How Does Depression in Teenagers Impact Their Education?

Grace Germinder


July 30, 2021

Depression takes the steering wheel of life in 20% of adolescents before adulthood; one fifth of all teenagers experience a struggle from a shifted mindset in their high school years. This struggle carries into the learning environment, affecting teenagers’ educational development. The lack of motivation in the classroom does not stem from laziness, which is often the common belief. Medically diagnosed mental health disorders formed by chemical imbalances create a mental block stopping an individual from learning in a “usual way.” More specifically, for depression diagnosed in teenagers, unpredictable actions and behaviors are common. Just because someone is smiling one day does not mean they aren’t emotionally numb the next day. Children ranging in ages 14-19 are the age group most often diagnosed with depression. This age range is the most crucial years of their life: high school. Depression causes an altered mindset leading to a lack of motivation, unpredictable behaviors and socialization phobias in the learning environment, resulting in an ultimate decrease in academic progress among teenagers.

External and Internal Socialization Phobias

Teenagers who battle depression develop social phobias with social interaction which can directly correspond to a classroom setting. When an adolescent’s depression puts them in a state of numbness it leads to a fear of socializing and failing. The article, “Impact of Anxiety and Depression on Student Academic Progress,” states “… school refusal, or school phobia. This is when a student’s anxiety or depression is so severe that they begin avoiding going to school at all” (IBCCES). Socialization becomes harder and that can lead to self isolation, which can make school seem impossible. If a student struggles to socialize with their family and friends, how are they expected to physically be in a competitive classroom surrounded by people and teachers, for 30 hours each week? Depression makes school a fear, becoming the prominent reason for school phobia. Commonly, this school phobia will not only leave a detrimental effect on their social skills, but also on school performance. As school phobia is created, self isolation becomes a comfort. Newport Academy reported, “As a result, more and more teenagers are choosing teenage isolation as a way to protect themselves from rejection and pain. Teenagers may choose to withdraw after a traumatic social experience…” (Monroe). Teenagers battling a mental disorder find comfort in isolating themselves from social situations. Self isolation in terms of education will lead to absences, poor school work, struggling concentration, lack of energy, and low self esteem. Depression makes the easiest social gestures feel like a chore forcing teenagers to become frightened of school and self isolate.  

Depression forms internal phobias, thus preventing socialization. These internal panics and mental blocks prevent socialization in school leading to an overall decreased academic experience. Research indicates, “eating a lot or not at all” (The Real Depression Project) as a common occurrence with depression. A common symptom associated with depression is disordered eating. Eating disorders and disordered eating do not appear only one way and do not fit a certain body type. The chemical imbalance of hormones and lack of energy from disordered eating can lead a student to not only dread showing their face at school, but feeling too drained to attend. Similarly, self image and appearance tags along with mental disorders, especially in teenagers. This generation values others’ opinions rather than their own. Society’s standards, especially beauty standards, have taken over many teenagers’ minds, making them believe they simply are not good enough. Evidence shows teenagers diagnosed with depression may lead to “believing nothing matters like classes/their appearance” (The Real Depression Project). Almost every adolescent in this generation struggles with their appearance at some point in their life. Depression can and has clinically proven to make this struggle worse. With the common effect of not being able to find a reason to get out of bed, students struggling with depression are seen as “lazy” at school. In reality they are lacking the energy to appear happy and put together because of their medical mental condition. Depression messes with the self esteem of young adults making noticeable changes in their appetite, appearance, and mood causing school socialization to be a burden.

Scientific Reasoning for Unpredictability

Every single day in a teenager’s life is different, even more so when that teenager has depression. The chemical imbalance and lack of serotonin causes unpredictable actions and behaviors making each school day unique. From a scientific perspective, “people who have depression usually have lower levels of dopamine and serotonin” (Sarah Fader). Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters which are chemical messengers in the brain stimulating pleasure and peacefulness. A chemical imbalance of these neurotransmitters may lead to depression. A teenager lacking serotonin and dopamine will struggle with peacefulness to sleep and pleasure to enjoy their life. With these fluctuating numbers and chemical imbalances their mood will vary everyday causing their school performance and effort to differ daily. Narrowing in on dopamine, a blog post reads, “one substance that plays a role in mood regulation is dopamine… There is evidence to suggest reduced levels of dopamine can contribute to depression” (Shelly Ann Shaw, CEO of The Depression Chronicles). Since dopamine is the neurotransmitter that regulates mood, the low levels of dopamine in individuals with depression suggests irregular moods. Irregular moods means that some days will be good, some will be bad. No day is the same with depression especially when there’s not enough dopamine in the brain to regulate pleasure. Applying the lack of dopamine to a school setting, teenagers lacking dopamine will be unpredictable in class. They may be straight “A” dedicated students, but tend to lose their drive from time to time because their brain is lacking dopamine to stimulate regular feel good feelings. Brain chemicals and depression go hand in hand, serotonin and dopamine being two chemical messengers affecting the regularity of feel good chemicals in the body and brain. The imbalance of serotonin and dopamine in teenagers with depression forms inconsistency in the classroom.

Depression changes the way a teenager acts, behaves, and thinks, ultimately leading to a decrease in school performance. Socialization becomes a fear for those struggling with depression, forming mental blocks and phobias of being in a social setting in school. Depressed teenagers tend to question their reason in life, leading to no motivation to do everyday activities, especially regarding academics because they feel unworthy of succeeding. The lack of dopamine and serotonin in the brain of a depressed teen causes inconsistent moods and behaviors making each day of school drastically different. Adolescents with depression will struggle in school and their academic growth will be affected negatively, but this should not be mistaken for laziness of a bad student. Depression has a direct effect on education and many teenagers in America suffer from depression, help should be offered and more available for high school students struggling with a mental disorder to protect teenagers’ education.

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With immense gratitude, the Promly Team.

Grace Germinder

Grace Germinder is a 16 year old model, dancer, and pageant girl! She was diagnosed with depression two years ago and she has suffered from an eating disorder. She is competing for the title of Miss New Jersey Teen USA and she will be using her platform to advocate for mental health awareness. She is so excited for this journey!