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10 Most Common Depression Symptoms in Adults, Teenagers, and Children and How to Cope with Them

Updated: Sep 12, 2018



Depression Symptoms Among Adults


Depression is one of the most common concerns among individuals who seek therapy [1]. This is likely due to the fact that 300 million people a year experience depression symptoms [2].


A crucial point to know about depression symptoms is that they will present differently in each individual. In other words, your depression symptoms may look very different than your friend’s symptoms.


Just like when someone states that he or she is in “pain,” “depression” can feel and look very different among individuals. It is important to note that there is a large range of feelings, behaviors, and thoughts that can occur within someone with depression.


One key factor that I ask many clients is how different are they feeling and behaving from their typical feelings and behaviors.


300 million people a year experience depression symptoms

Relationship Factors and Depression


First, depression symptoms often impact your intimate relationships. Usually, half of couples in struggling relationships have at least one partner that is experiencing depression symptoms [3].


Although it is difficult to identify which problem came first—the depression or the relationship issues—both problems can worsen the other. When one partner has depression symptoms, the couple will have more hostility and tension towards each other, engage in more negative conversations, and attempt to control their partner [4]. Often times this leads to a relationship fight cycle that can be difficult to break.


Power imbalance in relationships can also influence women facing depression [5]. Meaning that women who do not feel like an equal in their intimate relationship may continue to feel depressed when other factors (like a new career) change.


This is probably why women with marital problems may not improve on their depression symptoms with medication alone [6]. Couple or marital therapy, in combination with medication, is often recommended when one partner is experiencing depression [7].


Depression Symptoms in Adults


Below is a list of depression symptoms that I frequently hear from my teenage and adult clients. You or someone you love may experience some or all of these symptoms. They can also change in duration and intensity.


1. Changes in Sleep

You may have difficulty sleeping, feeling restless, or insomnia. Others report sleeping an excessive amount.


2. Loss of interest in favorite activities

You may lose interest in certain activities that you previously enjoyed or you may have trouble concentrating.


3. Negative moods

One of the most common depressive symptoms is a change in moods. You may experience anxiety, sadness, guilt, shame, and hopelessness.


4. Changes in eating habits

You may experience changes in eating habits—anything from excessive hunger to a complete loss of appetite. As a result, weight gain or loss are common symptoms as well.


5. Sensitivity/Touchiness

Excessive crying and irritability are common depressive symptoms reported by individuals.


6. Change in productivity

Related to the symptom above, lack of interest in activities, you may experience a decrease in productivity. Others may experience a drastic increase in productivity. In order to try to shake the depressive feelings, some may throw themselves into work and try to distract themselves


7. Preoccupied with thoughts

Individuals who experience depressive symptoms often find themselves preoccupied with random, insignificant thoughts. The smallest “problems” or snags can cause you to dwell on it.


8. Unable to be “in the moment” with others

Related to the previous depression symptom, you may have a difficult time being in the moment with others. You may also find yourself upset about something from the past or worried about the future. Enjoying the moment is difficult for individuals with depression.


9. Changes in appearance

Individuals often lose interest in maintaining personal hygiene. Some people may also get complete makeovers in order to try to rid their depression.


10. Overly enthusiastic or happy

In order to try and “get out of it,” you may put on a happy face and attempt to shake depression. It’s important to note that some individuals appear happy, light-hearted, and carefree. These moods are often a mask. Think about famous comedians like Robin Williams or Jim Carrey, both of which have discussed their struggles with depression.


Some individuals appear happy, light-hearted, and carefree.

Defeating Adult Depression Symptoms


If the depression is interfering with your life more often than not, please seek out a family therapist and speak to your primary care physician immediately.


A combination of medications and talk therapy are the best forms of treatment [8]. Depression is often a chemical imbalance or caused by a genetic predisposition that you may not be able to overcome without the help of medication.


If you feel that your depression symptoms do not yet warrant the need for medical attention, there is one technique that I have may be fairly effective.


First, give the depression an external identity. In other words, make it its own separate being. It sounds childish but just go with me for a minute. If you take a characteristic and make it a separate entity, it no longer feels like it is a part of you.


Instead, it will feel like a small annoyance that comes into your life every now and again. It will also begin to feel that you can control and defeat the problem, rather than being a target. As a disclaimer, this technique has minimal affect on individuals who do have a chemical imbalance. But, it doesn’t hurt to give this technique a shot. There really isn’t much to lose.


To create an identity for the depression, give it a name, any name will do. Anything from depression monster to Fred will work as a suitable name.


To provide an example, I will use the name Ms. Misery. Next, what does Ms. Misery look like? If we are going to give the depression its separate entity, you should know what it looks like.


You can draw or paint the figure or even create it with play-doh. Close your eyes and get creative. What do you see when Ms. Misery bothers you at home or work? Is she large or small, tall or skinny, pink or blue?


By giving yourself a figure/creature to look at, you can start to interact with and defeat him or her.


After giving it a name or physical body, you can now start to “interact with” with the problem. Below you will find a worksheet to use in order to start further understanding how the problem interferes in your life and how you can overcome it.


