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Teen Depression Treatment - Depression in Teens

What is the cause of teen depression? In fact, 7-14% of children and teens will experience an episode of major depression before the age of 15. 20-30% of adult bipolar patients report having their first episode before the age of 20.

-Adapted from an article of the same name in the recent NARSAD Research Newsletter.

The teenage years can be years filled with growth, expectations, and discoveries - it can be a joyous time. But it can also be a time of great stress, as those growing pains can be very painful at times. Hormones added to the mix may bring moodiness, confusion, and uncertainty. It can be a time of great ups, and great downs. However, teen depression is more than just moodiness, it is when those times of great downs become more prevalent, long lasting, and increasingly harder to overcome. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of teenagers develop depression every year.

Lack of interest in activities that once held their interest, a sudden drop in grades and new kinds of acting-out behaviors can all be signals that the teenager is having difficulty and needs help.

The causes of teen depression stem from both or either great stress or an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that affect mood. Professional counseling and medication therapy, in combination, are effective in treating teenage depression.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among teenagers in this county. Any mention or threat should be taken very seriously. Teens at greater risk of suicide include individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol, teens that have lost friends or relatives due to suicide, and teens that have a tendency to be over-achieving and highly self-critical.

What follows is a long list of symptoms of teenage depression. Many of these symptoms are universal for all mood disorders: some are specific to the teenage years. Six or more of these symptoms may be cause for concern. Above all, what differentiates these symptoms from teenage moodiness is that they are more severe, they are not momentary, and they may persist for weeks or months.

In Fact, Brown University reported in 2002 that many parents simply do not recognize the symptoms of depression in their teen. They found that even parents who have good communication with their teen do not necessarily realize it when a child is depressed (The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, Vol. 18, No 4, April 2002).

Teen Depression Symptoms

•    Depressed or irritable mood
•    Hopelessness
•    Excessive anxiety
•    Excessive crying
•    Isolation
•    Withdrawal from friends and/or family
•    Changes in small motor activity - slowed speech, fidgeting, pacing, etc.
•    Loss of energy
•    Agitation
•    Bad tempered
•    Reduced pleasure in activities that were once a pleasure
•    Changes in appetite
•    Unintentional changes in weight
•    Difficulty falling asleep
•    Changes in sleep patterns
•    Excessive daytime sleepiness
•    Difficulty concentrating
•    Memory loss
•    Outbursts of shouting, unexplained instability
•    Neglect of personal appearance
•    Preoccupation with self
•    Psychosomatic symptoms (headache, stomachache, etc.)
•    Feelings of worthlessness
•    Persistent sadness
•    Excessive guilt feelings
•    Acting-out behavior
•    Thoughts about suicide or preoccupation with death
•    Plans to commit suicide or actual suicide attempt
•    Excessively irresponsible behavior patterns
•    Use of alcohol or other drugs
•    Risk-taking behaviors
•    Frequent accidents

In addition, the following behaviors are cause for immediate concern as they are warning signs of suicide:

•    References to suicide "You'd be happy if I were dead"
•    Giving away possessions
•    Sudden change in mood: overly cheerful and calm
•    Persistent accidents
•    Upswing in risk-taking behavior
•    Dramatic changes in mood or behavior

Any suspicions that a teenager has suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously. Trust your instincts, understand your fears. If after speaking with the teenager your suspicions are confirmed, then get help immediately. Hospital emergency rooms can deal with this, and some specialize in suicide prevention.

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