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Depression and Adolescents

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Depression and Adolescents

Depression. Is depression possible in young adults? Not until recently doctors thought that kids were not prone to depression. They thought that depression was purely an "adult" disease. Nowadays, every doctor knows that a child could be depressed too. The causes of adolescent depression and treatment outcomes were explored in the article by Pat Wingert and Barbara Kantrowitz "Young and Depressed" that I will discuss.

This article illustrates a couple of real-life stories of teenagers who faced depression and had to somehow deal with it. One of the teenagers, Brianne, described how she tried to kill herself because she was so depressed. She described her mental state by saying: "It was like a cloud that followed me everywhere. I couldn't get away from it." She started drinking and experimenting with drugs. At a certain point, Brianne could not take it anymore. Once, she was caught shoplifting at a store and after her mother brought her home, Brianne swallowed every single Tylenol and Advil that there was in the house. She was rushed to the hospital and survived. Brianne has been treated for her depression and is now in college and leads a very healthy lifestyle. She is one of the lucky kids that survived, but a lot of times, when depression in kids goes unnoticed, the outcomes are very tragic.

Until about ten years ago, children's mood swings and irritability were considered nothing but a phase that kids go through and would eventually outgrow. It has been proven that if depression in teenagers goes unnoticed and, therefore, untreated, the children gradually will turn to doing drugs ("self-medication") and consuming alcohol, will drop out of school, will become promiscuous, and for a lot of them it even might lead to suicide.

The adolescent depression is basically treated as the adult depression. Unfortunately, most of the antidepressant drugs are still not approved by the FDA for children under 18 years old. Luckily, the doctors do indeed prescribe antidepressants to adolescents that dramatically help them deal with their depression. This practice is called an "off-label" use and is not uncommon for many illnesses.

The article also mentions that, of course, besides medication there must be some type of psychiatric help. The medication has to go hand-in-hand with the cognitive-behavior therapy - talk therapy that helps kids identify where their stress comes from and teaches them how to address and deal with it. These therapy sessions have enabled many teenagers to finally focus on school and go on with their lives as any other kid in school. Still, there are many ongoing studies conducted by researchers who are trying to find much more effective treatments for depressed adolescents.

The article also shows that depressed teens usually suffer for many years before they are identified. Even some adults who work with kids (teachers, coaches, pediatricians) can misread the signs of early depression. Even by professional doctors, those signs or symptoms are often mistaken for mononucleosis or chronic-fatigue syndrome. Also, finding the right help can be as difficult as identifying the kids who need help.

Who are the kids at risk of becoming depressed? Studies show that there are many different factors that could put the child at a high risk of becoming depressed. In most cases, one of those factors is parental separation. Children seem to be torn when the family is undergoing such major changes as a divorce. A lot of times, parents don't notice that there is something wrong with their child because they are so preoccupied with what is going on in their own lives that they don't notice a gradual decline in their kid's grades and development of the anti-social or delinquent behavior in their children. Negative experiences, such as growing up in an abusive home or witnessing violence, increase the probability of a depressive episode in kids who are at risk.

Another factor that plays a major role in children becoming depressed is actually a genetic predisposition to depression. "The closer your connection to a depressed family member - a depressed father rather than a depressed uncle, for example - the greater an individual's likelihood of suffering depression", says John Mann, chief of the department of neuroscience at Columbia University who is quoted in the article. That's why it's very important to know one's medical family history because it could help parents as well as the medical professionals trace if there is any possibility that the child could develop some mental disorder and, therefore, identify it in the early stages of its development.

The article mentions that the diagnosis and the treatment of depression in adolescents need a lot of improvement.

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