Teen Depression

What is teen depression? Teen depression is a very serious mental health issue that causes a persistent feeling of sadness, anxiety, loss of interest in day-to-day activities that were once pleasant. Thought processes may be affected that cause an emotional breakdown, excessive sadness, and may hamper their emotional growth.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 13.3% of adolescents aged 12 to 17 had “at least one major depressive episode” in 2017. That total number is 3.2 million American teens. With those affected, 70.77% of depression had  at least one instance of “severe impairment” that interfered with their day to day functioning.
Here are more statistics:

  • 20% of females and 6.8% of males aged 12-17 suffered a depressive episode in 2017
  • according to the NIMH, Those who are “reporting two or more races, “ 16.9% of adolescents suffered a depressive episode in 2017;
  • About 60.1% of depressed adolescents received no treatment; 
  • About 19.6% received treatment from a health professional; 
    • 2.4% were treated with medication alone; 
    • 17.6% received treatment from both a health professional and medication (NIMH)

In the 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey, 7.4 percent of youth in grades 9-12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months. These are alarming statistics.

What are the symptoms of teen depression.

  • Emotional changes
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Crying spells
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of frustration
  • Irritability and agitation over little things.
  • Hopelessness, helplessness, with feelings of emptiness.
  • Loss of interest in where they had pleasure activities before
  • Isolation
  • Guilty/worthlessness
  • Insomnia/Hypersomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite changes
  • Headaches, stomach aches, body aches with excessive visits to the school nurse of primary care
  • Excessive Self-blame, self-criticism for past failures
  • Worsening feelings with rejection with relationships, and would need reassurance excessively
  • Impaired memory, cognition, concentration, thinking, that may affect their performance with schooling
  • Self-injurious behaviors of cutting, excessive piercing, tattooing, burning of skin
  • Teenagers who are severely depressed may have frequent thoughts of death, suicide, and have a grim outlook for their future

Possible causes of teen depression would be learned patterns of negative thinking from their family with feelings of helplessness and not able to find solutions when challenges in life occur. Hormonal changes in the body may be involved in teen depression and may trigger depression. A family history of depression may increase the likelihood of teen depression.

Risk factors are being in the LGBTQ community with and poor supportive environment may increase the likelihood of teen depression. Alcohol, illicit substance use nicotine may increase depression as well. Personality traits such as self-critical, pessimistic, with low self-esteem may increase the risk for teen depression. History of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, obesity, cancer, and other chronic medical illness may increase the risk for depression. Any learning disabilities, ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, personality disorder, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, may increase depression. Anyone who has witnessed trauma or violence such as physical, sexual, emotional abuse may increase the likelihood of teen depression.

What can you do as a parent? Use open-ended questions. Ask them about their emotions, their feelings, and their thoughts. Ask them about their current relationships. Is there bullying at school? Is there any substance use? Alcohol? Drugs, medication abuse? Therapy is important to change these negative thought patterns. It is also important for behavioral changes and lifestyle changes. Adequate sleep and healthy eating habits help with teen depression. Increasing physical activities helps with mood, self-esteem, and feelings. Medication management and therapy may be an option for better day to day functioning of your teenager.

If your teenager is having difficulties and is struggling in their day to activities, talk to a health professional. Contact your Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or click here to schedule an appointment.