(StatePoint) Adolescence is a challenging time that is full of changes, during which some teenagers may experience a debilitating illness known as depression. It is important for parents to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of this condition, and to know that help is available.
Dr. Graham Emslie, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Children's Medical Center Dallas, answers some very important questions about depression in adolescents.
Q: What is depression and can anyone have it?
A: Depression is a serious, but treatable chronic condition often characterized by prolonged sadness, or irritability or loss of interest in usual activities. Both adults and adolescents can suffer from depression. In fact, approximately two million adolescents in the U.S. aged 12 to 17 suffered a serious bout of depression in the past year. The good news is that working with a professional to develop a treatment plan can help many patients improve.
Q: My teenager sometimes acts "sad;" should I be concerned?
A: Everyone gets sad sometimes - a brief "blue mood," disappointments, grief after losing a loved one - but with depression, you can't just "snap out of it." If the sadness, or irritability or loss of interest in usual activities that your son or daughter is experiencing lasts two weeks or more, you should speak to a healthcare professional to determine if they have a more serious condition.
Q: What are some signs and symptoms of depression in teens that I should be on the lookout for?
A: It is important to keep in mind that symptoms of depression may differ from person to person. You should however keep your eye out for any signs of persistent sadness, irritability or loss of interest in usual activities in your son or daughter. For example, a teen's performance at school may suddenly decline, or he or she may lose interest in hanging out with friends. Your teenager may also visit the school nurse more often than usual, and they may get more involved in physical fights. Some other symptoms to watch for are sleep problems, appetite changes, general energy loss, concentration problems and hopeless or guilty thoughts.
Q: What can I do if I notice these signs and symptoms; and what would treatment entail?
A: More than 70 percent of children and adolescents with depressive disorder or other serious mood disorders do not receive appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Left untreated, depression in adolescents can have devastating consequences. If you notice your teenager may be experiencing symptoms of depression, you should speak to a healthcare professional to determine if they have a more serious condition. For adolescents who suffer from depression, talk therapy and medication can play important roles in the management of their illness. It is important to speak with your healthcare professional about the best approach for your son or daughter. Your healthcare professional will work with both of you to develop a treatment plan, and can also provide information about treatments that have been shown to be effective for depression in adolescents.
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