January 6, 2007

Teen Depression

I wrote this for my BCC health class.

Depression has long been thought only to affect the adult population, however now as more research is completed it is becoming increasingly obvious that both teenagers and even young children can suffer from the disease. As the research mounts, concern for its suffering captives grows as well. Despite all of the best efforts made to curb the ravaging illness, the overall amount of people, young and old, affected by depression, is growing rapidly. In teenagers, depression is leading to escalating amounts of violence. In just thirty years the teen suicide, often associated with extreme depression, has increased 300% (Kelty Foundation). With more of the nation’s future suffering from bouts depression, American’s will need to learn to both cope with the disease themselves and help others who are struggling. By being able to recognize common symptoms and causes for depression, the ailment that is ravaging the world may be overcome.

Signs of Depression in Teens
While depression is primarily a mental and emotional dysfunction, there are many psychological, social and physical signs associated with it.
Emotionally, a teenager suffering from depression will feel hopeless, and sad. They tend to loose interest in things that once interested them. For instance, a girl who once enjoyed running on her school track team could find herself unable to derive joy from that activity. This in itself can plunge the victim further into depression. For both girls and boys, crying is a solid sign that something is wrong, and has long been confused for the hormonal and emotional changes that occur during puberty.
Changes in interests and the inability to relate to others can create an array of social complexes. Teens might isolate themselves from other people their age and even in some cases, their own friends. Even if he or she is not purposefully creating distance between them and their peers, they still have a tendency to have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships. They are often worried about what their friends might think of them if they talk about their problem or they may have problems listening and relating to those close to them.
The most destructive warning signs are those of the physical nature. These can range anywhere from mild discomfort, such as chronic headaches, all the way to suicide. Other milder ailments include insomnia, or conversely a desire to sleep much more than normal and unhealthy changes in eating habits. While these complaints make the victim’s life unbearable, and influence their health, school work and mental wellbeing, they can be solved with effort. More critical conditions include intensifying aggressive behavior, substance abuse, self mutilation or injury and, as mentioned just prior, both attempted and accomplished suicide. All of these signs should be taken seriously. While some of the changes could be part of normal maturation, parents and other guardians should carefully compare these behaviors to the ordinary behaviors of the adolescent in question.

Causes of Depression in Teens
Over the past several years a great amount of time and money has been put into researching what causes depression. Some scientists believe that it is the result of chemical imbalances within the brain or that it is even genetic. Others believe that it is caused by unhealthy lifestyles. Still others believe that it is caused by trauma and stress.
Believers in the physical origins of depression have conducted studies comparing the likeliness of someone becoming depressed when their parent’s suffered from depression, to others who have not had a parent with depression. The results show that people who have depressed parents are more likely to be depressed than another person and even adoptive children can inherit the depression of their birth parents (Microsoft Student). Other related studies also suggest that the level of neurotransmitters in the brain decreases in depressed people. Contrary to these studies, others show that ten times more people are depressed who were born after 1945, than were born before that time (Depression Learning Path). The researchers suggest that this proves that many cases of depression are not caused by chemical changes and genetics.
A cause that is often less associated with depression to the public is personal health. While having a severe accident would undoubtedly bring about depression for many people, aspects such as diet are often overlooked. Diets that are rich in vitamins, including the much neglected omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, can help prevent some cases of depression. Because many teens do not eat a healthy variety of food, it is possible that this is the cause of many cases of teen depression.
The final and most commonly associated source of depression is stress. Whether it is from taking a difficult school class or losing a loved one, stress has the ability to tear people apart emotionally. For many, heavy amounts of stress are not felt until the teenage years, when they begin to experience heavier work loads, friendship problems and an assortment of changes that force them to transform their childhood perception of the world into an older, more mature version. For some, however, stress is not new. Teens who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may have been suffering from depression for a long time. Events such as abuse, death and divorce send a great number of people into depression every year, and while classes will end, and tests will pass, these events take longer to heal from, and require a lot of loving support.

Treatments Appropriate for Teen Depression
There is no magic cure for depression. Even pills will not make depression go away. Instead they simply help control its symptoms. It is important though, that teenagers refrain from taking medications, opting instead for other treatments. Antidepressants are rarely tested on children and teenagers, and have not been proven to help their situation. Not only is it useless, but underage use of antidepressants may can be damaging, as the brain is still in its stages of development until adulthood is reached. Many of these drugs are banned in the United Kingdom, however the United States strongly discourages the use of depression medication by young people (Depression Learning Path).
Safer treatments for depression include therapy, creativity and exercise. Therapy has been and continues to be a common treatment for depression. It is harder than taking a pill once a day, however the council and support lent by others is a key role in the depression healing process. Creativity provides and outlet for feelings and ideas that a person suffering from depression may be thinking about. By using creative means, such as art, dancing, and singing, a teenager can both recover from depression, as well as discover a new hobby. Exercise as well is a good treatment. By improving ones health, they can improve their emotions. It also develops good habits that can be used throughout life.
Helping a Teenager With Depression
When helping anyone with depression it is important to let them know that you are available to help and comfort them. Provide them with plenty of support but do not pester them. This will only cause them to close up even further, possibly making their depression even worse. Help them fulfill their treatments and goals. It they know that someone wants them to succeed, they will have the confidence they require to finish what they begin. If necessary, help them find medical help. If they do not want help but they are in a serious situation, such as those involving drugs, alcohol and suicide, contact the proper authorities to get them the help that they need.

With depression striking teens in nearly every community nationwide, it is important to understand not only how to help them overcome their anxiety, but learn how to stave off the dampening affects of depression before they occur. Fighting depression effectively will lead to a brighter happier future for both the victims of depression, and the entire country.