Archive for Depression

Teenage Depression

Puberty can be an emotional roller coaster. Just ask any parent who’s had the pleasure, and sometimes the pain, of rearing an adolescent. Or, just think back to when you were a youth! Teenagers-especially girls–are prone to mood swings that make them vulnerable to depression. . According to research reported in a 1999 issue of Child Development, girls and boys experience distinctly different patterns of stress during adolescence that may leave the former more open to depressed states of mind. It’s true that adolescent girls and boys experience the same amount of stress. However, the two sexes experience their tension in a different way. Teenage girls have a greater likelihood of stress in their relations with parents and friends, whereas the stress of their male counterparts is more likely to emerge from trouble in school or other factors outside their relationships with others.

“Because adolescent girls may be more invested than boys in their relationships as a source of emotional support and, perhaps, personal identity, interpersonal stress may be more salient and may act as a stronger threat to their well-being,” says Karen D. Rudolph, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Similarly, another study by researchers at the University of Michigan reports that by the time they reach 18, girls show twice the depression rate of boys, possibly because they worry more. This theory was demonstrated by the results of their survey of 615 sixth-, eighth- and tenth-graders in the San Francisco Bay Area. They found that girls worried more than boys on such issues as appearance, friends, personal problems, romantic relationships, problems with family, what kind of person they are, being liked by other children and being safe. The only issue that boys reported being more concerned about than girls was “sports and other activities.”

During adolescence, girls tend to lose self-confidence and self-worth and thus becoming less physically active, reducing school performance, and ignoring their own interests and dreams. At this time, girls are often encouraged to place more emphasis on their personalities, social skills, looks, and ability to please others, rather than developing as individuals. This is why girls in this particular age group can be easily confused by mixed messages and become susceptible to negative and risky behaviors such as substance abuse and sexual activity.

Often, the cause of this negative behavior is depression. As stated in the previous article, girls are much more prone to this illness than boys. The reasons for depression are not always clear-cut. Although some depressed, even suicidal, teenagers come from extremely troubled backgrounds with a lifetime of difficulties at home and at school, most of them are backed by resources, support,and love. They simply find, for a variety of reasons, that they’re feeling overwhelmed by a sensation of hopelessness and helplessness. It is crucial to understand that depression can happen to teenage girls who have everything going for them. It can affect the best and brightest of young people.

There are many reasons for depression in youth. These are just a few:

Depression in Parents: A teenager with one or both depressed parents has a higher risk of depression.

Social Stressors: The youth may be trying to fit into a certain social group, struggling with learning disabilities, having a growing awareness of homosexuality, or coping with the feelings that being a girl bring.

Family Crisis: Divorce and remarriage often lead to teenage depression. Financial stress and an illness of a family member are also stressors. Even though adolescents may appear removed from their family’s changing situation they actually remain very vulnerable to home-based problems and anxieties.

Family Dysfunction: In extreme cases, dysfunction refers to physical, verbal or sexual abuse. However, in the broader sense, it can relate to any disorderly pattern in the family structure (as when there is a family crisis, for example).

Parental High Expectations: Some parents place demands on their children that are almost impossible to meet. When parents convey that their love is based on achievements, the youth can have a number of emotional responses such as depression.

Significant Losses: Depression may be caused by the loss of a family member or the onset of a significant illness.

So how do parents know whether their daughter is just going through the usual ups and downs of adolescence instead of being depressed? Some of the warning signs include:

–Having difficulty falling asleep or wanting to sleep all day.

–Withdrawing from friends.

–Neglecting personal appearance or hygiene.

–Experiencing sadness, irritability or indifference for a long period of time.

–Having significant loss or gain in appetite.

–Performing poorly at school or getting into trouble.

–Showing feelings of guilt or worthlessness.

–Having unexplained aches and pains (even though nothing is physically wrong).

–Expressing thoughts of suicide.

Drug abuse, drinking and destructive behavior can also signal depression.

Depression can make a teenager feel alone, frightened and very unhappy. A depressed teenager probably has no idea what’s wrong with her–just that she feels terrible and not at all like her former self. As she begins to feel worse, she may think she has less power: She may feel unable to take control of her own mood and her own life, because something mysterious and painful is overwheling her. Some youth try to make the pain of depression go away by drinking or taking drugs, which only makes the depression worse. Still others contemplate suicide.

What action should parents take to respond to their daughter’s behavior change? The next and final article in this series will address some of the steps to take when an adolescent displays the warning signs of depression.

Childhood Depression

During May, Mental Health Month, many national and regional mental health and advocacy organizations are focusing on areas that are of particular importance to the general public. One of these areas is childhood depression. May 9, 2000 has been declared Childhood Depression Awareness Day, or Green Ribbon Day. The goal is to get the word out that childhood depression is real and treatable.

