Adolescent Angst

February 12th, 2013 posted by Cora Lucas

by Cora Lucas

teen On top of the general surge of hormones, young people are prone to experience depression. Stuck at the crossroads of adulthood, adolescents customarily feel low on the totem pole of life when they’re under a lot of stress and duress. A poll on the most common mental disorder says it all: Five out of 100 teenagers experience some degree of depression each year, largely due to inconsistent parenting, stressful life experiences and a negative way of viewing things. The extent of the condition depends on how quickly one can shake it off or let it seep in. Banishing low spirits, however, appears to be a tall order as depression is not so much a weakness as a serious health disorder. When the blues and the blahs go on for two weeks, it may have to be dealt with head-on as a case of clinical depression. A few signs that one has hit the depression button: sadness, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, decreased appetite, sleep disturbance, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, poor self-esteem and thoughts of death or suicide. In adolescents, school difficulties inevitably arise as a result of lack of concentration and fatigue. There is also a strong urge to get off-line with the rest of the world and retreat to a “safe” harbor. Unfortunately, young people often find this in alcohol or mind-altering drugs, which only aggravate their bouts of depression. No magic words can seem to take away the doom and the gloom of the person stuck with depression, be it the sad kind (major depression), or the one characterized by the alternately down and speeded up (manic depression). In fact, no one is immune from depression and everyone at some point has come to be at the mercy of a disheartening situation over which they have no control. Statistics show that one out of four women and one out of 10 men are bound to develop depression during their lifetime, even as it affects one in 50 children under 12 and one in 20 adolescents. More women are prone to be victims, a fact attributed to the stereotype of femininity that zeroes in on passivity, weakness and dependency. While depression strikes at any age, adolescents who suffer from it are more prone to suffer the same fate in adulthood and are at even higher risk of suicide attempts.

How much of it is due to heredity and how much of it is born out of environmental causes is still a subject of argument. Over the years, studies have pointed to a genetic link to depressive disorders. Carol Watkins, M.D., a psychiatrist of the Northern County Psychiatric Associates in Baltimore County, Maryland, affirms that depressed children often have distressed or stressed parents. “Some suggest that parental patterns of irritability and withdrawal lead to low self-esteem in the child and this predisposes the child to depression. Some suggest that a genetically vulnerable child is more likely to develop depression when exposed to family stress,” she says. But depression cannot be blamed on heredity alone. While clinicians agree that children acquire a predisposition to anxiety, environmental factors are viewed to be what really triggers the initial episode of major depression. For instance, when depressed adults are quizzed on their childhood experience, they are likely to talk about neglect, abuse rejection and parental conflict. Complex life experiences and personal problems like difficulty in handling stress, low self-esteem or extreme pessimism about the future can actually increase the chances of depression. Besides, the genetic connection has yet to be established in the absence of a proven “depression gene.” But then again digging into the biochemical roots that influence the way nerve cells in the brain work, it appears that certain levels of these chemicals may be inherited. This is why there is a tendency for depression to run in the family. But inherited or not, this link between depression and brain chemistry disputes the traditional medical theory that separates mind from the body. Psychologist Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., explains that the brain operates on fluids called neurotransmitters, some of which give energy, others control movement and still others control mood. The neurotransmitter linked to depression is called serotonin, which is associated with the whole body function – sleep, appetite, energy, alertness and mood. Very much like an automobile that burns fuel faster during long distances, the brain burns its oil, serotonin, at a higher rate during long-term stress. “The bottom line in depression and stress: The brain burns up more serotonin that it can replace,” explains Carver. “In the end result, after many months of severe stress, the brain is using serotonin faster than it can create or replace it. Your neurochemical level of serotonin drops and you become depressed.” Except for the biological, chemical and emotional factors, orthodox medical theories have failed to explain or resolve all the factors leading to depression. But regardless of the cause, depression is difficult to diagnose. In fact, 50 percent of all depression cases remain unrecognized. On top of that, about 10 to 15 percent of depressed people take their own lives. Still, the vast majority of depression cases – between 80 to 90 percent – are treatable. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, milder forms can respond well with psychotherapy alone although moderate to severe cases would do better with antidepressants. A combined treatment is said to be best: medication for quick symptom relief and behavioral therapy for coping with life’s difficulties. “There is no cookbook technique,” explains Watkins, saying the treatment must suit the needs and schedule of the child and his family. Based on a study of the National Institute of Mental Health, 55 percent of patients with mild to moderate cases posted great improvement after 16 weeks of behavioral treatment.

Cora Lucas (1 Posts)

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Cindy Rowe
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Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!

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