Teenage depression test: How to know when your teenager is depressed

It can be hard to know whether a teenager is simply feeling “hormonal” or whether they are truly depressed without a teenage depression test.  Counsellors, teachers, and parents may be looking for a way to check whether a teenager’s behaviour qualifies as major depression.  Or you may be a teenager yourself and wondering if you are clinically depressed.

If you suspect that someone you know might be depressed, and in particular, suicidal, please take this very seriously.  Here are some resources you can use right away:

teenage depression test

There is good news and bad news.  The bad news is that no internet page can give you a solid diagnosis or tell you whether or not you are depressed.  The good news is that this page can give you information about what depression is, what the tell-tale signs of depression are, and what the official teenage depression tests are in case you are a counsellor looking for this information (or are simply curious).

Statistics on Teen depression

Here is more bad news.  A lot of teenagers are depressed.  That may not seem like a surprise since most people realize it is a difficult time of life, but a recent study (Mojtabai, 2016) showed that teenage depression is actually getting worse.  (They even wrote about it in TIME magazine.)

12.5% of teens are depressed and teenage depression is on the rise.

A recent study of the prevalence of depression in teens and young adults (Mojtabai, 2016) found that, between 2005 and 2014, the rate of depression in adolescents increased from 8.7% of teens in 2005 to 11.3% in 2014.  The same study also found that the rate of depression in young adults, particularly those under 20 years old increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 9.6% in 2014.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the US, the current rate of depression in adults is 6.7% (as of this writing).  The NIMH puts the rate of depression in adolescents at 12.5% (even higher than the Mojtabai, 2016 study)

In other words, it would seem that having an accurate teenage depression test is more important than ever to screen teenagers for depression since the teenage depression rate is almost double that of adult depression!

teenage depression test

Why is the teenage depression rate so high?

You may wonder why teenage depression is getting worse.  I don’t know if any studies have been done on this, but here are some factors that may be boosting the teenage depression rate:

  • the 2008 recession may be causing feelings of hopelessness about future possibilities
  • the rise of cyber-bullying
  • the socially isolating effects of the internet
  • over-scheduled lives

More teenagers might be depressed because their families are doing poorly economically as a result of the recession.  Meanwhile, cyber-bullying is on the rise, and that can take many forms.  Whatever form it takes, it means that teenagers have a feeling of not being safe wherever they go because the internet is almost everywhere.  Also, although it seems like the internet makes it easier to collaborate and communicate with peers, it can also be very isolating.  People tend to spend less time actually together in person.  Lastly, many teens simply lead incredibly over-scheduled lives where every last minute is scheduled and this can make life incredibly stressful and lead to feelings of depression and despair.

Teenage Depression in Girls vs. Teenage Depression in Boys

The statistics say that teenage depression is much higher in girls (19.5%) vs. boys (5.8%).  This is a truly staggering difference.  The question is, what causes this difference, and is it a real difference, or is it a reflection of the different ways girls and boys communicate?  It has been found in adults that the difference in depression rates may not be as high as previously expected, but that men express their depression differently from women.  Could the same sort of thing be happening in the case of depressed adolescent boys?

19.5% of teenage girls are depressed.

Either way, the depression rate of 19.5% in teenage girls is incredibly high.  It is so high that if you suspect your teenage girl is depressed, it is probably worth it to get a professionally administered teenage depression test to find out the severity of the situation and get subsequent treatment.

However, before you do get an official teenage depression test, these are the most common signs of depression in teens:

teenage depression test

Teenage depression test

Let’s face it.  Teens are hormonal and so, sometimes, they are moody or temperamental.  However, if you notice changes in personality, mood, or behaviour that persist over time (say two weeks or longer), this could be a sign that there is a bigger problem.  As you read the following, when you’re trying to decide whether your teen is depressed or “just being a teenager,” think about the length of time these symptoms have been occurring and how bad they are as well as how different your teen is from their “normal” selves.  Most importantly, if you suspect your teenager is depressed, get a professional opinion.  And not all professionals are created equally, so you might need to see more than one.  Make sure you see someone both you and your teen are comfortable with.

(Note: A teenager does not necessarily have to have all of these symptoms to have depression.)

So, here is a basic teenage depression test:

  1. Does he/she feel sad or hopeless?
  2. Does he/she display anger, irritability, and/or hostility?
  3. Does he/she cry often?
  4. Has he/she withdrawn from family life or from friends (or both)?
  5. Has he/she lost interest in activities that were previously considered enjoyable?
  6. Has his/her school performance deteriorated?
  7. Has his/her appetite increased or decreased noticeably?
  8. Have his/her sleeping patterns dramatically altered — sleeping all the time or not at all?
  9. Does he/she seem restless or agitated?
  10. Does he/she feel worthless?
  11. Does he/she feel excessive feelings of guilt?
  12. Has he/she lost enthusiasm and/or motivation?
  13. Is he/she lethargic/fatigued most of the time?
  14. Does he/she have difficulty concentrating?
  15. Does he/she have unexplained aches and pains?
  16. Does he/she have thoughts of death or suicide?

If the answer to several of the above questions was “yes” then it is important to get psychological assistance as soon as possible.  Depression is a major psychological disorder and it is very important to get help.  Also, when you are depressed, you may feel helpless and hopeless and as though no one could possibly understand or help you, but that is the depression talking — help is available!

The RADS-2 Teenage Depression Test

The most common teenage depression test that therapists use to diagnose depression is the RADS-2, which stands for Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale, Version 2.  Osman et al. (2010) state that that the RADS-2 score provides a reliable interpretation of how severe depression is, but also point out that the RADS-2 manual recommends an interview-based process to ensure reliability and validity of the report.   In other words, the test is a good test, but there’s no substitute for actually having a professional sit down with the individual adolescent and actually talk to them.

