Between the pressures to perform, keeping up with a packed schedule and the transition to adulthood, many adolescents will experience emotional upheaval that includes anxiety, depression, loneliness and unhappiness. While some of these symptoms can be attributed to environmental factors, these can also be warning signs that something more serious is going on.
Depression in teens can look different than in adults. A child with depression may feel sick, resist going to school or express excessive worry. Teens may become distant, get into fights, be irritable and feel anxious. Depression in adolescence frequently coexists with other disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders or substance abuse and can also lead to increased risk for suicide.
Depression strikes teenagers more often than most people think. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Each year about 6.7 percent of U.S. adults experience major depressive disorder, and women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that half of people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The good news is that depression and anxiety, even the most severe cases, can be effectively treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit a doctor or mental health specialist.
Your Mental Health Questions Answered
BY Dr. ANGELO SAMBUNARIS
Institute for Advanced Medical Research
Dr. Angelo Sambunaris has been a leader in the field of clinical research for over two decades. Prior to founding the Institute for Advanced Medical Research in 1989, he led clinical research teams at Solvay and Bayer Pharmaceutical. He also served as Lieutenant Commander, Research Officer Group United States Public Health Services at the NIMH.
When do I know to contact a specialist?
If you see significant changes in your child's ability to perform at school, changes with his or her social interactions or a shift in their ability to cope with their day to day stress, you should seek advice and obtain a diagnostic evaluation from a specialist such as a psychiatrist who is trained to discern normal teenage angst versus a medical condition.
What things can I encourage my teen to do to combat normal anxiety and stress?
Help your teen begin good habits now that will follow into adulthood with regards to reducing stress. Encourage them to practice yoga, meditate, eat well-balanced meals, get enough sleep, limit caffeine and sugar and exercise every day. Help them develop support systems through clubs and sports teams. Additionally, set a good example yourself by sharing a positive attitude and demonstrating a sense of humor.
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