive

We don’t mean this in a “It can’t be that bad!” way. Instead, help them see some of the positive things that are happening around them. If they didn’t do great on a school test, but noticed they got a great grade on a project, applaud them for their hard work. No matter who you are, being recognized for your accomplishments can go a long way to lift your mood.


If you have noticed any of those changes or others for more than 2 weeks, don’t hesitate to encourage them to reach out for teen counseling. Together, we can help you and them find a way out of the darkness.

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor at Ammirati Counseling
Terri A. Ammirati, LCPC, has 25+ years of clinical experience. She is a Certified Gottman Therapist and presents Gottman's "The Art and Science of Love" couples workshop.

Terri specializes in empowering clients to strengthen their relationships. She works with all aspects of relational distress and provides solution-focused therapy.
Terri A. Ammirati