As we’ve discussed before in our blog on factors that cause teen depression, it can be difficult to separate the normal teenage mood swings from clinical depression. But if you believe your teen is suffering from more than their usual angst, they might have clinical depression.

It is critical that your child or teen has a complete evaluation by a licensed professional like a psychiatrist or experienced physician prior to taking any kind of antidepressant medication. 


Different types of antidepressants consist of various chemical structures but they all affect the way the brain processes neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that affect moods and emotions). The chemicals in the brain that regulate our emotions and even our energy levels include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Because each drug has a different chemical make-up, some inhibit the breakdown of the chemical messengers, while others stop the reuptake of neurotransmitters by our brain cells. It is important to be patient with the process if you decide to go the medication route with your teen. Sometimes it can take some time to find the right antidepressant and the right dosage for the best outcome. Although some teens feel they begin to see a positive change almost right after starting their dosage, usually the meds need about eight weeks of consistent usage for a real difference to be seen.


The FDA has approved certain antidepressants as safe for use with children and teens. However, they have put a black label warning on all antidepressants because some have been shown to increase suicidal tendencies in a small number of adolescents.

  • Clomipramine (Anafranil) is approved for ten years and older to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD.
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is approved for children seven years and older to treat generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro) is approved for children 12 and older for major depressive disorder.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac) is approved for children 8 and older for major depressive disorder and OCD.
  • Fluvoxamine is approved for children 8 and older for OCD.
  • Olanzapine and fluoxetine (combination drug Symbyax) are approved for children 10 and older for bipolar depression.
  • Sertraline (Zoloft) is approved for children 6 and older for OCD and anxiety.


Medication is not right for every teen suffering from depression. The move to prescribe antidepressants should never be taken lightly, and every option should be weighed carefully before the move is made. Here are some additional options to consider.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on helping teens identify and replace self-defeating thought patterns with positive ones. For example replacing “I’m no good” with “I am a good person, I have value,” or “Life is hopeless” with “I have hope for a great future,” or “I don’t deserve to be happy” with “I deserve love and happiness.”
  • One-on-one psychotherapy
  • Behavioral modification training
  • Adventure therapy
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Holistic activities like physical training, martial arts, or guided meditation

If you have questions or are concerned about your teen, we are here to help and would love to hear from you.