Mental Health
6 minutes

Signs of Depression in Teenage Girls

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: September 29, 2023

Key Points

  • Teenage girls are more likely to develop depression, with 3 in 5 reporting experiencing chronically sad and hopeless.
  • Signs and symptoms to look for include excessive guilt, loss of interest, trouble making decisions, sleep disruption, low energy, and withdrawing from social circles or activities.
  • Some potential triggers for depression include hormonal changes, genetics, a history of trauma or abuse, peer pressure, family dysfunction, and academic pressure.
  • If left untreated, depression can lead to other serious mental health issues, self-harm, eating disorders, and even suicidal ideations.
  • Treatment options include lifestyle alterations, coping skill development, medication, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Battling depression can be difficult for anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. However, over the years, there has been a rise in depression, specifically among adolescents, as they navigate pre-adulthood and the pressures that come with it. Among this group, teenage girls are almost twice as likely to develop depression than boys.

While it may be expected for teenagers to go through significant hormonal and emotional changes in their early stages of life, depression and its side effects are very different. Recognizing these signs of depression before they become more serious is important to helping and protecting the mental health of teenagers.

Symptoms of Depression in Teenage Girls

Depression and anxiety are serious mental health conditions that, if left untreated, can lead to long-term physical and emotional damage. According to the CDC, 3 in 5 teenage girls felt chronically sad and hopeless, an indicator of depression.[1] As parents, caregivers, or mentors, it’s vital that you recognize the signs of depression[2] and address them accordingly.

Symptoms of depression typically materialize into one of two categories – emotional and behavioral.

Emotional Symptoms

Sadness and Irritability

Detecting early signs can be difficult with teenagers, especially since short-term sadness and irritability are commonplace as young adults undergo hormonal changes. However, excessive sadness or even worthlessness can often be a symptom of something much more profound on an emotional level.

Excessive Guilt

When a teenager becomes overly self-critical, it’s possible that they may be suffering from early signs of depression. This may make them feel shame that they aren’t good enough, or their self-esteem levels drop significantly.

Loss of Interests

When teenagers start displaying signs that things that used to be important to them are suddenly not as fulfilling as they used to be, this can be a symptom of a depressive state. Whether it’s suddenly developing a disinterest in their favorite hobbies, sports, friends in their life, or family members, when a teenage girl becomes removed from things that used to bring her joy, it could be a sign of depression.

Sudden and Rapid Weight Change

As teenagers grow up, gradual changes in height and weight are to be expected. However, when combined with other symptoms of depression or anxiety, a sudden and rapid shift in weight can be a symptom worth investigating. Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, can be precursors to body image problems and a depressive state.

Difficulty Making Decisions

If a teenager begins to experience depression, they may have difficulty staying focused enough to make necessary decisions in their life – even minor ones. When struggling with indecisiveness, self-doubt, or increased stress, teenage girls may begin to become overwhelmed and lack the confidence necessary to make decisions on their own, leading to a much more passive lifestyle.

Behavioral Symptoms

Change in Sleep Patterns

Depressed teenagers may start to show signs of their depression through an irregular shift in their sleeping patterns. For example, if the teen is not sleeping at all, this could be a sign of severe depression.

On the other hand, if they begin to sleep excessively and for long periods of time during the day, this may also be a sign of a depressed state and can also lead to further problems such as fatigue and lack of motivation.

Loss of Energy

Often, when adolescent girls experience persistent feelings of sadness, they will feel overwhelmed and sluggish. They will no longer be able to manage their daily activities as effectively, leading to decreased energy levels. Depressed teens may find it hard to get out of bed in the morning or generally lack motivation throughout the day.

Withdrawal from Friends and Family

Usually, one of the first behavioral signs of depression in teenage girls is choosing to isolate themselves from friends and family. This may be due to an inability to express their feelings or a lack of confidence in their relationships. They may also begin to avoid social activities as they are no longer interested in them.

Thoughts of Suicide

Depression, if left unchecked, can lead to much more serious issues, such as thoughts of suicide or even suicide attempts. This can be a clear sign of depression and should be taken very seriously.

While not all teenagers will be comfortable telling someone they are having suicidal thoughts, they may give other signs, such as talking about death in a morbid way, showing physical signs of cutting, or a significant change in behavior and attitude. Addressing these problems immediately is a vital component of suicide prevention in teens.

