Causes of Teen Depression

What are the causes of teen depression?

Adolescence is a time of tremendous stress. In fact, teenagers as a group are at very high risk of developing depression. Many of the characteristics of the developmental stage of adolescence can be one of the causes of teen depression. Adolescence is the time to separate from our families and begin to develop our own distinct identity. It can be a trying, exhaustive, stressful time in life.

Below are some of the challenges and stresses which can be causes of teen depression.


Puberty and Sexuality

Teens have tremendous pressure to be sexually active. Teens are inundated by the media with messages of what sexuality is. They struggle to figure out what defines an intimate relationship and how they should act as women or men. Pressure in this area is certainly one of the causes of teen depression.

Even as an adult, we may find sexual or intimate relationships confusing and challenging. In fact a large portion of my clients seek help because of relationship issues. Teens often don’t have the skills, experience or understanding to navigate through this difficult area. Obviously this is further complicated if a teen is struggling with homosexuality, a history of sexual or physical abuse, substance abuse, or exposure to unhealthy and dysfunctional male/ female relationships. Each of these can be causes of teen depression.

Broken Hearts and Failed Relationships

Love relationships are a major contributing cause of teen depression. After a breakup, both teen girls and boys can experience a major depression. They have a very difficult time sorting through the hurt and confused feelings and often take a long time recover.


Below is an excerpt from a poem that illustrates how difficult heart break can be:

I'm hurting so bad.

I can barely feel my heart beating.

I just want to fucking die!!!

When things seem to be getting better,

They're really just getting worse.

So many lies.

Lost of trust.

Broken hearts.

What’s happening?

How did things get this bad?

Why did i let all this happen?

I wish it would go away.

I wish i never met them.

I wish i didn’t love her.

Fitting In or Loneliness

Fitting in is a major developmental challenge for teens. They are figuring out who they are, what they stand for and what is important to them. In my experience, kids who think differently or are unique or special in some way are the ones at risk. They are more likely to question, think, and disagree with what they have been told. These are the kids who are not in the “in crowd”. Being different can be one of the causes of teen depression.

Teens are very vulnerable to loneliness, and feel this emotion intensely. Unfortunately because teenagers pull away from adults during adolescents, they are often perceived as brooding, moody and wanting to be alone. Feeling isolated from their peer group or from their family can lead to depression anger at themselves and anger at others. This is illustrated below in this poem by a 16 year old experiencing depression.

Will someone please give me a blanket?



They can’t.

You know why?

Cause no one’s there,

And no one cares.

All are tied up in their own lives.

But that’s ok

No one has to help me.

I just can’t wait,

For them all,

To go to their own hell.

Self esteem and Being Good at Something

Teens need to have a sense that they are valuable and important and good at something. This can come from being beautiful, smart, fun, artistic, athletic, or being good enough in all of these areas. A teen who does not feel special in any way or competent in any area can have low self esteem that may lead to depression


Conflict in the family and problems getting along with parents can also be a major source of depression in a teen. Several of the teens I work with describe their lives as being full of pressure to grow up but without any of the privileges of an adult. If the family struggles with financial problems, communication problems, substance abuse or any other issues these can be causes of teen depression.

Both kids who excel at school, and those who struggle can be susceptible to feeling pressure from academics that can be a cause of teen depression. Children with learning disabilities ( which often go undetected) may be constantly reminded of how difficult and challenging their lives are. Teens who are academically accelerated may feel the pressure to be the best and feel stress about things such as EOGS, SATS, and planning for college. I consistently hear these issues as sources of stress in the teens I work with.

Here is an excerpt from the journal of a depressed teen who had been recently hospitalized for depression:

I just got my report card a little bit ago. Yeah, I failed “sigh”. Today’s a “down” day. I feel really, really low today. I feel tired, slow, extremely depressed, hopeless and suicidal, can’t forget suicidal………….I just need to step up and act like the adult everyone thinks I’m not.

Although adolescence is a unique time in many ways, most factors which are considered a contributing cause of depression in adultscan also be a cause of depression in a teen.

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