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Understanding Different Types of Teen Depression

Understanding Different Types of Teen Depression

Recognizing the type of teen depression can be difficult as signs and symptoms may differ from one teen to the next. While tears, isolation, and withdrawal from activities are common, some cases may manifest as anger, fatigue, or, in an unexpected turn of events, laughter. Besides that, teen depressive disorders vary. Therefore, understanding the types of teen depression can help you know how to approach your teenager best and what relevant interventions to seek.

There are various therapy options available to treat depression in teens, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, etc. Following Nexus Teen Academy’s commitment to fostering awareness, support, and treatment for teen mental health problems, this guide for parents covers all the kinds of teen depression, their signs & symptoms, treatments, and how they can support their child. Let’s begin by defining teen depression.

What is Teen Depression?

Teen depression is a serious mental health condition that affects how teenagers think, feel, and behave. Teen depression can manifest in various ways and can impact adolescents both emotionally and physically. It may affect their relationships, academic performance, and overall well-being. Without proper treatment and support, teen depression can lead to serious consequences, including academic difficulties, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Differentiating Between Depression and Normal Teen Mood Swings

Adolescence can be riddled with several ups and downs. During this period, teens deal with intense physical, emotional, and cognitive changes while exploring themselves and building an identity, which may lead to significant mood fluctuations. However, some lows may be more than just temporary feelings- they may signify a much bigger issue, such as teen depression.

To differentiate between depression and normal teen behavior, consider the length, intensity, and frequency of a teenager’s mood swings and their overall effects on teen functioning. Long, frequently occurring mood swings with severe effects on a teenager’s daily functioning often signify teen depression.

Common Types of Teen Depression

Common depressive disorders witnessed in teens include major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder, commonly known as hyperthermia.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Major depressive disorder is also known as clinical depression. It transcends common adolescent-specific ups and downs and affects teenagers’ bodies, moods, thoughts, and patterns. To show you how prevalent this type of teen depression is, a 2021 study discovered major depressive disorder in 20.1% of U.S. residents aged 12-17.

Signs and Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Although the symptoms of major depressive disorder may vary from one teen to the next, a teen who experiences the following during the same 2-week period may have a major depressive disorder:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Low self-worth
  • Suicidal thoughts and ideations
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia
  • Changes in body weight and appetite
  • A significant drop in energy
  • Frequent physical complaints
  • Hostility, irritability, and aggression.

Treatment Methods

Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) often combines psychotherapy, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to challenge negative thought patterns in teens, with antidepressant medications that rebalance brain chemicals. Regular monitoring by mental health professionals ensures treatment effectiveness and adjustment if necessary, offering a comprehensive approach to managing MDD and promoting long-term recovery and well-being.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Unlike major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder is a chronic type of depression that often surfaces and resurfaces over several years. Although it is not as severe as major depressive disorder, teenagers find it challenging to be upbeat, even on happy occasions.

Signs and Symptoms of Persistent Depressive Disorder

Since persistent depressive disorder comes and goes over the years, its symptoms may change over time. Teens who complain about the following for more than two months at a time may have a persistent depressive disorder:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Difficulties getting things done properly and on time
  • Avoidance of social activities
  • Sadness and emptiness
  • Feeling down
  • Exhaustion
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of intense guilt or worries about the past
  • Hopelessness

Treatment Methods

While the treatment for Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) shares similarities with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), there are nuanced differences. Treatment for PDD may also include psychotherapy, such as Teen Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), aimed at addressing chronic negative thought patterns and low self-esteem over an extended period. Antidepressant medications may lean towards selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) due to the chronic nature of PDD.

Less Common Types of Depression in Teens

Depressive disorders differ in prevalence. Here are the less common types of depression in teenagers:

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As the name suggests, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is influenced by changes in seasons. Teens with this type of disorder experience depressive symptoms around the same time each year- mostly starting at the beginning of fall, proceeding into winter, and ending during spring or summer.

Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) symptoms start mild and increase in severity as seasons progress. Here are common SAD indicators:

  • Feeling sad and down most of the day (on most days)
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Excessive sleep
  • Intense carbohydrate craving
  • Overeating and significant weight gain
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Frequent suicidal thoughts

Note that seasonal affective disorder symptoms may be season-specific. Fall and winter SAD may cause oversleeping, significant changes in appetite, weight gain, low energy, and tiredness, while spring and summer SAD is often accompanied by insomnia, weight loss, poor appetite, anxiety, agitation, and increased irritability.

Treatment Methods

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) often includes light therapy, where teens are exposed to bright artificial light to mimic sunlight and regulate their circadian rhythms. Psychotherapy and antidepressant medications may also be used to address symptoms. Regular sessions with a mental health professional ensure personalized treatment and symptom management for teens with SAD.

