Sometimes teens feel so depressed that they consider ending their lives. Each year, almost 5,000 young people, ages 15 to 24, kill themselves. The rate of suicide for this age group has nearly tripled since 1960, making it the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college-age youth.
Depression is more than the normal ups and downs; it is a serious illness that can affect anybody, at any age. Depression occurs frequently in teenagers and younger children. About 5% of adolescents in the general population suffer from depression. Depression is the world’s number one psychological disorder. Modern research indicates that chemical imbalances in the brain cause depression. It could lead adolescents to have thoughts or even attempts suicide, and also to abuse drugs and alcohol. Symptoms of depression can be relieved quickly with psychological therapies and medications.
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Therapy can help teens understand why they are depressed and learn how to cope with stressful situations. Depending on the situation, treatment may consist of individual, group or family counseling. Medications that can be prescribed by a psychiatrist may be necessary to help teens feel better.
Depression is serious and, if left untreated, can worsen to the point of becoming life-threatening. If depressed teens refuse treatment, it may be necessary for family members or other concerned adults to seek professional advice.
Teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression. Teens also may express their depression through hostile, aggressive, risk-taking behavior. But such behaviors only lead to new problems, deeper levels of depression and destroyed relationships with friends, family, law enforcement or school officials.
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Depression can be difficult to diagnose in teens because adults may expect teens to act moody. Also, adolescents do not always understand or express their feelings very well. They may not be aware of the symptoms of depression and may not seek help.
Although chemical imbalances, which affect the way people think and behave, are not totally understood. The brain has a lot to do with depression. Research data indicates that people who suffer from depression have an imbalance of neurotransmitters, natural substances that allow brain cells to communicate with each other. Two transmitters that associate with depression are serotonin and norepinephrine. Scientists think that a lack in serotonin may cause the sleep problems, irritability, and anxiety associated with depression.
Adolescent depression is increasing at an alarming rate. Recent surveys indicate that as many as one in five teens suffers from clinical depression. This is a serious problem that calls for prompt, appropriate treatment. Depression can take several forms, including bipolar disorder (formally called manic-depression), which is a condition that alternates between periods of euphoria and depression.
Depression affects teenagers in many ways. The chemical imbalances that cause depression could lead children to abuse drugs and alcohol. Many teens that go through depression turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to help them feel better about themselves. Yet in some situations, alcohol or drug use comes first, and depression is caused by: the drug itself, withdrawal from it, or the problems that substance abuse causes. Depression also leads teens to have thought or expressions of suicide. Untreated depression is the number one cause of teen suicides. Suicide is in all neighborhoods, schools and in many families. Around 30,000 people a year commit suicide, 4,000 to 5,000 are between the ages of 10 and 24. In order to prevent suicide, psychiatrist, Jack Westman, and professor of pediatrics, Peter Karofsky, says:
“Spend time as a family. Parents who spend time with their teens know them well enough to sense problems, avert disasters, and discipline without threats. Negotiating through everyday conflicts and disappointments will build confidence to weather more serious ones, and kids who have seen their mothers and fathers deal with difficult times will have models of adults coping with adversity and growing from it.”
But sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, teens become depressed. Many factors can contribute to depression. Studies show that some depressed people have too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Also, a family history of depression may increase the risk for developing depression. Other factors that can contribute to depression are difficult life events (such as death or divorce), side-effects from some medications and negative thought patterns.