Depression by definition is simply the mood or emotional state manifested by feelings of low self-worth or guilt and a compact incapacity to relish life. It is deemed to be a common issue among many people in our society today. Every human being experiences periods when they face hardships. Stress and mood changes that follow the difficulties fit the emotional state that marks depression. Sadness, pessimism, and hopelessness become naturally incorporated. The resulting mental symptoms include disturbed sleep and slowing of the thinking process or actions. Depression may be caused by genetic factors that are hereditary. Cases of depression vary depending on the individual; however, in order to make the diagnosing of the problem easier, it has been split into many categories. The examples of these are an acute vs. chronic and mild vs. severe depression.
Adolescence is the period of evolution from infancy to maturity, a stage of significant growth and development, in which substantial physiological, cognitive, psychological, and behavioral deviations take place. Adolescence is a phase of delight and anxiety; of happiness and troubles; of discovery and perplexity (Garber, 2006). It seems that the age peak of depression correlates with the peak years of low self-esteem, which is the early and middle adolescence with the peak period between the age of thirteen and fourteen (Garber, 2006). There may rise a question whether low self-esteem is a precursor for depression and other mood disorders, and if a low self-esteem curtails the resilience of the adolescent, thus making him or her more susceptible to depression.
Experts have analyzed and estimated that 5% of all teenagers suffer from depression. (Abramson, 1988). Only a small part of this portion is well-diagnosed and treated. There are some factors correlated with the depression among adolescents. Some of them include the proper process of maturing and the stress involved in the process: the influence of sex hormones, conflicts at home, and the loss of close friends and family members through death. This paper investigates the causes of depression in teenagers, the treatments taken to diagnose depression and its prevention. Female adolescents display higher levels of depression-related symptoms as compared to males. There are three main forms of treatment for depression: counseling and psychotherapy; electroconvulsive therapy (ECT); and antidepressant medications. The adolescent depression signs and symptoms vary from changes in emotions and behavior (Abramson, 1988). Emotional changes include such feelings as sadness, frustration over small matters, loss of interest, and frequent suicidal thoughts. Behavioral changes include insomnia, appetite changes, alcohol and substance abuse, agitation, and slowed body movements. Other changes may include poor school performance, absence from school, and self-harm such as tattooing excessively and adopting a risky behavior.
When depression symptoms persist, it is advisable to seek medical attention. A good family doctor or pediatrician is to be consulted to assist the teenager. If the depression symptoms are untreated, they continue getting worse day by day, and this may lead to the risk of the adolescent committing suicide (Begley, 2010). The teenagers should approach someone they trust in case they do not feel comfortable sharing their situation with anyone.
The main causes of depression among the teenagers are induced by a variety of factors. These are the changes in the body balance of hormones, early childhood traumas such as physical abuse, the loss of a parent, which may cause brain changes that may trigger depression (Beck T, 2009). Depression could also result from the inherited traits from one’s bloodline. The teenagers may be linked to learning patterns that make them feel helpless. Neurotransmitters in the human brain cells also seem to play a role in depression. When the brain chemicals are out of balance, this may lead to depression (Begley, 2010). According to rational behavior counselors, it is not essentially nerve-wracking events and positions but rather a propensity toward negative understanding of these events that initiates and upholds despair (Calles J. 2007). When a contrary incident befalls, the depressed adolescent often comprehends the reason for the event as something steady, internal, and global. For example, if a young person does not receive good grades at school, he or she may attribute this disappointment to his or her being “stupid.” This cause is steady (unlikely to change), internal (his or her fault), and global (affecting everything he or she does). There is also an indication of the genomic tendency in the causes of adolescent depression as the depressed adolescents often have high rates of depression among their family members (Springer & Beevers, 2011).
Many factors trigger depression in teenagers. Having issues, such as peer problems, academic problems, and obesity, impacts negatively one’s self-esteem. When an individual is a victim or witness of any form of violence, sexual or physical, this may make them susceptible to depression (Richardson, 2005). If a person has chronic illnesses, such as cancer, asthma or diabetes, this individual is at high risk of contracting depression. The gender of an adolescent may also be a leading cause of their depression. If a person is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, he or she feels isolated in the social setting, thus increasing the risk of depression. Drug abuse and alcohol consumption are also another risk factor for depression. The family history can trigger depression in an individual through things such as having a parent or relative who has depression. Passing through stressful life events, such as the parental divorce or death of the loved one, may also be a trigger for depression (Springer & Beevers, 2011).
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Depression is one of the most common reasons why people seek therapy sessions from their trusted doctors and counselors. However, the condition is successfully treatable. A trusted therapist is preferred in the treatment of the depressed adolescent as the person is likely to feel shame expressing himself/herself to people. They fear the consequences of disclosing their conditions to their friends, families, and even health care providers (Birmaher, 1998). Various therapeutic approaches have demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is amongst the acclaimed therapies for handling depression. It frequently involves self-help books and sessions with a therapist, but specific methods will depend on the type of depression and concentration of symptoms. The primary purpose of counseling is to help people apprehend their illness and its causes. Counselors will work with clients to unearth and discover the fundamental reasons that have added to symptoms of depression while assisting them in changing their feelings and learning to manage them more efficiently. Counseling is essential in handling low self-esteem, relationship issues, or persistent negative thinking that may be propagating the illness. Many counseling sessions for depression usually comprise 12 to 20 weekly sessions of one or two hours. These are undertaken in the form of one-on-one sessions with a counselor or the kind of group counseling, depending on the circumstances (Mental Health Foundation of Australia,2007).
