Teen depression (or adolescent depression) is a surprisingly common mental health disorder. Although it mirrors the symptoms of major depressive episodes, teen depression is often less visible and may go unnoticed by parents and peers. However, it can have serious consequences, leading to negative outcomes like teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, school dropout and even suicide.
Depression among adolescents continues to increase each year. Factors that increase the likelihood of depression include chronic or long-term illness, a history of abuse or neglect, or some sort of recent trauma (like loss of a loved one). Teenage girls are more likely to become depressed than boys.
Symptoms of teenage depression are very similar to those experienced by adults. Loss of interest or reduced pleasure in activities, an irritable mood, changes in appetite, unintentional weight loss or weight gain, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much and difficulty concentrating and making decisions are all associated with teenage depression. Like adult depression, if any of these symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, you should seek medical assistance.
A health care provider will probably begin by ruling out any medical causes for the symptoms that have been observed. They may wish to also screen for substance abuse. Diagnosis of teenage depression would depend on the results of a thorough psychiatric screening and evaluation.
The teen years are usually a period of significant change. Self-identity is changing, sexuality is emerging, and many life-altering decisions are made. Adolescent depression often exists side-by-side with other mental health issues, like eating disorders, substance abuse, disruptive behavior and anxiety. If left untreated, adolescent depression can have tragic, irreversible consequences.
Treatment for teen depression is not quite as clear-cut as major depression in adults. Many of the most successful antidepressant medications for adults have not been as successful in treating teen depression. In fact, some antidepressants have been linked to increased chances of suicide in adolescents.
One of the most promising avenues of treatment for adolescents with depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The idea behind CBT is that teen depression results from a distorted view of reality. CBT helps teens change their view of themselves, the world, and their future.
Low moods are very common during the teenage years. Maintaining open communication with adolescents is the best way to help them negotiate these difficult years and has the best chance of preventing a major depressive episode.
Written by Jan Howard
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