Knowing for certain if your teen is depressed can be tricky, especially as so many of the behaviors connected with teen depression can, on their own, be fairly typical teenage behavior. However, there are various clues you can look for, which when taken together and persist for at least two weeks, may indicate your teen is suffering from depression. If you do notice this prolonged aggregation of clues, you should take your teen to a medical professional for a formal diagnosis.
One of the first issues to assess is whether your teen has any factors in his/her life that increase the likelihood of depression, such as a genetic predisposition or a medical condition that can result in depression; existence of family problems; low self-esteem; or a sense (real or imagined) of isolation. Second, are you seeing any of the potential consequences of depressed behavior in your teen, such as declining school performance or physical health, extreme irritability, loss of friends, or the start of risky behaviors like drugs, sex or alcohol?
Also note, teen girls and boys with depression can often act in very different ways. Depressed teen girls will often display morbid preoccupations (in a more serious way than wanting a vampire for a boyfriend), while depressed teen boys will often become more aggressive. If your teenage son suddenly becomes a discipline problem or starts getting into trouble with the police, that could be a potential sign of depression.
Sometimes the clearest indicators can be how your teen is talking. Is he/she talking about hurting him/herself? Does he/she talk in ways that show he/she is feeling helpless or hopeless about his/her future? Is he/she highly negative or talk about feeling guilty or not being understood?
Remember, the best way to determine if some of these thoughts and actions are truly from depression and not just typical teenage surliness, is if you see a number of these behaviors, results and thoughts persisting for at least two weeks.