Warning Signs of Depression in Adolescents

Warning Signs of Depression in Adolescents by Dr. Chonnipa Butwong, MD, Specialist in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Depression is common in adolescents but often goes unnoticed. The incidence is particularly high in girls, with a prevalence of around 4-5% that increases rapidly during the onset and end of adolescence. Depression in adolescents is a major risk factor for suicide and can lead to educational and social difficulties. It is also associated with increased smoking rates, substance abuse, and obesity.

Several risk factors can contribute to depression in adolescents, such as a family history of depression, psychosocial stress, and increased sex hormones. Although there are similarities between depression in adolescents and depression in adults.

Long-term follow-up studies have shown that depressive symptoms in adolescence are initially mild. However, over time, there is an increased risk of more severe depressive symptoms. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to depression in adolescents, even if the symptoms are still mild.

Warning signs of teenage depression may include a persistently sad or irritable mood, loss of interest or enjoyment in activities for at least one week. Other accompanying symptoms may include:

  • Spending less time with friends or engaging in fewer after-school activities.
  • Changes in appetite or body weight.
  • Sleeping more or less than usual.
  • Feeling tired or lacking energy.
  • Having feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention in school.
  • Having thoughts of suicide or a desire to die.

In the case of depression in children, in addition to the mentioned symptoms, physical symptoms may also be present, such as frequent headaches or abdominal pain.

To help a child with depression, it is important to listen attentively, providing them with time to express themselves without prying questions. Allow them to talk about their feelings and any concerns they may have. Once they have finished explaining, acknowledge their efforts to solve past problems and offer suggestions or alternatives for them to consider and make decisions.

Treatment methods for depression include psychotherapy, counseling, family relationship adjustments, behavior modification, discussing problems with the school, and, in some cases, the use of antidepressant medication.

If parents suspect that their child may be experiencing depression, they should seek help from a pediatrician, school counselor, or mental health professional. These professionals can comprehensively assess the situation, make a diagnosis of depression, and identify appropriate treatment methods.

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