When people hear the term mental illness, they most likely envision a man or woman who is suffering from this ailment. They normally do not think of the ten-year-old boy who cries in his room for no apparent reason, the teenage girl who angrily slams doors, or the youngster who is barely eating.

Unfortunately, the incidence of childhood depression continues to grow. As many as one in every 33 American children may experience depression, according to figures released by the federal Center for Mental Health Services. The depression rate for adolescents is even higher: as many as one in eight.

According to the National Mental Health Association, children with depression experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. They may withdraw from friends and family, act out in anger or lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Left untreated, childhood depression can lead to school failure, substance abuse and even suicide–the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds.

In my last article, I mentioned the high percentage of women–twice as many as men–who suffer from major depression. Not surprisingly, this illness does not just instantly appear one day in a woman’s life. There are earlier signs and episodes that offer a warning. Many of these signals start off in childhood–especially for teenage girls.

Although the majority of adolescent girls show signs of strong mental health, the incidence for depressive symptoms in girls is 50 percent higher than that for boys. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), adolescent girls report alarmingly high rates of thinking about suicide. Among high school girls being interviewed, 1 in 3 had thoughts about suicide in the past two weeks, and another 3 percent responded positively to the statement, “I want to kill myself.” Evidence also indicates that increases in depressive disorders and mood swings are greater for girls than for boys during adolescence. The bottom line: By the age of 15, girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression–a gender difference that persists into adulthood.

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (a highly recommended book, especially for parents of teenage girls) describes how self-confidence declines with age for girls, but not for boys. In a HHS study based on 10 statements about their feelings of self-worth, only 39 percent of high school girls (grades 9 to 12) were highly self-confident compared with 44 percent of younger girls (grades 5 to 8). In contrast, self-confidence improved with age among boys, with more than half (55 percent) indicating they were highly confident by high school.

What signs indicate that a teenage girl is depressed and reaching out for help? Part II in this series will cover some of the warning signals. The earlier the problem of depression is confronted in a girl’s life, the better her chances of a happy and healthy future.

Women’s Depression

women's depressionDepression: It’s a painful, frightening disease that affects women in all walks of life. One of the most helpful treatments for improvement is knowing that you are not alone. I welcome everyone to this site: whether it be the woman who is suffering and searching for answers, or her friends and family who want more information, or other individuals who are interested in the topic for myriad of reasons. I also welcome any personal stories from those who want to share their experiences. Through such sharing, we all can gain strength.

Breast Cancer. Menopause. Osteoporosis. Lupus. We all readily associate women with a number of different ailments and conditions such as these. Another illness, which doesn’t come as easily to mind, should also be added to this list–major or clinical depression. Every year millions of women suffer from this mentally painful disease, many of them considering or actually committing suicide.
According to Psychology Information Online, major depression affects twice as many women as men. This two-to-one ratio exists in all racial and ethnic backgrounds and economic status. Eleven other countries worldwide report the same statistics. Men and women have about the same incidence of bipolar, or manic-depressive, disorder, although women usually experience more depressive and fewer manic episodes. A greater number of women also have the rapid cycling form of bipolar disorder–where moods quickly zigzag from highs to lows–which may be more resistant to standard treatments.

Depression is ranked high as a debilitating disease, only coming second to severe forms of arthritis. Yet you don’t see a flood to doctors for treatment. Research indicates that 19 million people suffer from depression each year, and only a third seek help. Despite the fact that most incidences of clinical depression can be treated all or in part by a combination of medication, therapy and change in lifestyle, most women suffer with the consequences and try to heal themselves.

This hesitancy for treatment is often due to the stigma attached to the ailment. Even in this day and age it is difficult for a woman to tell an employer, her child’s teacher or even some friends that she is clinically depressed. In other situations, a woman is incapable of action–even making a doctor’s appointment–because her clinical depression leads to physical changes such a chronic fatigue, sleep problems, and decrease in appetite. The illness also brings on feelings of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness and lessens the ability to concentrate and make decisions. Further, it impacts behavior, leading to increased irritability and loss of temper, social withdrawal, and a decreased desire to partake in pleasurable activities.

Why women experience clinical depression more than men is still unknown. However, research has studied many factors that may cause a woman to become ill. These include biological factors such as reproduction, hormones and genetics; abuse, violence and oppression; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality traits. Yet many women exposed to these stress factors do not get depressed. What makes them different?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov), investigators are focusing on several areas regarding women and depression: evidence that the higher incidence of depression in females begins in adolescence; the particular stresses that adult women face; the impact of hormones; the role of postpartum depression; psychological characteristics such as negative attitudes that may be derived from childhood; childhood molestation; and depression later in life.

The challenging news is that we still have a long way to go to understanding this disease and its impact on women and girls. The good news is that such research will someday provide insights into treatment and cures for clinical depression. It also lends credence to the fact that a woman’s complaint of feeling depressed should be taken very seriously and acted upon immediately.

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