Can depression be caused by adolescence?

Adolescent depression presents as ongoing sadness, a sense of discouragement or hopelessness, loss of self-worth and lack of interest in activities that formerly brought pleasure. While depression in adolescents is common (four in 100 teens become seriously depressed annually) due to hormonal changes, conflicts with parents regarding issues of independence and the stress that accompanies the change from a child to a young adult, not all teenagers suffer from depression, and not all adolescent depression is a stage that will pass. Sometimes teenage depression is a reaction to the death of a relative or a friend, divorce in the family, academic or social failure in school, physical or sexual abuse or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

In addition, if family members suffered from depression, teens are more likely to experience it as well. Other illnesses that include depression as a component -- and which commonly appear during the teen years -- are bipolar disorder, anorexia, bulimia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. If your teen displays a lack of appetite, fatigue, memory loss, problems concentrating, irritability, intentions of suicide (talks about suicide or death a lot, distributes cherished belongings), withdrawal from family and friends, criminal behavior or if he or she starts abusing alcohol or drugs, these could all be signs of depression. If these signs continue for two or more weeks or it seems like your teen is getting worse, seek an immediate physical and psychiatric examination.

If your teen needs antidepressant medication, use only those that are FDA-approved for adolescents, and make sure that your teen receives follow-up care. Some antidepressants come with a warning that taking them can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors when taken by children, so keep an eye on your teen. Don't suddenly stop giving your teen the medication, as symptoms can return; speak with your doctor about gradually tapering off. Cognitive behavior therapy and support groups may also be helpful in dealing with depression.

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