For more help with overcoming depression, please use my depression worksheet!


Signs of Depression in Teenagers



Relationship Factors and Depression


Depression symptoms will often cause problems within the family unit [9]. Many parents will become frustrated with their adolescent or teenagers’ behaviors rather than looking at what their child is experiencing—possibly depression.


For example, I have seen many teenagers whose parents report their teenagers decrease in social activities, a drop in grades, physiological symptoms, or risky sexual behavior.


Parents will often discipline their child’s behaviors, in an effort to decrease the negative behavior. Unfortunately, the discipline may cause the teenager to feel more depressed and further push them into a downward spiral.


I recommend first screening for the symptoms and asking your teenager, from a calm and nonjudgmental space, if they are feeling depressed or down. Seeking out a family therapist may be crucial due to the crucial stage that teenagers’ brains are currently in.


The frontal lobe, which controls decision-making and planning, is not fully developed until someone is in their mid to late-20s [10]. Teenagers may possibly react to the depression in very harmful ways because the human brain is unable to make thoughtful plans and decision.


But first, review the list of symptoms below and begin an open conversation with your teenager.


Teenager Depression Symptoms


Below is a list of symptoms that are frequently reported from teenagers with depression. Teenagers may experience some or all of these symptoms. Similar to adults, symptoms in teenagers can also change in length and intensity.


1. Physiological symptoms

Many teenagers with depressive symptoms experience symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, or pain in other areas of their body.


2. Lack of interest in activities

Many teenagers often experience a decrease in their favorite activities. Individuals will lose interest in their hobbies, activities, sports, etc.


3. Difficulty concentrating

A common depression symptom among all genders and ages is difficulty concentrating. Many teenagers will report that they have trouble concentrating in school, at their job, and while completing various tasks.


4. Excessive guilt

Excessive guilt reported by teenagers with depression symptoms can either present as the individual “beating themselves up” for small mistakes or decisions or are afraid to make future decisions for fear they will be “wrong.”


5. Irresponsible behavior

Many teenagers with depression display very irresponsible behavior that can appear as out of character for them. Some teenagers will present rebellious behaviors, such as running away from home, stop working on schoolwork, risky sexual behaviors, and may be smoking or engaging in substance use.


6. Eating Habits Change

Like adults with depression, teenagers may experience changes in their eating habits. For example, teenagers will often reduce their eating habits due to a decrease in appetite or overeat in an effort to cope with their depression.


7. Sadness

Not surprising, teenagers will often display sadness when depressed. Behaviors such as crying, feeling weepy, and a decrease in laughter will indicate if a teenager may be experiencing depression.


8. Anxiety

Anxiety is another common emotion experienced by teens that have depression symptoms. A pounding heart, difficulty breathing, and preoccupation with worry can occur while someone is also depressed.


9. Social isolation

A big indicator that a teenager is struggling with difficult emotions and feelings is how they treat their friends. Teens will often isolate themselves from their peers, family members, and others when they are depressed. Activities that they previously enjoyed with friends will do longer be a desirable endeavor.


10. Conduct problems

Depression symptoms often co-occur with conduct problems during adolescent and teenage years [9].


Many teenagers often experience a decrease in their favorite activities.

Defeating Teen Depression Symptoms


Defeating depression symptoms in teenagers should be handled delicately due to their brain development during this time.


I highly recommend seeking out a family therapist if you are concerned about your teenager.


Numerous reasons why I have seen teenagers fall into depression include: sexual or physical abuse, an excessive amount of pressure from parents or school, a breakup with their significant other, or witnessing relationship issues between their parents.


The first starting point when helping and supporting your teenager needs to be creating a safe space for them to talk. There is no need to respond during the conversation. Responses tend to make teenagers feel judged and then shutdown.


Asking questions about what the teenager believes would be beneficial for their situation and how you can help is a great launching point to start this conversation. My next suggestion is to go with your gut.


You are likely a loved one or parent of a teenager who may be experiencing depression. If your gut is telling you to seek help, go seek help! You are the expert of your child but seeking out an expert on depression can be crucial for your teen.


For more help with overcoming tour depression, please use my depression worksheet!



Signs of Depression in Children



Depression and Children


Previous researchers found that depression in children was highly linked with self-perfectionism [11].


Now, depression is not causing self-perfectionism or vice versa; but the two characteristics tend to occur at the same time in children. Self–oriented perfectionism is requirements for the self to be perfect.


These requirements are not being demanded from parents, teachers, or peers, but rather, the child believes he or she should be achieving high goals and has very high expectations for themselves (Hewitt, 2000).


Depression Symptoms in Children


Many of the symptoms listed in the adolescent and teenager section are similar to characteristics that you will also see in younger children. In addition to each of the symptoms above, you may also see the following:


1. Self-blame and negative self-evaluation

Depression in children will often be displayed by them stating they are disappointed in themselves or things that they have achieved. They may also not view themselves in a positive manner. I often here children state, “I’m not a good person” or “God is not happy with me.”


