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Untitled Essay, Research Paper

By: Caitlin George

Depression in Teens

Depression is a major problem with our adolescents and the number of incidences

is growing. Teenagers go through some of the biggest changes in their lives

including attending high school and have to deal with being little in a school

again. They go through major hormonal changes while their bodies develop

and grow. They also have to decide whether they are going to college. If

they do choose to attend college, then what college will best meet their

needs? Additional stress stems from the possibility of not being accepted

into the college of choice. Their daily life is full of increased pressure

from peer and parents. These are major decisions and changes that they have

never experienced before. Which can cause some serious repercussions.

Depression is defined as a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially

by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant

increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection

and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. No two people feel or

experience depression the same way as the symptoms and causes of depression

are very different for everyone. The National Institute of Mental Health

(2000) reported, “Among both children and adolescents, depressive disorders

confer an increased risk for illness and interpersonal and psychosocial

difficulties that persist long after the depressive episode is over; in

adolescents there is also an increased risk for substance abuse and suicidal


According to Lawrence Clayton, Ph.D. and Sharon Carter (1995) there are many

symptoms to depression:

The symptoms to look for in yourself, or anyone you suspect may be depressed,

are as follows: social withdrawal, lack of interest in usual activities,

frequent tearfulness, unkempt appearance, belief that no one cares, feelings

of hopelessness, beginning or increasing use of alcohol or other drugs,

inappropriate feelings of guilt, pessimistic outlook, excessive anxiety,

low self-esteem, inability to concentrate, excessive irritability, difficulty

in making decisions, prolonged sadness, recurrent thoughts of death, desire

for revenge, thoughts of suicide, sudden drop in grades or work performance,

very high or low energy level, sleeping too much or not enough, loss of appetite

or overeating, and confusion.

Not all symptoms are needed to be present to equate to a problem. Experiencing

any four is enough to warrant concern, especially if the problem persists

for over two weeks.

Today in the United States we are dealing with a large population that suffers

from major depression. Lawrence Clayton, Ph.D. and Sharon Carter write, “The

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) [reported that] for 4 to 10 percent

of the American public at any given time the ["downer"] mood doesn’t lift.”

They also reported that one quarter of the population would experience a

major depressive period during their lifetime (1999). One out of four people

will have a problem with depression in the United States. NIMH also reported

“approximately 4 out of a 100 teenagers get seriously depressed each year.

Clinical Depression is a serious illness that can affect anybody, INCLUDING


Why are these rates of depression in the teenage years so high? Is it their

grades, their relationship with their friends and family, alcohol, drugs,

sex, or is it something else? The causes for depression vary. Someone might

get depressed because they spilt milk in front of everyone in the cafeteria.

If the same thing happened to someone else, it may not even prove to affect

him or her. For, some the weather greatly affects their mood causing depression.

A person can even become depressed when a good event in their life is occurring.

“Depression is one of the first ailments to be described in ancient medical

textbooks; it has occurred in every land and culture and time.” (Greenberg,


Gerald D. Oster, Ph.D. and Sarah S. Montgomery, MSW, (1995) write, “Clinical

depression refers to a condition marked by the changes in one’s mood and

by associated behaviors that range from a mild degree of sadness to intensely

experienced feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thought’s.” Suicide is

the second leading cause for death in teenagers.

Every year, two million children between fifteen and nineteen try to kill

themselves-and every year some five thousand succeed. Some experts feel this

is only the “tip of the iceberg,” that the number of teens who commit suicide

is actually four times the reported figure. This cry for help has reached

such national proportions that June 1985 was officially made “Teenage Suicide

Prevention Month,” mobilizing educators, parents, teens, and community and

corporate leaders to speak out and stop this tragic problem in its tracks.

(Meeks, 1988)

According to a website called Depression.com (1999) “Since 1960, teen suicides

have doubled. Girls are more likely to attempt suicide, but boys kill themselves

four times more often, usually with guns.”

An average of fourteen teenagers per day between the ages of 15 and 24 commit

suicide. That is approximately 1 every 100 minutes. More than half of these

young people who commit suicide are substance abusers. (National Institute

of Mental Health, 1999) Harvey R. Greenberg M.D. (1982) believes that teenagers

view suicide as an attempt to cure their pain by removing the “self” from

the world. He continues by saying “Anyone, regardless of how strong he or

she is emotionally, can be driven to suicide if there is strong enough stress.”


Drug abuse is found everywhere in the United States.

“Drug Abuse is defined as self-administration of a substance, man-made or

found in nature, for no good medical reason. Instead, the drug is taken to

produce pleasurable physical and emotional reactions, in strong enough doses

or long enough to cause psychological and/or physical damage, often accompanied

by unusual or difficult behavior.” (Greenberg, 1982)

Adults need between four and five years to become addicted, while a teenager

needs only an average of 15.5 months. (Meeks, 1988) Teenagers face a great

deal of peer pressure to experiment with drugs. (Greenberg, 1982) Being part

of a social group is very important to teenagers. In less then twenty years,

drugs have become more deadly, potent and damaging than previously. (Meeks,

1988) With teenager’s, psychologists have had a hard time distinguishing

which comes first, the depression or the drug abuse.

Depression is a major issue needing to be addressed. Teenagers who are suffering

from depression need help. Psychotherapy has been proven very helpful in

curing depression.

Psychotherapy is the healing of troubled thoughts, feelings and behavior

that result in a “abnormal” life. (Greenberg, 1982) The National Institute

of Mental Health (2000) has sponsored studies, which concluded that

cognitive-behavioral therapy can help adolescents with depression. Nearly

65 percent of teenagers go into remission.

Medications along with Psychotherapy have proven to be effective. Until recently,

medications for teens have not been studied. The effects on young people

were unknown. However in the last couple of years studies have been conducted

with findings that show that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are

safe and effective for severe and persistent depression in young people.

(National Institute of Mental Health, 2000) Medication should however, only

be used in chronic or recurrent episodes and with psychotherapy.

Oster and Montgomery (1995) list things to remember when teenagers go to


Many adolescents believe that therapy is for “crazy” people. It is helpful

to explain that therapy is for people who are feeling emotional hurts and

pains and need an objective listener. There are many therapists willing to

help; it is up to you to find a qualified and personable professional. Most

teens feel a sense of relief after entering therapy and find it useful to

be able to share personal feelings and secrets. Individual therapists come

from a number of different theoretical perspectives, including psychodynamic

and cognitive-behavioral. Most therapies are helpful to reduce present family

tension and to enhance communication.

The stigma of therapy is only for “crazy” people bothers a number of teenagers.

Therapy can be very helpful for the teenager and the family.

Depression in teenagers in the United States has grown through the years.

One out of four people today will have a problem with major depression. This

number is too high. Suicide is also very high and this issue needs to be

addressed. If we can help teens understand what depression is and help them

learn how to deal with depression we may be able to reduce these high statistics.

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