Teenage Depression

Teenage depression, or adolescent depression as it is also called, is a condition for which it is important to seek early medical attention. This article aims to help in the recognition of teenage depression so that appropriate treatment may be promptly sought.

What Data Suggests that Teenage Depression Is Under-Reported?

A 2006 survey offered to 487 adolescents aged 13 to 19 entering an emergency department found that they were likely to be depressed, no matter what complaint brought them to the hospital. Of the 351 patients who chose to undergo the screening, 159 or just over 45% were found to have mild to severe symptoms of depression using the Beck Depression Inventory-2nd edition (BDI-II). This information suggests that depression in this age group may often go unrecognized.

Two Categories of Depression

It is important to understand that one type of depression, which we can call non-pathological depression, is a normal response to the sad, unpleasant, and painful events of life. Depression of this type happens to people from pre-adolescents to senior citizens, and in the normal course of things, it lasts a maximum of several weeks and ends of its own accord. Just as we expect teens to react with joy when exciting and enjoyable events occur, we might expect this type of depression following a negative event.

The other type of depression is an overall term for one of the three types of mood disorders that are most often diagnosed in adolescents: major depressive disorder, also called clinical depression or unipolar depression; bipolar disorder (which also includes manic or hypomanic episodes), also called manic depression; and dysthymic disorder, also called minor, mild, or chronic depression.

Risk Factors for Teenage Depression

Depression that requires medical intervention is more likely to occur in teens who:

  • are part of a family with a history of depression
  • have experienced either physical or sexual child abuse
  • have had a chronic illness
  • lack social skills
  • have experienced extremely stressful life events, most notably the loss of a parent, whether through divorce or death
  • have an unstable caregiver
  • have an eating disorder
  • have low self esteem
  • are girls (girls and women older than 15 are twice as likely as boys and men of similar ages to be depressed)

Symptoms of Teenage Depression

The symptoms of teenage depression will vary depending on the type of depression the teen has. Teens with major depressive disorder will exhibit episodes or longer periods of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that formerly held their attention. They may have trouble sleeping, have little interest in eating, and have trouble thinking and making decisions.

Teens with bipolar disorder will exhibit the symptoms of major depression on the one hand, but sometimes they will exhibit manic or hypomanic (mild manic) symptoms, during which time, they are likely to be elated, energetic, creative, and irritable. Teens who have dysthymia will have an ongoing sadness that just pervades everything and doesn’t stop. They can function, but not happily.

Other Issues Associated with Teenage Depression

According to a Surgeon General’s report, about 66 percent of children and teens who have major depressive disorder will have another, coexisting mental disorder. Because evidence suggests that more than 90 percent of children and adolescents who suicide have been experiencing a mental disorder, and because the use of some antidepressants has been associated with suicidal thoughts and actions, it is imperative that teens who are depressed receive prompt medical attention and that teens who are prescribed antidepressants> are carefully monitored, as appropriate.  

Treatment of Teenage Depression

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be one of the first choices for teenage depression. Through this approach, the teen may learn to have a more positive, healthy view of him- or herself and the situation. Whether or not the entire family should be involved in the therapy will be decided on a case-by-case basis, but its helpful for parents to gain a greater understanding of depression.

Antidepressant medication may also be used when it is deemed appropriate. Because research has suggested links between antidepressants and increased instances of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children taking them, it is a decision to weigh carefully and in the light of the latest information available.

Preventing Teenage Depression

In breaking news at the beginning of the year 2010, research has found that teens with earlier bedtimes are notably less likely to be depressed or have suicidal thoughts. Specifically, teens who usually slept five hours or less each night were 71 percent more likely to say they were depressed and 48 percent more likely to report thoughts of suicide that teens who got eight hours of sleep. Of all the risk factors, this is certainly one that can most easily be addressed.



Related Article: Childhood Depression >>