Managing your depression - teens


Depression is a serious medical condition that you need help with until you feel better. Know that you are not alone. One in five teenagers will be depressed at some point. The good thing is, there are ways to get treatment. Learn about treatment for depression and what you can do to help yourself get better.

Video: Adolescent depression

Alternative Names

Recognizing depression in your teen; Helping your teen with depression

Take Part in Talk Therapy

Talk therapy can help you feel better. Talk therapy is just that. You talk with a therapist or a counselor about how you are feeling and what you are thinking about.

You usually see a therapist once a week. The more open you are with your therapist about your thoughts and feelings, the more helpful the therapy can be.

Taking Medicine for Depression

Be involved with this decision if you can. Learn from your doctor if depression medicine might help you feel better. Talk about it with your doctor and parents.

If you take medicine for depression, know that:

  • It can take a few weeks to feel better after you start taking the medicine.
  • Antidepressant medicine works best if you take it every day.
  • You may need to take the medicine for at least 6 to 12 months to get the best effect and to lower the risk of depression coming back.
  • You need to talk to your doctor about how the medicine makes you feel. If it is not working enough, if it is causing any side effects, or if it is making you feel worse or suicidal, your doctor may need to change the dose or the medicine you are taking.
  • You should not stop taking your medicine on your own. If the medicine does not make you feel good, talk to your doctor. Your doctor has to help you stop the medicine slowly. Stopping it suddenly could make you feel worse.

Stay in Touch with Your Depression Symptoms

If you are thinking about death or suicide:

  • Talk to a friend, family member, or your doctor right away.
  • You can always get immediate help by going to the nearest emergency room or calling 1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-999-9999. The hotline is open 24/7.

Talk with your parents or your doctor if you feel your depression symptoms are getting worse. You may need a change in your treatment.

Avoid Risky Behaviors

Risky behaviors are behaviors that can hurt you. They include:

  • Unsafe sex
  • Drinking
  • Doing drugs
  • Driving dangerously
  • Skipping school

If you take part in risky behaviors, know that they can make your depression worse. Take control of your behavior rather than letting it control you.

Avoid drugs and alcohol. They can make your depression worse.

Consider asking your parents to lock up or remove any guns in your home.

Spend time with friends who are positive and can support you.

When to Call the Doctor

Talk to your parents and call your doctor if you are:

  • Thinking about death or suicide
  • Feeling worse
  • Thinking about stopping your medicine


American Psychiatric Association. Major depressive disorder. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013:160-168.

Bostic JQ, Prince JB, Buxton DC. Child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 69.

National Institute of Mental Health website. Child and adolescent mental health. Accessed February 12, 2019.

Siu AL; US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for depression in children and adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(5):360-366. PMID: 26858097

Review Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Ryan James Kimmel, MD, Medical Director of Hospital Psychiatry at the University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. 02-12-19: Editorial update.

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