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5 Factors that Cause Teen Depression (and how you can help)

“I’m depressed.” Many people have muttered something similar while going through a particularly rocky time. Breakups, deaths, moving, divorce and bullying can all cause intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness in teens. But the difference between being sad and being depressed is that the feelings of sadness, despair and hopelessness don’t go away with depression. With depression, these feelings last for weeks, months, or even years. They can be so overwhelming they can block a person’s ability to function by interfering with moods, appetite, activity levels and sleeping patterns.

Teenage depression isn’t a phase, it’s a serious struggle that needs to be addressed. Here are some of the leading causes of depression in teens:

Biological Chemistry

People have neurotransmitters, which are naturally occurring brain chemicals. These chemicals carry signals all over your body and in your brain. Depression can occur when these chemicals are abnormal or impaired.

Hormones are the bane of teenagers and parents everywhere. One moment they’re feeling great, the next moment everything is terrible, and the world is ending. The radical swings drag emotions along for the ride, and it can be next to impossible to tell the difference between reality and how real things feel at the moment. During these swings, the hormones can become and stay unbalanced, which can cause or trigger depression.


Like many other health issues, mental illness can be heredity. Studies show depression often runs in families. If a close family member is currently, or has suffered from depression, your teen is likely to be more susceptible.

Performance Related Stress

Today’s teens are dealing with an overwhelming set of expectations. Thanks to the unrealistic standards set by media and social media, teens are comparing themselves to others in an alarming fashion. Whether it’s sports, music, academia or the social scene, the intense pressure from trying to meet a set of societal standards can cause emotional distress. Many teens haven’t learned the basic set of coping skills to balance stress, which can trigger depression.

Traumatic Life Events

If just being a teenager wasn’t tough enough, life can throw in added struggles. Parents that are separating or in the middle of a divorce, while common today, can still be very traumatic for teens. This situation brings a lot of uncertainty, confusion and sometimes guilt. Other traumatic events can include the death of a loved one, abuse and physical or emotional neglect.

Lack of Control

The teenage years are filled with the constant push/pull of growing up. While teens are aware of everything going on like illness, family finances and parents fighting, they don’t have any control over their circumstances. Being so close to adulthood without any real control can lead to feelings of helplessness that result in depression.

Left untreated, depression can be very serious. However, there are resources available for both teens and their parents. You’re not alone and you don’t have to face depression on your own. If you’re worried your teenager is depressed, seek professional help, even if they don’t want it. Our crisis line is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Please call 907-789-7610 (The Link).

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