Teen Depression

1 What is Teen Depression?

Teen depression is a mental disorder that causes a teenager to  feel sad and lose interest in activities.

Not only does it change how a teenager thinks, feels and behaves but it also causes emotional, functional and physical disorders.


Teenagers usually experience a lot of ups and downs concerning peer pressure, academic expectations and changes in the body.

However, the lows in some teenagers can be a symptom of depression. Teen depression is a serious mental health problem and it requires long-term treatment.

Treatment includes anti-depressant medications and psychological  counseling.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of teen depression include emotional and behavioral changes.

Emotional changes include:

  • Feelings of sadness, helplessness and emptyness
  • Increased irritability
  • Feeling of  fraustration or anger over small issues
  • Loss of interest in, or conflict with family and friends
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Trouble thinking, concetrating, remembering things  or making decisions
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide

Behavioral changes include:

  • Insomnia or increased sleeping
  • Decreased appetite or increased cravings for foods and weight gain
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Angry outbursts, disruptive or risky behaviour
  • Self-harm like cutting, burning, excessive piercing or tattooing

3 Causes

The exact cause of teen depresion is not known. Several factors that can be involved in the development of depression include:

  • Changes in the levels of chemical in the brain that carry signal to other parts of the brain and body (neurotransmitters)
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Inherited traits
  • Traumatic events in childhood - like emotional or physical abuse, loss of a parent or close relative can cause changes in the brain that can increase the risks of having depression in the future.
  • Learning patterns of negative instead of positive thinking, like feeling helpless instead of looking for solutions to life problems.

Types of depression include

Anxious depression

It is accompanied by restlessness or worry about possible events or los of control.

Melancholic depression

This type of depression is severe. Patients show no response to pressure. It usually appears and worsens in the morning. It is associated with changes in appetite, feeling of guilt, agitation or sluggishness.

Atypical depression

This involves the ability to be temporaily cheered by happy events, an increased appetite or need for sleep, sensitivity to rejection. A heavy feeling in the arms or legs can also be present.

4 Making a Diagnosis

The following tests can be used to diagnose teen depression:

  • Physical examination: In which the doctor may ask in-depth question to the patient in order to determine the cause of depression.
  • Lab tests to check for changes in the levels of neurotransmitters or hormones in blood. A complete blood count may also be performed.
  • Psychological evaluation: In which a doctor (psychologist) evaluates:
    • the thoughts,
    • feelings
    • behaviour of a teenager.

This is usually performed with the help of a questionaire. This test can help to pinpoint the diagnosis and check for complications that are related to depression.

5 Treatment

Treatment given may vary according to the type and severity of teen depression.

Anti-depressants and psychotherapy are the most effective treatments.

Hospitalisation may be required in teenagers with severe depression or at a risk of harming themselves. Getting psychiatric treatment in such cases can help to keep the patient calm and safe until symptoms improve.

Medications that can be used includebfluoxetine (Prozac) and escitalopram (Lexapro).These are the only drugs that  have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating depression in teenagers. Some of the side effects of antidepressants is that they may increase suicidal thoughts or changes in behaviour. This can occur within the first few weeks of treatment or when the dose of the medication used is changed.

Some medications can be effetive in some teenagers bot not in others due to individual percularities. Thus a lot of patience may be required in order to find the right drug that works. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the positive effects of antidepressants to appear, usually several weeks. Patients should be encouraged to keep taking medications consistenly and at the right dose.

Psychotherapy (psychological counseling) is a treatment in which a doctor (psychologists) talks to apatient about depression and other related issues. Types of psychotherapy for depression include, cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. Psychotherapy can be done with only the patient and psychologists, with a family member  or in a group.

Other treatments include day programs which provide support and counseling that teenagers with depresion may need.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Alternative remedies shouldn't replace the conventional treatments for teen depression.

These treatments are oncly effective when combined with either medications or psychotherapy.

The following can help teenagers to deal with depression:

  • Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, tai chi and meditation
  • Guided imagery
  • Massage, music or art therapy
  • Spirituality

7 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with teen depression.

Factors that may increase the risk of teen depression include:

  • Having a low self-esteem which can be caused by issues like obesity, peer pressure, long-term bullying or academic problems.
  • Being a victim or witness of violence, physical or sexual abuse
  • Having other mental disorders like bipolar disorder or anxiety disorder.
  • Having a learning or physical disability.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Having a dysfunctional family or a family who committed suicide.
  • Feeling unaccepted by society.

If depression is not treated it can lead to several complications, which include:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Academic difficulties
  • Trouble maintaining relationships
  • Increase chances of involvement with the juvenile justice system
  • Suicide

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