Depression & Teens
Is your teen showing symptoms of depression, or is he just moody? Use these signs of depression to determine whether or not you should consult a psychiatrist.
By: Gregory Germain, MD
Although difficult to truly define, it is estimated that 15-20% of teens experience at least one serious episode of depression. But it can be very difficult to tell if your teen is, in fact, depressed since kids are all prone to mood swings. If your child is irritable for several weeks and won’t talk about why, you should start to suspect depression.
Symptoms of Teen Depression
Depressed teens may exhibit:
- outward sadness
- less pleasure from the activities they once did
- lack of interest in schoolwork and subsequent grade drops
- complaints about stomachaches and headaches
- changes in eating or sleeping: sometimes too much, sometimes not enough
If you see these signs in your son or daughter, don’t wait for him or her to come to you. Talk, but be sensitive to their vulnerability.
Treating Teen Depression
There is quite a debate ranging in the world of mental health about how to treat teens who are depressed. A couple of years ago, prompted by the same action in Britain, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put a “black box” warning on certain antidepressants that they felt are more likely to make adolescents suicidal than to help “cure” their depression.
More recent studies have countered this assertion. Although most agree that psychotherapy is an integral part of assessing and treating teen depression, medications still may play an integral role in the treatment of some patients. Finding the right person to make a quality assessment can be a huge hurdle in the treatment of your teen. Your pediatrician will be an excellent resource in finding this professional.
Don’t take depression in a teen lightly—suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. Suicidal teens often shows signs similar to those who are depressed, but they also may show a marked change in personality, withdraw from friends and family, run away, commit violent acts or turn to drugs. Very often they will give hints by saying things like, “I won’t be a problem for you much longer.” If you suspect that your teen is suicidal, take it very seriously and get help immediately.