Depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects millions of adults and teenagers worldwide. The U.S. Surgeon General (1999) reports that 10 to 15 percent of teenagers in the United States experience depression symptoms at any given time, and up to 20 percent will develop depression before adulthood.
Symptoms of Depression in Teens
According to research published by TeenDepression.org (2005), untreated depression is the most common cause of teen suicide in United States. Knowing the warning signs of teen depression is therefore critical for parents who want to keep their children healthy and safe.
Depression symptoms to watch for include:
- Acute sensitivity to criticism
- Changes in appetite
- Disinterest in usual hobbies
- Displays of anger or irritability
- Down mood
- Expressions of guilt or low self esteem
- Increase or decrease in time spent sleeping
- Poor grades in school
- Reluctance to spend time with friends and family.
Experiencing one or two of these symptoms for a limited period of time is normal for most teens, and it is not necessarily an indication that they’re depressed. However, if several of these signs are evident for more than two weeks straight, parents are encouraged to seek help from a medical professional.
Causes and Risks of Teen Depression
The causes of depression are not fully understood, but certain risk factors can make a teen more likely to experience depression. Specifically, some of those risk factors are:
- Experiencing traumatic life events
- Having a particular brain chemistry linked to depression
- Having close relatives with depression
- Using drugs or alcohol.
In addition to the increased risk for suicide, teenagers with depression are also more likely than their peers to struggle in school, have problems maintaining relationships, and self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. They also have a higher risk of experiencing future bouts of depression.
Help for Depressed Teens
Parents who notice signs of depression in their teen can start by talking openly with their child about her feelings. Tell her about the changes in mood and behavior that you’ve observed. Express concern and refrain from being judgmental. The goal is get your teen talking about their feelings and agreeing to get help. Teens with depression can usually get better with the proper treatment, which often involves psychotherapy and possibly medications.
Some teens may be reluctant to share what they are feeling or deny they are depressed. Because depression is such a serious condition, parents may want to discuss their concerns with a medical professional even if their teen denies having a problem.
Mrazek, D. (2008). Depression in teens: Watch for signs. Retrieved September 4, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-in-teens/MY00310
Smith, M. and Barston, S. (2010). Teen depression: A guide for parents and teachers. Retrieved September 4, 2010, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm
Teen Depression. (n.d.). Teen depression statistics. Retrieved September 4, 2010, from http://www.teendepression.org/articles5.html
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1999). Mental health: a report of the Surgeon General â€“ Depression and suicide in children and adolescents. Retrieved September 4, 2010, from http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter3/sec5.html