The other methods include mindfulness, based on the cognitive and psychodynamic therapy. A psychodynamic counselor assists people in assessing emotions, thoughts, early-life experiences, and beliefs to gain awareness of their lives and their present-day problems and appraise the trends that they have developed over time. Identifying repeated patterns helps individuals appreciate the ways in which they dodge distress or develop resistance mechanisms as a method of surviving so that they can take steps to modification of those patterns (Wagner, 2003). The mindfulness-based cognitive therapy happens through an eight-week program of therapy sessions as well as home audio prompts that instill people with the art of mindfulness meditation. People gain an aptitude to realign themselves away from their thoughts and feelings and focus instead on the occurring changes in their body and mind through yoga, breathing, and meditation. In this therapy, the adolescents are instructed to recognize their sense of being and see themselves as separate from their thoughts and moods (Abramson, 1988). Despite the approach used by the counselor, he/she can help a teenager visualize his/her depression state with curiosity and without judgment. This is to comprehend and heal the depression source. Counselors can treat the adolescents mainly by identifying the core source of the depression. The therapy sessions help people be aware of their strengths, willpower, and capacity for change (Birmaher, 1998). Counseling is also used in group therapies and other young support groups. This social group helps the adolescents in the alleviation of the symptoms of isolation and loneliness.
At the initial stages, the teenager will behave as usual without any signs of depression. The only symptoms are night dreams and insomnia. During moderate depression, the person continues with the same behavior. However, one can notice that something is happening to the teenager. The person will show the change in reactions and speech tones toward being sarcastic and ironic. Anything that relates to death, illness, and problems often triggers an impulse of emotional response in the individual (Wagner, 2003).
The next stage is the intermediate stage. The neurohormonal and biochemical processes start depression amongst teenagers on a psychological level. The youth will feel socially fenced off from the world, and they stop communicating. They change their moods and attitudes toward everything. The teenagers will put on a mask of gaiety unconsciously to hide their feelings and emotions.
The most extreme level of depression is the withdrawal, when the teenagers completely alienate themselves from the rest of the people (Birmaher, 1998). They tend to withdraw from their families and relatives. They become rude and aggressive to anything that comes their way. The condition, if not diagnosed at this point, will lead to mental deterioration, and suicidal thoughts can hit the teenager’s mind. Depression affects the teenagers socially, emotionally, academically, and physically. Depression has always been a problem in adolescents; however, in the past few decades it has grown to a significant percentage. The teenagers’ mental health is affected since childhood, and this has an impact on their mind biology. Adolescents are also affected physically, socially, and spiritually. They tend to lose interest in some of the activities they used to love and experience incidences of weight fluctuations (Mental Health Foundation of Australia,2007). The issues affect the psychosocial behavior that eventually causes deviations, even from the religious beliefs.
Many types of treatment are available. A doctor can sometimes prescribe medications that will help relieve the depression symptoms. It is recommendable that teenagers see a psychiatrist or psychologist or any other psychological counselor. The combination of counseling and medications are very useful for treatment and diagnosis of depression in teenagers (Springer & Beevers, 2011). Numerous classes of drugs are designed to minimize the symptoms of depression. The medical drugs used comprise Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, and Tricyclic Antidepressants among others. The SSRIs are the most prescribed antidepressants. They are preferred as they have fewer side effects than other medications. The drugs work on neurotransmitter serotonin that is associated with mood regulation. The drugs help prevent the body from absorbing serotonin. The most common side effects of the drugs are nausea, diarrhea, headache, and sexual problems. SNRIs also avoid the re-absorption of serotonin and norepinephrine that help in mood regulation. The side effects are constipation, nausea, insomnia, vomiting, anxiety, and headache. TCAs work on serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. The side effects are diverse. They include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, dry mouth, dizziness, constipation, and sleepiness (Begley & Kliff, 2010).
Exercise is another substitute to using antidepressants. Injuries are the most common side effect of exercise. However, according to Richard Lee (2010), combining different weight bearing activities with weight training reduces the risk of injury from repetitive stresses on particular joints and muscles. The parents can come to rescue of the depressed teenagers. They should take the time to understand and listen to their problems. They should keep the communication lines open for the teenagers.
Education would be of value to both parents and teachers and aid them in ascertaining the depression “indicators” and not taking for granted that it is just another “teenage phase.” This would allow for timely diagnosis and several treatment choices to be considered. It is the age when teenagers have a tendency to resort to the world of social media and the Internet, and interactions with parents are narrowed to the bare necessities. Yet, their stress with school work, peer pressure, and other challenges do not diminish, which probably only adds to the possible causes for the onset of depression. Once depression has been diagnosed, treatment options need to be carefully assessed as there are very real suicide risks associated with antidepressant use in adolescents.