Depression in Teenagers

Teen depression is a very serious issue within our society, but has only received serious attention within the last twenty years. Researchers have found that many teens who suffer from depression also suffer from other mental disorders including social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), conduct disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders.

With teens who experienced trauma, over forty percent may develop depressive disorders within four months following the trauma and studies found that teens with depression also demonstrated anxiety disorders twenty five to seventy five percent of the time. ADHD was present with depression in teens thirty to forty percent of the time.

These illness which co-occur must be diagnosed and treated properly often requiring a combination of several treatments and medications including psychosocial interventions, family education and interventions, and psychotherapy as well as medication therapy. They may also require a plan for long-term follow up and treatment.

Teens will experience normal mood swings and ups and downs which makes it difficult to tell if they are experiencing depression or just typical teenage angst. When these feelings begin to interfere with family, social functioning, school, appetite or sleep, then they may be a problem.

Common symptoms of depression include:

• Pains or aches, cramps or headaches, or problems with digestion that do not ease with treatment

• Suicide thoughts or even attempts at suicide

• Loss of appetite or overeating

• Sleeping too much, insomnia, or waking very early in the morning

• Having difficulty making decisions or concentrating or remembering details

• Decreased energy or fatigue

• No interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed, including sex

• Restlessness and irritability

• Guilt feelings, worthlessness or helplessness

• Anxious, depressed, feeling empty

If a teen is expressing any of these feelings or exhibiting these symptoms, they should see a doctor right away. There is nothing to be embarrassed by or ashamed of, this is no one’s fault. The doctor will talk with both the teen and the parents to try and determine the cause(s) of the symptoms. There may be several reasons. The doctor may ask about family history, about unusual reactions to medications, about any previous therapies and how those were received. What is important is a very careful and skilled diagnosis and understanding that there may be more than one cause for what is happening.

Thirty five percent of teens who suffer from another chronic illness may develop depression. Depression can impact teens who suffer from brain injuries, anemia, diabetes, hypothyroidism, epilepsy, kidney disease, HIV and AIDs, and chronic head ache and pain. Teens who are severely obese can also develop depression.

Depression in teens can create severe consequences, especially if it is co-occurring with another mental disorder. Teens suffering from depression and anxiety are at a higher risk to develop suicidally and substance abuse and to not respond or to poorly respond to treatment. A teen with chronic medical conditions who also is suffering from depression is likely to develop a more severe form of depression and not be able to adapt to changes in the medical condition.

Treating teens suffering from co-occurrences of depression and other mental disorders can be treated, but must be carefully diagnosed and typically requires multiple treatment techniques.

You can learn so much more in our online guide here What is Depression? and also get our free book download about how to help improve your mental health and wellbeing.

We wish you well in your search for solutions and your movement towards better health in all areas.

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