Engaging in Risky Behavior

Teenage girls suffering from depression may often turn to risky behaviors like substance abuse, promiscuous sex, or self-harm to cope with their emotions. These behaviors are often a cry for help and can be an indicator of depression. They can also lead to much more serious mental health issues if not addressed properly.

What Are The Causes Of Depression In Teen Girls?

What Are The Causes Of Depression In Teen Girls


Teen depression can be caused by various factors and doesn’t always have to stem from a single source. Some underlying causes of depression may take years to develop, while others can come on suddenly. It is important to recognize that regardless of the cause, teenage girls suffering from depression need help and support.

Hormonal Changes

Transitioning between adolescence into early adulthood can be a trying time for teenage girls as they experience physical and emotional changes as hormonal levels shift. As hormonal imbalances take place, they can lead to mood swings and feelings of depression. While many of these feelings are usually short-lived, for some, the hormonal changes can lead to deeper and longer-lasting issues that may not subside on their own.

Genetic Factors

Feelings of depression can also be a hereditary issue that is passed on from generation to generation. While it’s true that we all experience sadness and down times, for some, the feelings can become deep-seated and recurrent. If a teenage girl has close family members with depression or other mental illnesses, she may be predisposed to developing similar issues as she enters early adulthood.

Past Trauma or Stressful Life Events

Trauma or stressful life events such as the loss of a loved one or divorce can trigger depression in teenage girls. Emotional or physical abuse or neglect can also lead to depression. When these events happen, it’s important to seek professional help for the teenager so that she can receive proper depression counseling and therapy to help her cope with her feelings.

Peer and Academic Pressures

The pressure to fit in and succeed academically or on social media can lead to significant stress for teenagers navigating high school. This pressure can sometimes lead to feelings of sadness, helplessness, and worthlessness among teenage girls. It’s important to be aware of these potential issues in order to provide support and guidance when needed.

Treatment Options for Teenage Girls With Depression

It’s important that depression is taken seriously and treated appropriately in teenage girls.[3] Early intervention can go a long way toward helping them manage their depression and live healthy, happy lives. Treatment options for teenage girls with depression include:

Lifestyle Changes

One of the best ways to combat adolescent depression is through lifestyle changes. Encouraging regular exercise, a healthy diet, and more sleep can help improve mood and overall well-being.

Exercise releases feel-good hormones in the brain and can be as simple as going for a walk or participating in a team sport. A healthy diet and sufficient sleep can help regulate hormone levels and promote healthy brain function.


Medication can be helpful in treating depression in teenagers, but it should be carefully monitored by a professional. Antidepressants work by regulating brain chemistry, which can help alleviate symptoms of major depression. However, medication is not a cure, and it’s important to address underlying issues and develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage symptoms.


Therapy is a valuable tool in treating depression, and talking to a professional can help teenage girls understand their feelings and manage their emotions. A therapist can work with them to identify negative thought patterns and teach them coping mechanisms to help build self-esteem and resilience.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treating depression and anxiety in teenagers. It focuses on identifying negative beliefs and changing them by developing positive behaviors.

Don’t Wait to Treat Early Signs of Depression

Adolescence can be a challenging and confusing time, especially for teenage girls who may be experiencing signs of depression. It’s vital to seek help as soon as these symptoms become apparent,[4] as untreated depression can lead to more severe issues down the line.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with depression, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for support. With the right tools and treatment, teenage girls can learn to conquer their depression and experience a more fulfilled and joyful life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Signs of Depression in Teenage Girls

Depression changes the emotional, mental, and social experience for teenage girls. They may experience a variety of symptoms, including sadness, irritability, excessive guilt, loss of energy, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts, risky behavior, rapid weight changes, and trouble making decisions.

According to Pew Research’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, American teen girls are three times more likely to experience depression as teen boys. Approximately 20% of teenage girls report experiencing a major depressive episode in the past year. In contrast, only 7% of teenage boys reported the same.[5]

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[1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, March 9). CDC report shows concerning increases in sadness and exposure to violence among teen girls and LGBQ+ Youth. 

[2] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, August 12). Teen Depression. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 3, 2023, from

[3] Bruce, D. F. (n.d.). Teen depression: Causes, symptoms, heredity, and treatments. WebMD. Retrieved April 3, 2023, from

[4] Steingard, R. J. (2023, February 27). What are the symptoms of depression in teenagers? Child Mind Institute. Retrieved April 3, 2023, from

[5]Geiger, A. W. (2019, July 12). A growing number of American teenagers – particularly girls – are facing depression. Pew Research Center.