One in five teenagers has clinical depression, and less than 30% of those teenagers receive therapy. Teenage depression is sometimes difficult to distinguish from other psychological problems, such as anxiety or attention deficit. Therefore, it is important to know the signs. With early detection, depression is one of the easiest disorders to remediate. Because teenage depression has several causes, it is important to get a diagnosis from a healthcare professional in the field of psychiatry. It is also important to know your child. Stress, a characteristic of adolescence, grieving, academic problems, and social conflicts, if not addressed, can lead to depression. The teenage years are filled with what Freud called “strum und angst,” meaning the emotional highs and lows that accompany both hormonal changes and, in some cases, hereditary. It is noted that teenagers are at a very high risk of suicide from depression.

When teens are depressed and suicidal, it is as if they are looking down a tunnel, and as they move down the tunnel, they run out of options to solve their problems. Ultimately, they may see suicide as the only solution. Depression has many characteristics: biological, environmental, and psychological, and it can take many forms, such as bipolar disorder. There is, in some cases, a hereditary link, and new studies implicate subtleties such as rainy seasons, light and dark. Teenagers that are depressed act differently than their adult counterparts. Teenagers tend to disconnect from their feelings and, therefore, though down, may not appear depressed. However, what is characteristic is a change in behavior.


  • It is important to look for changes in eating habits, sleeping habits, sexual behavior, school performance, social relationships, withdrawal, any food or substance abuse, sensitivity to correction, overreaction, tears or aggression, anger, agitation, distrust of authority, and lack of self-esteem. An overall malaise can often be observed, where children feel exhausted and have problems with simple everyday tasks.
  • In a sense, life has lost its joie de vive; children have lost their joy of living. This can be seen even in their physical appearance as well as the reflection of who they are: their room, their car, and other environmental surroundings. They may complain of physical aches and pains, headaches and stomach aches, or they may talk about dying and even start giving away some of their favorite possessions.


  • Remember, adolescence is a time of intense feeling, and besides the obvious biological cause, there is also the need to individuate and separate from adult authority. This process moves the adolescent toward their peers for support in this separation process. As a result, everything is exaggerated in its severity; fights with boyfriends, a bad grade, an argument with sibs or mom and dad. Knowing this, parents can create a safe space for their children where empathy becomes part of the way we communicate with our teens. Listen to your children – they will tell you everything. Be authentic. Adolescents look at parents with a critical eye and are very reactive to hypocrisy. Don’t set unrealistic goals for your children. Don’t pressure your children to fulfill your unfulfilled hopes and dreams – athletically, academically, or socially. Unrealistic expectations can make children feel undervalued, and this loss of self-esteem can lead to feelings of worthlessness, that there must be something wrong with them. Without adult coping skills, teens become oversensitive as one problem builds on another. Ultimately, there is a tipping point when children feel over-stressed. This leads to confusion and, many times, bad choices. Parents must parent, and they must model and teach the rules of life to their children, taking into account the emotional and physical transitions that their children are experiencing.

Using the empathic process, parents can teach their children coping skills to help them be aware of their feelings and actively deal with them. To be proactive rather than reactive will lower their stress and help protect them against depression. All teenagers want to feel loved and accepted. Help your children with social skills – teach them how to be a friend, so that they can make a friend. Give them direction with hobbies, including sports. Teach responsible outcomes for positive effort such an after-school job. Find out their passions, their interests, and help them participate in school clubs and other types of programs – and know your child’s history. If they have experienced familial divorce or the loss of a parent or a sibling, even a meaningful pet, then if necessary, seek professional help for your child.


Teenage depression is most successfully treated in a multi-disciplined way, meaning:

1. Psychotherapy.
2. Medication (when needed) – anti-depressants are very effective when called for and can change a child’s mental stasis in just a few weeks.
3. Behavior modification – which gives your child skills to become self-actualized as they learn to manage their own stress.

Remember – depression is a very treatable condition and requires each family member to know one another so that they can recognize a cry for help.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.