7 Signs A Young Child or Teenager is Depressed

Sad days can come and go. As children, there tends to be a lot of “firsts”, intensifying the feelings with every new occasion popping up. A friend moving, a low grade, a heartbreak – all can lead to these sadder days.

But if a teenager or child feels persistently sad and moody, affecting the way they do everyday tasks, they may fall under a depressive spiral that goes beyond a short-term, situational depression.

Here are 7 signs a young child or teen could be depressed.

Overreliance on a smartphone

Do you take out your phone as a source of safety when you’re anxious or during awkward situations?

Phones are important in our daily interactions with the world. However, heavy smartphone usage is also linked to depression. While busying yourself through your phone can provide instant gratification at first, it also pulls you away from forming meaningful connections and can worsen your mood in the long term. 

If you spend more time scrolling through your social media, it may be time to reassess your smartphone usage. 

Withdrawal from friends and family

Do they go far from their friends and family, not opening up at all?

Social withdrawal is a common sign of depression. According to University of Kansas professor Stephen Ilardi, people who are clinically depressed feel a strong urge to pull back from friends and family, which can end up worsening their depression. 

Counteracting the urge isn’t easy, but it’s the first step to overcome feelings of isolation. Reach out and reconnect with your friends and family. Schedule fun hangouts with them and allow yourself to be open to them again. It may be hard at first, but it’ll allow you to let people in your life again.

Difficulty concentrating

Does talking to them feel like they’re not listening sometimes?

According to behavioral therapist Natascha Santos, the processing speed to take in information efficiently is impaired when people are depressed. When parts of the brain involving memory retrieval face irregularities, depressive symptoms like concentration difficulty can occur. This can lead to trouble in school and home, especially when no one believes or supports the child— worsening the depressive state.

Low energy

Do they always complain about how tired they are all the time?

According to research published by Helia Ghanean et al., fatigue is a very common occurrence for people who suffer from major depressive disorder — affecting about 90% of those who’ve been diagnosed. Low energy can make it hard for these kids to do everyday tasks like getting out of bed, washing their face, or brushing their teeth. It can also worsen the other symptoms of depression like failing to eat a proper diet, which can be a tough cycle to break if not properly managed.

Feelings of guilt

Do they always talk about how they feel like they don’t deserve nice things?

Feelings of guilt can cause a great toll on people, especially young children. This can stem from a troubled family environment growing up, social pressure, culture, among a host of other factors. But it doesn’t have to be that way — and there are many ways to overcome these feelings. Reframing the situation with a therapist or someone you trust can help you move past the guilt. Forgiving yourself and taking responsibility also goes a long way.

Loss of interest in fun activities

Have they stopped participating in things that they once considered to be fun?

They may be experiencing something called “anhedonia” — or a loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. If a child rapidly develops signs of disinterest towards life or their hobbies, it could be one of the key symptoms of depression. They could also feel other symptomatic signs show up alongside this disinterest, like anxiety, stress, and an overall stuckness in life. Combating this will require taking small steps in the right direction — everyday tasks that make you a little bit better each time.

Changes in eating habits

Do you notice them exhibiting poor eating habits?

Whether you’re eating and sleeping too much or too little, falling into the extremes can be a sign of depression for kids. In particular, overeating can be a way for some kids to cope with difficult feelings, says clinical psychologist Susan Albers of a Cleveland Clinic. The reason why you may look for sugary food and carbs is that they help increase the levels of serotonin in our brains, which boosts our mood. 

Eating too little, on the other hand, can be caused by a diminished motivation. You may be feeling too anxious, worried, or hopeless about things going around you that food doesn’t cross your mind anymore. 

Closing Thoughts

Do you know anyone who shows these symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

That’s all for now Psych2Goers!


Soong, J. (July 8, 2021) 6 Common Depression Traps to Avoid. webMD. Retrieved at https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/depression-traps-and-pitfalls

Robinson et al. (July 2021) Smartphone Addiction. Retrieved at https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/smartphone-addiction.htm

Theobald, M. (Jan 2013) Depression, Memory Loss, and Concentration. Retrieved at https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/depression-memory-loss-and-concentration/

Barhum, L.(Aug 2020)  Why does depression make you feel tired? Retrieved at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322264#causes

Cherry, K. (Jan 2021) 5 Things to Do If You Feel a Loss of Interest. Retrieved at https://www.verywellmind.com/things-to-do-if-you-feel-a-loss-of-interest-5093337

Uscher, J. (June 2011) 3 Food Traps to Avoid When You’re Depressed Retrieved at https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/depression-food-traps

Ghanean, H., Ceniti, A.K. & Kennedy, S.H. Fatigue in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder: Prevalence, Burden and Pharmacological Approaches to Management. CNS Drugs 32, 65–74 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40263-018-0490-z

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