Depression is a mental illness that's common during adolescence. Peer pressure, physical and emotional changes, sexuality, academic stress, as well as conflicts with friends and family can often lead to the feelings of sadness, inadequacy, indifference and worthlessness that characterize depression. Studies show that about one in every eight teenagers suffers from depression, and an estimated 20 percent of teens will experience depression at some time before reaching adulthood. Teens who lack self-confidence, who tend to be overly critical of themselves, and those who are unable to cope well with stressful events, may be particularly at risk for depression. Teen girls are also twice as likely to experience depression as teen boys. While adolescent depression may be difficult to distinguish from the often up-and-down moods of teenagers, which can vary from day to day - and even hour to hour - there are several important warning signs of depression to be aware of. Obvious behavior changes are often one of the first symptoms of depression. Teens with depression often lose interest in activities that were previously enjoyed, and may also withdraw from family members and friends. Sleeping patterns may change as well. Teens with depression often have trouble falling asleep at night, or problems getting up in the morning. A change in eating habits, such as losing interest in food - or compulsive overeating - may also signal depression. Depressed teens may also complain frequently of various physical ailments, such as headaches, stomachaches, fatigue or back pain. Teens with depression may not always appear sad or withdrawn. Depression may often be expressed through anger, aggression or high-risk behavior such as substance abuse, shoplifting or unsafe sex. That's why it's important to seek help if depression symptoms persist for at least two weeks. Teens with depression may also begin hanging out with a different crowd, cutting class, missing curfews, become unusually defiant or get in trouble with the law. Depression is also a risk factor for teen suicide and the danger increases for teens that abuse drugs or alcohol. Any talk of suicide, "giving up" or reckless behavior must always be taken extremely seriously - and professional help should be obtained immediately! Adolescent depression can be treated effectively. If you suspect your teen is depressed, it's important to consult a mental health professional as soon as possible.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012