4 Types of Depression Commonly Found in Teens

There are several different types of depression in teenagers.

Depression is common during adolescence. But, the word depression is used to describe a variety of conditions.

There are four main types of depression that affect teenagers. Unfortunately, many teens go undiagnosed and untreated.

It's important for adults to be aware of the types of depression found in teens, as well as the signs and symptoms. Depression is very treatment and early intervention can be the key to successful treatment.

1. Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

An adjustment disorder may occur after a major life event. Moving to a new school, the 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 begin within a few months of the event and may last up to six months. If symptoms persist beyond six months, another diagnosis would be more appropriate.

Although brief in nature, adjustment disorders can interfere with sleep, school work, and social functioning. If your teen has experienced a stressful life event and is having difficulty dealing with it, seek professional help.

2. Dysthymia

Dysthymia is a low grade, chronic depression that lasts for more than a year. Teens with dysthymia often present as 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. It's estimated 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 percent 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.

Treatment for Depression

If you notice changes in your teen's mood or behavior that lasts longer than two weeks, schedule an appointment with the doctor. Express your concerns and describe the symptoms that you're seeing.

Make it clear to your teen that you don't think she's weak or crazy.

Instead, talk about a mental health issue the same way you would discuss a physical health problem.

Explain that emotional problems need healing the same way physical health problems do. And sometimes, it requires an exam and treatment beyond what you're able to do at home.

Sources

Boston Children's Hospital: Dysthymia in Children

National Institute of Mental Health: Major Depression Among Adolescents

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