Bipolar Depression

Bipolar depression results from bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that causes unusual shifts in moods, concentration, energy, and activity levels. Teens facing Bipolar depression experience intense emotional highs and lows, the latter being regarded as depressive episodes.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Depression

Bipolar depression share the same characteristics as major depressive disorder, such as intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness, tearfulness, loss of interest in almost all activities, significant weight loss, sleep problems, loss of energy/fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt, concentration challenges and suicidal attempt and ideation.

Treatment Strategies

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, and so is bipolar depression. However, its related mood swings and depressive episodes can be managed or treated with medications and psychotherapy. Holistic treatment approaches, such as exercise, alternative therapies, and dietary choices, should also be incorporated into the treatment plan for mood stabilization.

Emerging and Uncommon Types of Teen Depression

Advanced studies and research projects have discovered emerging and uncommon types of teen depression worth exploring. Here’s what you should know about atypical and psychotic depressive disorders:

Atypical Depression

Atypical depression is a unique depressive disorder. It is marked by short-lived mood improvements following positive events (also known as mood reactivity), which is lacking in typical depression. It also causes excessive sleep and begins at a relatively early age. Other unique symptoms include increased appetite and hypersomnia.

However, teens with atypical depression still experience other depressive symptoms, such as prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, irritability, increased frustration, and concentration difficulties.

Treatment and Management

Atypical depression treatment varies depending on the condition’s severity. Common remedies include psychotherapy, pharmacological interventions, and medication-assisted treatment. Teens are also advised to adopt lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and nutritious meals.

Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression is also known as delusional depression. Teens with this type of depression have co-occurring major depression and psychosis. A combination of both disorders results in fatigue, changes in appetite, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, delusions, and hallucinations.

Another less common symptom is psychomotor agitation, characterized by an inability to sit still and constant fidgeting. Extreme cases of psychotic depression may also cause psychomotor retardation, where thoughts and physical movements become slow.

Treatment Strategies

Psychotic depression can be treated through a combination of antidepressants and antipsychotics, talk therapy, and social support. Electroconvulsive therapy can be used if antidepressants and medications fail to work.

Common Causes of Teen Depression

We have discussed the different types of teen depressive disorders. However, what causes or triggers them? Here is how teen genetics, biology, environment, and psychology can lead to teen depression:


Depression can run in families. Teens whose blood relatives struggle with depression may end up with a depressive disorder due to inherited traits. However, not every teen from such families ends up depressed. Also, depression still affects teens from families without a history of depression.

Biological Factors

Here are the main biological factors associated with teen depression:

  • Hormones: Hormones play a major role in coordinating different body functions. A hormonal imbalance can interfere with normal body functioning, triggering or exacerbating teen depression.
  • Brain Chemistry: The human brain relies on neurotransmitters to communicate with itself and other body parts. An abnormality or impairment in brain neurotransmitters can alter how nerve receptors and systems function, leading to depression.
  • Medical Conditions: Teen depression may be a sign of an underlying medical issue, such as hypothyroidism. Chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease have also been linked to depression.

Additionally, teen mental health disorders such as anxiety and anorexia nervosa may also cause depression.

Environmental Factors

A teenager’s environment can also lead to or trigger depression. Common environmental factors that may be responsible for a teenager’s depressive disorder include the following:

  • Family dysfunction
  • Parental mental health or substance abuse issues
  • Negative peer relationships
  • Bullying
  • Intense academic pressure
  • Economic challenges, e.g., poverty and lack of access to resources and opportunities
  • Cultural and societal expectations
  • Drugs and substance abuse.

Psychological Factors

A teen’s psychology influences a range of mental health conditions, including depression. Here are common depression-related psychological factors:

  • Trauma-Teens exposed to traumatic experiences such as neglect, abuse, and violence have a heightened risk of being depressed.
  • Persistent negative thought patterns and self-criticism
  • Cognitive distortions- distorted thought patterns can lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Negative personality traits, e.g., low self-esteem and perfectionism
  • Emotional regulation difficulties
  • Emotional suppression
  • Lack of problem-solving skills
  • Ineffective/unhealthy coping strategies
  • Identity development issues
  • Insecure attachment patterns
  • Negative peer influence
  • Social comparison

Regardless of the cause, we offer tailored treatment at Nexus Teen Academy to help adolescents overcome different depressive disorders. For comprehensive treatment, we have dual diagnosis treatment programs for depressed teens with co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse.

Empowering Parents: Understanding and Supporting Your Teen

You have a major role to play in teen depression prevention and treatment. As the primary caregiver, you should build a supportive environment and actively participate in your teenager’s treatment. Here is an in-depth exploration:

Building a Supportive Environment to Prevent Teen Depression

A supportive home environment allows teens to express their feelings, seek help, and engage in therapy, improving treatment and recovery outcomes. Here is how you can build a supportive home environment during and after teen depression treatment:

  • Regularly checking in with them
  • Finding ways to support and encourage them.
  • Reminding them of your love and support. Let your teenager know you are there for them.
  • Acknowledging and understanding their emotions
  • Fostering independence by allowing them to make decisions and slowly increasing responsibilities.
  • Acknowledging and celebrating progress
  • Working together with them for new routine development and goal-setting.
  • Allowing them time and space to be on their own.
  • Modeling healthy behaviors.
  • Engaging in collaborative conflict resolution.
  • Setting healthy boundaries and reinforcing them.

