Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Depression is a medical condition that leads to intense feelings of sadness or despair. These feelings don’t go away on their own. They are not necessarily related to a particular life event.
What is going on in the body?
Depression is a disorder of the brain. Researchers believe that chemicals called neurotransmitters are involved in depression. Nerve impulses cause the release of neurotransmitters from one nerve cell to the next. This release allows cells to communicate with one another. Too little or too much of these important neurotransmitters may be released. This can cause or contribute to depression. These neurotransmitters include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
There are many theories about what causes depression. Depression may be caused by any of these things:
Common risk factors for depression in adolescents include:
Adolescent girls are twice as likely to develop depression as adolescent boys.
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
Some symptoms are common in people of all ages with depression. These symptoms include:
Teens with depression may have additional symptoms, including:
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the condition diagnosed?
Screening tests for depression in teens include:
A teen who screens positively on one of these tests should have a comprehensive evaluation for depression. The evaluation may include a medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Depression may not be preventable. However, these steps may be helpful in preventing it:
Depression can lead to suicide. It is important to recognize and treat the condition early. Teens should be encouraged to talk to someone if they are concerned about depression. There are many people to whom they can talk, including:
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Most adolescents recover well from a single episode of depression. However, episodes are likely to recur. Adolescents with depression are at risk for further episodes of depression later in life. They are also at risk for adult personality disorders.
There is a strong connection between depression and suicide in adolescents. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24.
What are the risks to others?
Depression is not contagious and poses no risk to others.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the condition?
The two most common ways of treating depression in adolescents are with antidepressant medicines and psychotherapy. Often a combination is used. Occasionally, a teen must be hospitalized for intense treatment.
Antidepressant medicines are effective in:
Antidepressant medicines known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be used in teens. Some common SSRIs include fluoxetine and paroxetine.
Psychotherapy can help adolescents:
Treatment of depression in a teen should involve the family as well as the individual.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Antidepressants may cause mild and usually temporary side effects in some people. The most common side effects are:
What happens after treatment for the condition?
An episode of depression in a teen usually responds to treatment with medicine and psychotherapy. The teen can help prevent relapses by living a healthy lifestyle. Some important parts of the healthy lifestyle include:
How is the condition monitored?
Once a teen has an episode of depression, he or she is at higher risk for further episodes. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider. The provider may recommend regular visits to monitor symptoms. The provider may also order blood tests to monitor the levels of medicines.
Article type: xmedgeneral