Know the Difference between Teen Depression and Teen Stress

Teen Depression Treatment | Parent Treatment AdvocatesThe amount of stress that comes with high school can be overwhelming. It sometimes requires your will and determination to manage the demands placed on you by friends, parents, and teachers, not to mention your own self-imposed expectations.  When you’re feeling a high level of stress, remember that not all stress is working against you.

Although stress is the number one cause of physical illness, it’s important to keep in mind that a certain level of stress is needed to actually promote health and well-being. For example, having some stress can motivate you to study for an exam. Feeling the pressure of getting into a good college might encourage you to fill out college applications. The strong desire to have a date for the party this weekend might prompt you to ask a girl out.

Stress can be described as the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to challenging events. However, the examples above are types of positive stress. Positive stress can inspire you to accomplish a task or move closer to a goal. This kind of stress is sometimes referred to as eustress, which is the optimal amount of stress people need to promote health and wellbeing.

Distress, on the other hand, is the effect of unpleasant and undesirable experiences, such as those discussed above. At times, significant stress will arise from events that are seen as threatening or particularly life-altering. For instance, events like your parents getting divorced or your mother getting remarried can not only create circumstantial stress, like having to live with someone new, but also emotional and psychological stress. This kind of stress could require the aid of a mental health professional, a friend you trust, or an uninvolved family member.

But not all stress is the result of such significant life changes. Daily stress in small amounts can feel just as overwhelming. Sadly, most people feel stressed all the time. With work, school, family responsibilities, and other life tasks, we can experience some element of stress on a daily basis. Sometimes this amount of stress can keep us feeling good about yourself. There’s so much to get done, you’ve lost your personal time and connection to who you are. Your mind is on overdrive and your heart has gone hiding.

In these cases, perhaps, it might be hard to tell whether it’s just stress that’s got you in a low mood, or whether it’s teen depression. However, it’s important to be able to tell the difference. Although depression is treatable, it is more serious and long lasting and it’s symptoms are usually more intense. Below are the major differences between stress and depression so that you can determine which describes you best.

Symptoms of Stress

Trouble sleeping

Feeling overwhelmed

Problems with memory

Problems with concentration

Change in eating habits

Feeling nervous or anxious

Feeling anger, irritation, or frustration

Feeling overwhelmed

Having a hard time functioning in class or in your personal life

Symptoms of Depression

Withdrawal from others

Feeling sad and hopeless

Lack of energy, enthusiasm, and motivation

Trouble making decisions

Feeling restless, agitated, or irritable

Change in either eating or sleeping habits

Trouble with memory and concentration

Feeling bad about yourself or feeling guilty


Feeling as though you can’t overcome difficulties in your life

Thoughts of suicide

As you explore this list, you’ll notice that both stress and depression have some of the same symptoms such as a change in eating habits, poor memory, and trouble concentrating. However, depression has a low mood with a tendency to withdraw from social interactions, feeling guilty, and feeling bad about yourself.

Depression can worsen over time so it’s important to see a mental health professional to be assessed. An assessment can lead to an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment to return to a mentally healthy state.


Mental Health America (2009). Stressed or Depressed? Know the Difference. Retrieved on March 20, 2014 from

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