How to Communicate with their Teen Facing Depression?

When communicating with your depressed teen, it’s crucial to listen actively, validating their emotions while refraining from downplaying their experiences. As a parent/caregiver, you should encourage open dialogue by expressing genuine concern and offering reassurance that they’re not alone in their struggles.

Taking the time to educate yourself about depression can provide valuable insights into their experiences and challenges, fostering a deeper understanding and empathy. By creating a supportive environment where their feelings are acknowledged and respected, you can help them feel heard and supported on their journey toward healing.

Know When to Seek Professional Help for Your Teen

If you notice persistent symptoms of depression lasting more than two weeks, such as sadness, irritability, changes in sleep or appetite, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it’s important to take action. Additionally, if your adolescent’s behavior significantly impacts their daily functioning, academic performance, or relationships, or if they express a desire to harm themselves or others, seeking professional help is essential.

Trust your instincts, and don’t hesitate to contact teen mental health treatment centers, Arizona, such as Nexus Teen Academy, for an evaluation and appropriate treatment. Early intervention can significantly impact your teen’s recovery and overall well-being.

Parents’ Involvement in Teen Depression Treatment

Parental involvement in teen depression treatment fosters tailored treatment planning and helps build a supportive environment. At Nexus Teen Academy, we offer family therapy to allow parents, teens, caregivers, and siblings to participate in their loved one’s treatment. This therapeutic approach allows families to identify and address issues within the family dynamics. Here are the reasons why you must try teen family therapy;

  • Improved understanding of the teenager’s condition.
  • Increased empathy
  • Improved communication
  • Strengthened familial bonds
  • Enhanced conflict resolution
  • Improved family relationships
  • Development of healthy boundaries
  • Clarified family roles

Additionally, it is easier for teens to practice the skills and strategies learned during treatment at home when their families are involved in treatment. Therefore, besides creating a supportive environment, family involvement in treatment creates a conducive environment for at-home therapy reinforcement.

Teen Depression Treatment at Nexus Teen Academy

The Teen Depression Treatment Program at Nexus Teen Academy provides specialized care for adolescents struggling with depression. Our teen residential treatment facility in Arizona offers a comprehensive program designed to support teens in their recovery journey. In a safe and nurturing environment, teens receive personalized attention from our highly trained mental health professionals who are available round-the-clock. Our evidence-based treatment modalities, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based interventions, empower teens with the skills they need to overcome depression and build resilience.

Additionally, we understand the importance of academic success, so we’ve partnered with Fusion Global Academy to provide customized academic support services, ensuring teens can stay on track with their schoolwork during treatment. If you’re a parent concerned about your teen’s mental health treatment, please call (480) 485-34247.


Teen depression is a severe but treatable mental health condition. We have covered the different types of teen depressive disorders, complete with their signs, symptoms, and recommended treatment interventions. You should be vigilant and proactive to identify these signs early enough for timely intervention.

We are dedicated to supporting teens and families navigate mental health issues at Nexus Teen Academy. Therefore, contact us for expert guidance and compassionate care if you are worried about your teen’s mental health.


1. What role does sleep play in teen depression, and how can I help my teen establish healthy sleep habits?

Disrupted sleep patterns, such as insomnia or oversleeping, are common symptoms of depression. Encourage a consistent sleep schedule, limit screen time before bed, and create a relaxing bedtime routine to promote healthy sleep habits for your teen.

2. Are there alternative therapies, like art therapy, that can benefit teens with depression?

Alternative therapies like art therapy or animal-assisted therapy can complement traditional treatments for teen depression. These approaches provide creative outlets, emotional expression, and social support, promoting overall well-being for teens.

3. How can I effectively communicate with my teen’s school teachers about their depression and academic needs?

Parents should communicate openly with their teen’s school teachers about their depression and academic needs. They can share treatment plans, accommodations, and support strategies to ensure a supportive and understanding environment for their teen.

4. How can I prioritize self-care and manage my own emotions while supporting my teen through their depression journey?

Parents can prioritize self-care by setting boundaries, seeking support from loved ones or professionals, and engaging in activities that recharge them. By taking care of their well-being, they’ll be better equipped to support your teen through their depression journey.

5. What should I do if my teen refuses to engage in treatment for their depression?

If your teen refuses treatment, gently express your concerns, validate their feelings, and offer support. Encourage open communication and explore alternative options, such as involving a trusted adult or seeking a second opinion from a mental health professional.

6. How can I recognize signs of improvement or relapse in my teen’s depression, and what should I do in each case?

Signs of improvement include increased interest in activities, improved mood, and better functioning. Signs of relapse may include withdrawal, changes in sleep or appetite, and a decline in mood. Monitor closely, seek professional guidance, and adjust treatment as needed.

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