Depression is no more a rare disorder, with an estimated 10 to 15 percent, or one or two out of every 10 teens suffering from it. According to a report, there is an increase in anxiety and depression in teenagers across Europe, UK and China.
A study carried out in India reveals that 3 to 9 percent of teenagers meet the criteria for depression at some time, and at the end of adolescence, as many as 20 percent of teenagers report a lifetime prevalence of depression. Usual care by primary care physicians fails to recognise 30-50 percent of depressed patients.
“I have seen a steady increase in reported cases of depression among students over the past two decades. Part of this rise can be attributed to an increased awareness among students and parents of the importance of recognising and treating depression. A part of the increase is due to increased vulnerability of our youth to stress and the increasing pressures on them to perform upto certain unrealistic expectations in their personal, social and academic lives.” says Psychiatrist Dr Rajesh Parikh.
The good news, however, is that treating teen depression is not just about popping medicines. In fact, medication is usually at the bottom of the list of options that are now available for parents to treat their depressed teens.
Depression is associated with higher levels of stress, anxiety, and suicide. It can also affect a teen’s personal, school, work, social, and family life, which can lead to social isolation and other problems.
Dr. Theodore Murray, medical director of Child and Adolescent Intensive Services at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, MA, says that talk therapy and lifestyle adjustments are sufficient to treat mild depression. Moderate to severe depression require a combination of medication and therapy.
He explains that concerns of parents, that anti-depressants increase suicidal tendencies and violent behavior, is misplaced. “For every 150 kids who started an antidepressant, one may have increased thoughts about suicide,” he says. He suggests that parents should have honest conversations with their teen’s doctor before making the decision to avoid medication.
Symptoms of depression:
- Persistent sad or irritable mood
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Significant change in appetite or body weight
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Five or more of these symptoms must persist for 2 or more weeks before a diagnosis of major depression is indicated.
Dealing with depression:
- Making new friends in school and colleges. A good relationship with your friends provide an important social outlet.
- Lot of outdoor activities like participating in sports, job, school activities or hobbies will keep you busy and will help to distract from negative feelings or behaviors.
- One can join organizations that offer programs for young people. Special programs geared to the needs of adolescents help develop additional interests.
- You can take help from a trusted. When problems are too much to handle alone, teens should not be afraid to ask for help.
Regular counseling sessions, professional monitoring, and a supportive environment at home go a long way in helping teens recover from depression.
And finally, once the teen begins to act normal, parents should shift back to the family’s routines around mealtimes, school work, behavioral expectations, and chores. “The goal is always to return to the structure” that worked for the family before the depression started, “ says says Janet Lehman, the co-creator of the Total Transformation program and a clinical social worker.
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