The RADS-2 is an official psychological test that is meant to be given and scored by qualified therapists only.  For therapists: You can get the RADS-2 Test here.  (Sneak peek at the test — it is copyrighted, but it seems someone put it online — this might disappear at any time: The RADS-2.  It really is important to get this test administered by a professional because you may not fully understand what the different scores in different areas may mean, but it is interesting to have some idea what the test looks like.

teenage depression test

How to respond to a depressed teenager

Take suicidal threats or ideation very seriously.  Even if you suspect your teen is just being melodramatic, it is very important to take this seriously.  Resources:

Often, parents may feel like their child has changed into a different person when he or she becomes a teenager.  It is important to remember that this is both true and untrue.  On the one hand, your child is on the journey towards becoming an adult, and that is a tremendous change.  However, despite the anger, vitriol, rebellion, etc. that your angry teen may be hurling at you, remember the child they once were because, inside, they are still that child.

Teenagers don’t usually mean to be mean to their parents…

What many parents do not realize is that when teenagers say or do horrible things, it often comes with the heat of passionate hormones that have created emotions that they have difficulty understanding or controlling.  It has very little to do with how they actually feel about their parents.  In other words do NOT take anything your teenager says to you personally.  Hold them accountable for hateful speech, but don’t drink it into your soul.

This is an important point because when parents take what teens say personally, they often get hurt and start to distance themselves from their teens.  Then the teens feel isolated and like no one understands them.  And this can make life more difficult.

So… try not to take it personally…

It is better, as a parent, teacher, counsellor, etc. if you can try very hard not to take anything personally.  Punish bad behaviour including verbal abuse, but don’t take it personally.

Read one or more books on parenting teens.  It’s funny how, often, as parents, we read books on how to have a good pregnancy, and how to take care of our one year old, two year old… but then we stop reading by the time the teen years roll around.  The teen years are a whole new ball game, and it is essential that you understand how to be a good parent to a teen, which involves a different set of skills from being a good parent to a toddler or a small child.

Some suggestions for parenting books about teenagers:

How to treat teen depression

One could write an entire book on how to treat teen depression.  Seeking proper psychological assistance is very important.  However, there are some basic strategies that can help treat depression in teens as well as adults:

  1.  Sunlight – sunlight (or a sunlight lamp) can increase vitamin D levels and cause a decrease in depression.
  2. “Sleep hygiene” – This means going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning.  It can be challenging when a person is depressed, but doing this has been shown to reduce feelings of depression.
  3. Regular exercise – Some studies have shown that regular exercise, combined with a nutritious diet program, for at least 30 minutes five times per week for ten weeks can be as efficient as talk therapy or anti-depressant medication.
  4. Eating nutritiously – Following the USDA’s nutritional guidelines or the Canada food guide and ensuring that one is eating a balanced diet and getting adequate nutrients is essential to good mental health.  In particular making sure that one is eating regularly, eating healthy (non-junk) foods, not eating to excess, and getting all the food groups are important.
  5. Get your doctor to check for vitamin deficiencies such as B12 deficiency (as this can cause depression).
  6. Get your doctor to check your thyroid as being hypothyroid can cause depression.

teenage depression test

In addition to the above, other things that are important to depression recovery are:

  • maintaining a balance between activities that are “work” and those that are “fun”
  • a creative outlet: art, writing, music, dance, etc.
  • socializing, preferably in person, with trusted individuals
  • seeing a doctor, psychologist, counsellor, psychiatrist, pastor, or therapist to work on any issues that may have triggered the depression.

A depression workbook for teens:

Additionally, your doctor may prescribe medication to help with depression recovery.  Current evidence suggests that medication is most effective for people who suffer from the most severe levels of depression.


Depression in teens is not to be taken lightly or ignored even if it might be upsetting to acknowledge.  While this page offers a preliminary teenage depression test, trust your instincts and see a medical professional for advice.

The rate of teen depression in the USA is extremely high at 12.5% compared to the rate of adult depression of 6.7%.  It has been on the rise since 2004.  For teenage girls, the depression rate is an astonishing 19.5%! There are some basic questions you can ask as a preliminary teenage depression test.  The official teenage depression test most often used by counsellors is called the RADS-2.

If you suspect that someone you know might be depressed, and in particular, suicidal, please take this very seriously.  Here are some resources you can use right away:

teenage depression test

This article offers some advice on books about parenting teens.  It also offers some basic advice on how to treat mild to moderate depression in teens and others, which can be summed up as: fresh air, sunlight, exercise, regular sleep, and eating right.  While this may sound simplistic, a lot of research actually backs it up. For mild to moderate depression, taking these steps alone may be as effective as talk therapy and/or medication.  However, there is no substitute for medical advice.  In your teen’s case, medication may be more appropriate, and it is important to get your teen the help they need!

Remember to take any and all threats of suicide seriously always!



Krefetz, D. G., Steer, R. A., Gulab, N. A., & Beck, A. T. (2002). Convergent Validity of the Beck Depression Inventory-II With the Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale in Psychiatric Inpatients. Journal Of Personality Assessment, 78(3), 451-460.

Osman, A., Gutierrez, P. M., Bagge, C. L., Fang, Q., & Emmerich, A. (2010). Reynolds adolescent depression scale-second edition: a reliable and useful instrument. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 66(12), 1324-1345. doi:10.1002/jclp.20727

Mojtabai, R., Olfson, M., & Han, B. (2016). National Trends in the Prevalence and Treatment of Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults. Pediatrics, 138(6), 9.

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