Skip to content

Understanding Teen Depression and Anxiety

Teen depression and anxiety are rampant in today’s culture. Do you know the warning signs that your teen might be struggling with these increasingly common mental health challenges? In this article, I’ll identify some of the signs of depression and anxiety and explain how parents can help their teens.


Depression and Anxiety are Rampant in the Teen Culture

Nearly everyone knows a teen who is depressed or anxious these days; and there are many reasons for this heightened mental health crisis. First, today’s teens are growing up in a culture that puts unhealthy pressures on them. There’s pressure to excel, perform, and even conform to cultural demands. Sadly, these pressures are compounded by a lack of close relationships and online communication without real connection and perhaps online bullying. Consequently, teens who experience loss or trauma are more likely to feel misunderstood and alone. On top of this, unrestricted access to technology has over-exposed many of our teens to things beyond their maturity level. Given the rapid changes and uncertainty in society today, is it any surprise that this generation is struggling?


Warning Signs That Your Teen Might be Struggling with Depression or Anxiety

Changes in behavior are normal for teens as they grow and expand their world, but parents need to be alert to sudden changes that may signal that your teen is suffering from depression or anxiety. These may include changes in appetite, too much sleep or lack of sleep, or lower grades. Teens who are struggling with depression or anxiety may attempt to self-medicate by drinking, taking drugs, or even engaging in self-harm behaviors, like cutting.

Depressed or anxious teens may change their friend group or stop engaging with their old friends. If your teen suddenly withdraws from social events, isolates himself in his room, or refuses to participate in things he used to enjoy, he’s not happy. This isn’t what your teen wants to do, but it may the only way he knows to respond to his problems. Watch for excessive mood swings––from anger, to hopelessness, or irritability. If you see sudden changes, like these, don’t ignore the warning signs. Get involved and get the help your teen needs!


Ways You Can Help Your Depressed or Anxious Teen

Start by listening with compassion. It doesn’t mean that you are going to fix your teen’s problems by listening, but you need to strive to understand, so that you can get to the core of the problem. In order to get your teen to share what’s going on, you’ll need to create an environment at home that welcomes these types of difficult conversations. Let you teen know it’s okay to talk about the challenges he’s facing and be willing to share your own struggles.

As your teen opens up, ask him questions and listen without judgment. Don’t criticize him for how he feels. Make sure your teen know that you will love him no matter what he says or does. You may find out that your teen is experiencing problems that go far deeper than you can handle. You may need to get outside help for your teen to deal with his issues. Whatever the problem is, get your teen the help he needs! Unresolved issues don’t just go away. They will come back when they leave home, start college, get a job, or get into a relationship. Sooner or later your teen will have to deal with his problems and they usually come back bigger and stronger with higher stakes. Now is the time to get help.


What to Do if Your Teen’s Depression or Anxiety is Already at a Dangerous Intensity

Take measures so your teen doesn’t harm himself or others. If you see the signs of depression and anxiety, you need to pay special attention to your teen and take measure to get help. That may mean seeing a counselor, or staying home with your teen for a time, or taking them to a hospital for immediate treatment. What you do during this time may save their life. Reach out and getting help for any self-destructive behaviors. Don’t assume they will just go away. As much as possible, surround your teen with help at church, at home, or from professionals who have the experience in dealing with these serious problems.



Hey moms and dads … depression and anxiety is not like a headache that’ll just go away, nor is it a problem that a pill will fix. It’s a serious disorder that demands attention. For the teen who is anxious or suffering from depression, first of all you need to know that your teen doesn’t want to feel this way. Whether they are severely depressed or overly anxious, they don’t like it, but they don’t know how to get out of the dark hole they find themselves in. Secondly, they need a community of help from you, their church, their family members, and from people who can steer their thoughts and guide their discussions to get to a healthier place. This isn’t the time to correct nor is it a time to fix your teen. But it’s a time to be there with your teen, as they struggle through this season of adolescence.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.