Depression is more than getting a bad case of the blues. It is a mood disorder, and it can and does affect adolescents. It can affect anyone at any time.
"Untreated depression probably has an even greater impact on children and adolescents than it does on adults," says James Beeghly, MD, UI Department of Psychiatry, "because young people are going through critical developmental stages." It is important to get treatment for depression before teens react to the pain by turning to drugs or alcohol--before things get out of hand.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 10- to 24-year olds. "We are improving our understanding of depression in this age group and are making steady progress in learning how to treat it," Beeghly says.
Having depression doesn't mean that person is weak, or a failure, or isn't trying. It means they need help.
People suffering from depression should remember they are not alone. Help is available.
While the recovery rate from a single episode of major depression in children and adolescents is quite high, episodes are likely to recur. Prompt identification and treatment of depression can reduce its duration and severity.
- Psychotherapy--talking about feelings with a trained professional.
- Medication--can effectively treat depression. Antidepressant medications are not uppers and are not addictive.
- Combination--two is sometimes better than one. Treatment can help most depressed people start to feel better in a few weeks.
Signs of Depression
Contrary to popular thought, not all adolescents experience intense emotional fluctuations that verge on a psychiatric disorder. Adolescents who are depressed may be hypersensitive and overreact to minor problems or embarrassments.
"Any major change in a child or adolescent's school performance, friendships, hygiene, habits, or recreational substance use should be the cause of increased suspicion of depression," says Beeghly.
Other signs include:
- Lack of interest in friends and activities
- Absences from school
- Drop in academic performance
- Withdrawal from family, decreased communication
- Increased crying, irritability, anger, mood swings, reckless behavior
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Talking about or attempting to run away
- Sadness, inappropriate overwhelming guilt
- Expresses feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness
- Significant changes in appetite, body weight, and sleep patterns
- Drug or alcohol abuse
The Stats *
- Approximately 2.5 percent of young children and 8.3 percent of adolescents suffer from depression. Fifty percent of those have at least one other psychiatric disorder.
- Of children treated for major depression, 66 to 70 percent will experience a relapse.
- Of adolescents with untreated major depression, 20 to 30 percent will develop bipolar disorder.
* From the National Institute of Mental Health
- A family history of depression--especially if parents exhibited same tendencies when young
- Abuse or neglect
- Chronic illness such as cancer
- Trauma, including natural disasters
- Loss of a close friend or parent
- Breakup of a romantic relationship
- Attention, conduct, or learning disorder