Teenage Depression - A Way Out
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At that point, Sarah knew she had to get help. The odds of adolescents suffering from clinical depression grew by 37 percent between and , according to a study by Ramin Mojtabai, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
Teen depression appears to be on the rise equally among urban, rural, and suburban populations. Research also shows that more dangerous behaviors, like self-harm, are increasing. Has the emergence of social media created a wave of depressed teens? Are our kids, hovered over by helicopter parents, more fragile than previous generations? Or is the rise in the number of cases simply a result of teens being more comfortable about sharing their problems and seeking help? Doctors were quick to dismiss mood disorders as simply part of normal human development—an idea that still riles Karen Swartz, a psychiatrist who is the director of clinical programs at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center.
That changed with the approval of Prozac by the FDA in and similar drugs in later years. For her patients, Swartz sometimes compares depression to asthma—another medical condition where environmental factors can worsen the situation. With asthma, an increase in dust or pollen could bring on an attack.
Why Are so Many Teens Depressed?
With depression, it might be a family tragedy or a stressful situation at school. Everybody wants a good story to explain it. Sometimes you just have asthma. These were unrelated, but the suicides jolted the community, and several schools asked Swartz to speak with parents, teachers, and students about depression. She quickly realized how little people knew about it. The following year, she and several colleagues formed the Hopkins-based Adolescent Depression Awareness Program ADAP to help high school teachers and students recognize its symptoms.
The team developed a three-hour curriculum for health teachers to share the facts about adolescent depression with their classes. The goal was to convey two primary themes: number one, depression is a treatable medical illness, and number two, if kids are concerned about themselves or a friend, talk to an adult. Since its inception, the program has reached more than 75, students nationwide. Still, Swartz says a lot more needs to be done, as teens and those around them are painfully slow in acknowledging warning signs, especially compared to symptoms of other diseases.
Swartz recognizes that it can be hard for parents to acknowledge that some behavior is more than typical teen behavior. But left unchecked, depression can have dire consequences. At the end of her sophomore year in high school, Rebecca Green started feeling sad but had no explanation. She lived in a loving, two-parent household and excelled academically at the Baltimore-area private school she attended.
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She enjoyed playing sports and studying foreign languages and had ideas of traveling abroad someday. She began fantasizing about her own death. Through sessions with Miller and therapist Arielle Goldman, Green learned to alter her thought patterns, to not escalate minor problems, like a disappointing grade, into suicidal thoughts. It may be hard for people to alter their feelings, she says, but people can change their thoughts and behaviors, affecting how they feel. Instead of brooding about a perceived slight at school, she recommends changing a behavior—go out for a bike ride or watch a movie with a friend.
Goldman says she spends about 90 minutes with each new client, trying to suss out a diagnosis.
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In the world of teenage mood disorders, sometimes getting the right diagnosis is where the challenge begins. That could be symptomatic of depression, anxiety, ADHD. You have to look at it as a constellation of symptoms. Then look at the timeline of when these episodes started. Anxiety, she says, can be harder to spot. A report from the Child Mind Institute found that only about 20 percent of young people with a diagnosable anxiety disorder get treatment.
Unfortunately, one of them is an increasing number of kids committing acts of self-harm—cutting, burning, striking themselves. And girls tend to do it more often than boys. Another recent analysis by the RAND Corporation pegged the number even higher—estimating that more than 36 percent of girls in America have been or are depressed by the time they reach Research on why teens—and girls in particular—harm themselves remains in its infancy.
Why Today’s Teens Are More Depressed Than Ever
Psychiatrists say that kids who self-injure are, in essence, self-medicating emotions, much the way an adult might by using alcohol. They may want to calm themselves down. Or, conversely, they feel so numb to the world that they just want to feel something.
Some research has shown that cutting can stimulate the pleasure zones of the brain. It could also be used as a form of self-punishment.
Teenage depression: ‘There was no way out’ – Channel 4 News
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