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08-10 The dark cloud: How depression affects adolescents

The dark cloud: How depression affects adolescents

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that approximately 11 percent of individuals struggle with some form of depression or depressive disorder by the age of 18. Though sadness, disappointment and variations of these emotions are normal for children and adolescents to experience, depression is present when these are too great to manage and last for weeks or months. Depression is also characterized by extreme hopelessness, which often leads to self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Depression is like a dark cloud that follows an individual through his or her daily life. It is nearly impossible to escape the cloud, as it tinges every experience and can keep a teenager from excelling socially and academically. These negative feelings and thoughts, including negative self-talk, combined with lack of energy often lead to withdrawal and isolation, which can exacerbate symptoms of depression. The psychological effects of depression are often accompanied by physical ones. Many individuals struggling with depression report stomachaches, headaches, weight gain or loss and changes in sleeping patterns.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that certain children and teenagers are at higher risk than others for developing a depressive disorder. These include individuals struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, anxiety disorders or those with a history of trauma. Depression appears differently in each individual, sometimes characterized by irritability or anger more than sadness in certain people. Just as the symptoms of depression are varied, so are the causes. Ultimately, depression is the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which affects mood and leads to the aforementioned symptoms. The production of neurotransmitters and resulting imbalance can be affected by a variety of factors, including social triggers, life events, medical issues and the changing of seasons.

Suicidal ideation, one of the symptoms of clinical depression, occurs when an individual romanticizes the thought of suicide. This does not always result in the carrying out of these suicidal thoughts. However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults ages 15 to 24. NAMI also cautions that suicide often occurs when an individual is in treatment and appears to be doing better. This is because the lack of energy and motivation associated with severe bouts of depression kept the individual from acting on suicidal thoughts. While self-harm is typically used as a coping tool and is not intended to end an individual’s life, it can also be indicative of suicidal ideation. For this reason, past or present dialogue regarding feelings of hopelessness, suicide or self-harm are considered red flags.

Despite the feelings of hopelessness associated with depression, the disorder is treatable. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often implemented to treat adolescents struggling with depression, as it has been proven to change the patterns of thinking within an individual’s brain and lead to the development of healthy coping skills to manage negative feelings. Though medication is often used in tandem with CBT for the treatment of depression, there is only one antidepressant that is FDA-approved for the treatment of depression in children. This is fluoxetine, the brand name of which is Prozac, which is approved for children as young as 8 years old.

Depression can wreak havoc on families and relationships. For this reason, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests families educate themselves on the realities of the disorder to best help their loved one. If you or your child is struggling with depression, help is available. Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a facility that specializes in treating adolescents and teenagers struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse and dual diagnosis. Call 866-615-7266 to speak with a professional today.

Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group

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