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7 Facts about Teen Depression

written by: BettyHolt • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 12/8/2010

What do we know about teen depression? While occasional bad moods and acting out are normal during the teenage years, teen depression is more severe and long-lasting, causing anger, sadness and despair. Teen depression is highly treatable, but best when caught early and monitored carefully.

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    About Teen Depression

    Teen depression is a common problem. According to teendepression.org, about 20 percent of teens will experience depression before adulthood. As many as 8.3 percent of teens are depressed for at least a year at a time, compared to only 5.3 percent of the general population. Most teens will have more than one depressive episode, lasting about 8 months. Two percent will have dysthymia, a mild, chronic depression, and another two percent will eventually develop bipolar disorder. A small percentage of teens suffer from seasonal depression, usually during the winter at high latitudes.

    Teen depression has no regard for gender, social background, income level, race or academic achievements. Teenage girls report being depressed more than boys, but this may be due to social expectations of boys not usually encouraged to express their feelings. Since girls have stronger social ties, their depression can be triggered more often by loss of friends.

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    Causes

    Although there is no single cause of depression, according to kidshealth.org, the following factors play a role in teen depression.

    Genetics - Depression tends to run in families, although not everyone who inherits a genetic tendency gets depressed. Many people with no family history do get depressed.

    Life Events - Difficult life events such as when parents divorce or remarry can trigger situational depression. Moving or changing schools can be challenging for teens and can trigger depression. The death of a family member, friend or pet can sometimes go beyond normal grieving and lead to depression.

    Family and Social Environment - An unhappy or stressful home environment can influence self-esteen and cause depression. High-stress living situations such as poverty, homelessness, violence or abuse can trigger depression. Substance use and abuse can trigger changes in the brain that affect mood.

    Medical Conditions - Some health conditions, such as hypothyroidism, can cause depressed mood, while learning disabilities and hormonal changes can create challenges which affect mood.

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    7 Facts About Teen Depression

    1. According to Helpguide.org, teen depression often manifests differently than adult depression. Irritable or angry mood, unexplained aches and pains, extreme sensitivity to criticism, and withdrawal from some but not all people, are hallmarks of teen depression.

    2. Untreated depression can lead to the following problems: difficulty concentrating at school, running away from home, using alcohol and drugs to self-medicate, feelings of low self-esteem and shame, eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and yo-yo dieting, internet addiction, self-injury or self-mutilation, reckless driving, uncontrolled drinking and unsafe sex, violent acting-out, and attempts at suicide.

    3. The best way to help a teenager you suspect is depressed is to talk to them about it in a loving and non-judgemental way and encourage them to open up about it. Don't offer unsolicited advice or ultimatums or try to talk them out of it. Take them seriously.

    4. Another way to help them is to get them professional help by going to your family doctor or consulting a counselor. A doctor might do certain tests to rule out medical conditions.

    5. In cases of mild to moderate depression, talking to a therapist can be very helpful. If medication is used, you must monitor this very carefully. Some antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in teens and carry a warning label. You should be concerned if symtoms of agitation, irritability, or anger get worse or if you notice unusual changes in behavior.

    6. Supporting a teenager through treatment involves being understanding and encouraging them to be physically and socially active. Research shows that exercise alone can alleviate depressive symptoms. Social activity counters isolation. Make sure your teen is taking medication as prescribed and going to therapy. Learn about depression yourself so you will be better equipped to understand.

    7. It's important for family members dealing with a teen's depression to get their own support in handling their feelings about it by talking to friends, attending a support group or seeing a therapist. Be open with other family members about it and make sure your other children aren't being ignored.