2. Disinterest in playing with toys or friends

A quick and clear indicator that a child is struggling with depression is their lack of playing with their friends or toys. Most children will engage in play without being prompted. If a child does not seem interested in having fun, something is wrong.


3. Verbal outbursts and crying

Many children are brought to therapy due to verbal outbursts, tantrums, and crying spells. Children often display these behaviors due to their inability to verbally state why they are upset.


4. Bullying others

Depending on the age and gender of the child, they may display a variety of bullying behaviors. For example, females tend to engage in more relational bullying, such as attempting to isolate peers, whereas males will physically bully their peers, such as hitting and punching.



Defeating Child Depression Symptoms


Defeating depression symptoms in children should be done promptly and carefully. If children continue to feel depression at a young age, their brain can permanently become “wired” to believe, think, and feel this specific way—upset, depressed, or a negative self-worth.


One of the biggest recommendations that I have for parents raising a child with depression symptoms is to be incredibly careful about the messages that you say to your child.


We all say things that we regret but parents are advised to speak very carefully when reacting to a child who is depressed. Make sure that you aren’t emotionally reacting to bad behaviors with more negative behaviors.


Children develop self-perceptions based on feedback from others [12] . If their parents are yelling or saying hurtful things, this can spiral the child down into a deeper hole.


Additionally, parents can start to monitor and adjust their child’s diet. Research has shown that an unhealthy diet is linked to depression [13]. I am not saying that depression is caused by a poor diet, but when a child has a poor diet, they likely also have depression symptoms.


Parents can also monitor their children’s peer relationships. If parents notice certain children are not being hurtful or mean, they should try to set up play dates with friends that are kind and nurturing.


For more help with overcoming tour depression, please use my depression worksheet!


Set up play dates with friends that are kind and nurturing.

Conclusion


Depression symptoms can often become unbearable for individuals. Not only can it negatively impact your relationships with family members and friends, but depression symptoms can become engrained within your brain, making it more difficult to alter your emotions and behaviors as time goes on.


If the depression symptoms you, or your loved one, are experiencing seem to be getting worse or are negatively impacting your life on a daily basis, I highly recommend that you reach out to a local family therapist and seek professional attention as soon as possible.


What symptoms are you, or a loved one experiencing? Comment below, I am here to help!

Use my depression worksheet to help you overcome your depression!


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References

[1] Crane, D.R., Christenson, J., Dobbs, S., Schaalje, B., Moore, A., Pedal, F. F., Ballard, J., & Marshall, E. (2013). Costs of treating depression with individual versus family therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 39(4), 457-469.


[2] World Health Organization [WHO]. (2011). Depression. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression.


[3] Beach, S., & Gupta, M. (2003). Depression. In D. K. Snyder & M. A. Whisman (Eds.), Treating difficult couples: Helping clients with coexisting mental and relationship disorders (pp. 88-113). New York: Guilford.


[4] Hinchlifee, H., Hooper, D., Roberts, F. J., & Vaughn, P. (1975). A study of the interaction between parents and their spouses. British Journal of Psychiatry, 126, 164-172.


[5] Robinson, G. E. (2006). Gender differences in depression and anxiety disorders. In S. E. Romans & M. V. Seeman (Eds.), Women’s mental health: A life cycle approach (pp. 163-171). New York: Lippincott, Williams, & Williams.


[6] Anderson, C. M., & Holder, D. P. (1989). Women and serious mental disorders. In M. McGoldrick, C. M. Anderson, & F. Walsh (Eds.), Women in families: A framework for family therapy (pp.381-405). New York: W.W. Norton.


[7] Leff, J., Vearnals, S., Brewin, C. R., Wolff, G., Alexander, B., Asen, E., et al. (2000). The London depression intervention trail. Randomized controlled trial of antidepressants v. couple therapy in the treatment and maintenance of people with depression living with the partner: Clinical outcome and costs. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 177, 95-100.


[8] Craighead, W. E., & Dunlop, B. W. (2014). Combination psychotherapy and antidepressant medication treatment for depression: For whom, when, and how. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 267-300.


[9] Cutuli, J. J., Chaplin, T. M., Gillham, J. E., Reivich, K. J., & Seligman, E. P. (2006). Preventing co-occurring depression symptoms in adolescents with conduct problems. Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, 1094, 282-286.


[10] Carter, R. (2009). The Human Brain. (2nd ed.). New York: Dorling Kinderlsey Limited.


[11] Hewitt, P. L., Caelian, C. F., Flett, G. L., Sherry, S. B., Collins, L., & Flynn, C. A. (2000). Perfectionism in children: Associations with depression, anxiety, and anger. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 1049-1061.


[12] Cole, D. A. (1991). Preliminary support for a competency-based model of depression in children. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 181-190.


[13] Khalid, S., Williams, C. M., Reynolds, & S. A. (2016). Is there an association between diet and depression in children and adolescents? A systemic review. The British Journal of Nutrition, 116(12), 2097-2108.

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