4 Types of Depression Commonly Found in Teens

Unfortunately, many teens go undiagnosed and don’t get treatment for their depression, even though it is treatable. There are four main types of depression that parents should be aware of so they can monitor their teen’s mental health.

1. Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

An adjustment disorder occurs after a major life event.

Moving to a new school, a death of a loved one or dealing with a parents’ divorce are examples of changes that can spur an adjustment disorder in teens. Adjustment disorders usually begin within a few months of the event and they only last up to six months.

Although brief in nature, adjustment disorders can interfere with a teen’s sleeping habits. It can also make school work difficult and it may interfere with relationships. If your teen has experienced a stressful life event and is having difficulty dealing with it, consider seeking professional help.

2. Dysthymia

Dysthymia is a low grade, chronic depression that lasts for more than a year.  Often, teens with dysthymia present as very irritable. They may have low energy, low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. Their eating habits and sleeping patterns may also be disturbed. Frequently, dysthymia interferes with concentration and decision making.

Although studies vary on how many teens likely suffer from dysthymia, the Boston Children’s Hospital estimates that 4 out of every 100 teens meet the diagnostic criteria.

Although dysthymia isn’t as severe as major depression, the long duration can take a serious toll on a teen’s life. It can interfere with learning, socialization and overall functioning.

Dysthymia also makes a teen more susceptible to other mood disorders later in life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication are often very effective in treating dysthymia.

3. Bipolar Disorder 

Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of depression followed by periods of mania or hypomania (a less severe form of mania). Symptoms of mania include a reduced need for sleep, difficulty focusing, and a short-temper. During a manic episode, a teen is likely to talk fast, feel very happy or silly, and be willing to engage in risky behavior. Many teens engage in high-risk sexual behavior during a manic episode.

Teens with bipolar disorder will likely experience significant impairment in their daily functioning. Their severe mood changes interfere with their education and friendships. Bipolar is usually best treated with a combination of medication and therapy.

4. Major Depression 

Major depression is the most serious form of depression. It is estimated that 8% of teens meet the criteria for major depression, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Although younger children have about equal rates of depression based on gender, after puberty girls are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.

Symptoms of major depression include persistent sadness and irritability, talk about suicide, a lack of interest in enjoyable activities and frequent reports of physical aches and pains. Major depression causes severe impairments at home and at school. Treatment usually involves therapy and may include medication.

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