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Cognitive Psychology for Teen Depression

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 12/16/2010

Teen depression is a concern today, but medications have been shown to increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior for some teens with depression However, a therapy formed from cognitive psychology can help to alleviate depression. Let's look at cognitive psychology and teen depression.

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    Why Use Cognitive Therapy to Treat Depressed Teens?

    Teen depression manifests itself similarly to depression in adults. Among teens who suffer from depression, they probably won't appear to be as social, seem sad or often angry, lack concentration, and lack energy1. Their grades will likely suffer, and they will have less motivation to participate in activities outside of school. It is likely that teenagers who suffer from depression will know that something is wrong, but they probably don't possess the knowledge to identify that it is depression. If adults do recognize signs of depression, they may think that the best step is quickly place the teen on an anti-depressant, but this is not the best approach2. Teens and children who take anti-depressants are at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior, so this leaves psychotherapy as the best approach.

    One of the best approaches is cognitive therapy which has been shown to be effective in fighting depression and is the link between cognitive psychology and teen depression. It has been shown to be successful in the short term as well as the long term. In the following section, cognitive therapy will be discusses as a treatment for teen depression as well as the approaches of the therapy.

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    Cognitive Psychology an Teen Depression

    Cognitive psychology is a sub-discipline that explores internal mental processes. Cognitive psychology and teen depression weren't included in the same sentence until the creation of a treatment strategy known as cognitive therapy. When it began being used, its success became quickly apparent3. The rest of this article will outline and discuss some of the components of cognitive therapy and how it can alleviate teen depression .

    Cognitive therapy addresses problematic cognitive processes, and the first to be discussed is automatic thoughts. These thoughts are common, refer to ourselves, and can be positive or negative. When they become negative, it can be damaging. The types of thoughts are problematic because there is no logic behind them, and they are difficult to combat. These may hinder teenagers who already feel as though they are on display, but they can be addressed by dissecting the situation and seeing if the negative thought holds true. It is likely that it will not, and, over time, these can be overcome.

    Another problematic cognitive process is the development of irrational ideas and beliefs. These include a thought like "I can't be happy unless everyone likes me", and these beliefs are unrealistic and negative. Still, they are always treated as though they are correct. Discovering which beliefs are irrational is the first step to changing them, and, once irrational beliefs are identified, they can be changed.

    Related to the previous cognitive processes is overgeneralizing or catastrophizing which is another misjudgment. An example is when one person doesn't like someone, so they believe that no one likes them. Or, a small mistake on a paper will result in them receiving a poor grade. This can lead to a conclusion that one is bad or useless, but, again, treatment will help to identify these issues and then help people to explore the issue in a realistic way.

    These faulty cognitive processes can eventually lead to a cognitive distortion where reality is viewed in a generally negative way. Cognitive therapy addresses how people solve problems and perceive situations. People who are depressed can be shown that they are competent and that their negative ways are not always correct by addressing cognitive distortion. Overall, cognitive therapy addresses these issues and helps people to overcome the crippling nature of these negative thoughts. Teens especially may suffer from thoughts like this because they often feel as though they are on display. Cognitive therapy is a great way to alleviate teenage depression without the possible risk which may come from using anti-depressants, and it provides a tool to combat future bouts of depression for the rest of their life. .