Many adults tend to think of depression as an adult disorder, but depression can affect teenagers and children as well. Furthermore, depression treatment in teenagers is more complex than adult treatment due to the ongoing development of cognitive, physical and developmental changes during adolescence. Understanding the problem of depression in teens can help focus efforts to cure it.
Statistics On Teen Depression
According to the US National Library of Medicine, 20 percent of teenagers experience depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America characterizes two primary forms of depression affecting teens: major depression and dysthymia. Major depression lasts for a time period of at least two weeks. Dysthymia is a lessened form of depression with chronic symptoms over at least two years. Approximately 20 percent of depressed teens contemplate suicide, and one in 12 attempt suicide (Healthline).
Causes Depression In Teenage And Children
Depression in teens is more common than one might think. It’s estimated that 2.6 million youths between the ages of 12 and 17 have had one or more serious depressive episodes over the course of the last year. This is equivalent to 10.7 percent of Americans in that age range. These figures have prompted researchers to increase their efforts on identifying the possible causes.
The causes of depression have been the subject of a great deal of investigation over the years. It has long been held that a chemical imbalance in the brain’s neurotransmitters is the primary cause of depression. Lowered levels of neurotransmitters limit a person’s ability to feel pleasure and happiness, resulting in depression. However, more recent studies have suggested that the matter is more complex than that.
According to Harvard Medical School, neurotransmitter imbalance is only one of many brain disorders that can affect depression. Other disorders, such as faulty mood regulation, may also be responsible. But not all potential causes are due to the fluctuation of brain chemicals. Nerve cell growth, nerve cell connections and nerve circuit function all impact depression as well. While researchers have not yet identified all of the possible neurological issues that may lead to depression, their search doesn’t end in the brain.
Other factors beside brain function can play a role in childhood depression. In some cases, it stems from emotional trauma, such as a divorce in the family. Molestation, rape and incest may also trigger depression in youths. For teens, moving to a new area or breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend may cause some symptoms of depression, but in these cases, it’s usually more temporary.
In some instances, the cause of depression is hereditary. If a mother or father has had it, even in adulthood, it’s possible that a child may end up with depression. It’s believed that there are certain genes that make a person more susceptible to this mental health condition. Passing these genes down through the generations can create a family history of depression.
Even when teens do not have any neurological, traumatic or genetic reasons to become depressed, some might become overwhelmed by the simple stresses of life. The teen years can be a particularly taxing time. Changing hormones, school pressures and the transition from childhood to adulthood can all pile up and leave teens feeling beaten down. Researchers may one day conclude that teenage depression is just a simple fact of life.
The causes of teenage depression vary, but certain risk factors can identify teens who are at an increased risk for depression. These risk factors include:
- Diagnosis of other mood disorders
- Family history of mood disorders
- The occurrence of stressful events, such as divorces, death, bullying, relationship problems or difficulties with schoolwork
- Low self-esteem
- Female gender
- Presence of learning disabilities
- Presence of chronic illnesses
- Family problems
- Substance abuse
Symptoms Of Teenage Depression
To qualify as a symptom of depression, the symptoms must exist for at least two weeks. If any of the following symptoms are present for this time period, the child’s physician should be consulted:
- Irritability, anger and hostility
- Unusual and unexplained pains, aches and other health problems
- Withdrawal from activities
- Excessive lethargy
- Feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems with making decisions
- Sudden drops in school grades
- Engaging in high-risk behaviors
- Withdrawal from friends, family and responsibilities
Suicide And Teenage Depression
Depressed teens are at an increased risk for abusing drugs or alcohol, and treatment for teenage depression requires treatment for these concurrent conditions. Furthermore, adults need to be especially vigilant for any possible warning signs of suicidal thoughts or plans. These signs include:
- Giving belongings away
- Saying good-bye to others
- Talking about death
- Fixating on death
- Writing about death or suicide
- Dramatic personality changes
- Engaging in significant risks, such as drinking while driving or unprotected sexual behaviors
- Withdrawal from others
One of the most common misconceptions about teen depression and suicide is that teens only talk about suicidal thoughts for attention. Suicidal thoughts are not a call for help; they are a medical emergency. They should always involve immediate medical intervention.
Treatment Of Teen Depression
Teen treatment options may include medication, hospitalization and psychotherapy to overcome depression. Medications can alleviate many of the symptoms of depression, and hospitalization is usually required when starting new medications or during crises. If addiction is an issue, hospitalization may be required during the detoxification process. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a means of working through the trials of depression by identifying irrational thought processes and learning how to cope with stressful events.
Teen depression is not an imaginary condition. It should be approached with caution, concern and understanding. With more teens experiencing higher levels of stress, the prevalence of teen depression will continue to rise. Parents and guardians need to be aware of the causes, signs, symptoms and treatment options for teen depression.
What Should A Teen Expect During Detox
Drug rehab centers understand how serious drug addiction is on a teenager. With teenage drug abuse statistics so high, these facilities see a great deal of patients and witness firsthand what teenagers go through when recovering from teen substance abuse. This includes the process of detoxing.
The first step to overcoming a drug addiction is detoxification, often called detox. Detox is the process of getting rid of all the addictive substances in the body. This procedure occurs under the direct supervision of medical professionals because some withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous.
During detox, certain precautions are taken to ensure that it goes safely. These measures can consist of traditional medicines to stop or ease the symptoms of withdrawal. In some cases, a more holistic approach may be taken that uses all-natural remedies to relieve symptoms.
The detoxing period generally takes five to 10 days to remove all the drugs from a patient’s system. Factors that determine how long this stage lasts include the drugs of choice, the last time the drugs were taken and the amount taken.
During detox, a teenager will experience one or more symptoms of withdrawal. This varies based on the drug. For example, a teen who is going through withdrawal from alcohol may experience tremors, cold sweats, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, agitation or confusion. It’s possible to experience seizures during this time, but a well-trained staff can assist in preventing this complication. Because symptoms of many dependencies include both physical and psychological symptoms, it’s important to have a trained medical staff on hand who realize the extent of how serious these symptoms are and how serious they are to a nervous teen.
Once detoxing is complete, the real recovery can begin. Patients will often transfer to a behavioral health facility for teens to provide treatment for addiction. Therapy is one of the most successful addiction treatments. Speaking with a therapist helps teenagers confront their negative behaviors and learn positive strategies to cope with challenges that could drag them back into using. There’s also the option of group therapy, which allows patients to get learn from their peers. Family counseling is another effective treatment, helping turn the family into a health and supportive unit.
Withdrawal can serve as a difficult barrier between a drug abuser and recovery, but only by first going through detox in a safe and professional environment can addicts achieve a real and lasting recovery.