How to detect depression in young people?
The keys and symptoms to know how to detect and identify depression in young people and adolescents.
Adolescence and early adulthood are very turbulent periods in most people's lives.
It is a time of transition in which we have to form our individual identity, discover what interests us professionally, socially and sexually and we also have to face family demands while claiming our independence and individuality.
Although most people get through this period without major problems, others may experience it so overwhelmingly and experience events that are harmful to their mental health that they end up developing depression.
The importance of screening for depression in young people is crucial.The nature of this disorder and that of adolescence result in many adjustment problems in an individual who is still growing up. We reflect on this issue below.
Characteristics of depression in young people
The youthful years, especially the teenage years, can be a complicated and overwhelming period.. The transition from adolescence to adulthood is not easy for many young people, who are trying to find their place in the world while facing many pressures. Teenagers have to meet their parents' expectations, perform well academically, make sure they have friends and everyone likes them, while in early adulthood they have to find a future career, decide what to study or whether going to work is better for them.
Mood swings in adolescence, as long as they are occasional, are normal for most young people.. These mood swings are nothing more than young people's responses to circumstances that they do not yet know how to handle and are still in the process of developing the skills and maturity to cope with. As they transition from adolescence to young adulthood, young people will gain the experience and perspective necessary to cope with situations that years ago were beyond them.
However, sometimes the demands of the environment become too great for adolescents to cope with, and traumatic events or situations occur that negatively affect their mental health. It is estimated that one in five adolescents has a mental disorder, and about one-third meet criteria for a diagnosis of depression.
Symptoms of depression in young people are not always easy to identify because they are often camouflaged or confused with adolescent behaviors.The symptoms of depression in young people are not always easy to identify because they are often camouflaged or confused with adolescent behaviors. Some early signs that a young person may be suffering from depression are: irritability, fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating behavior, social withdrawal and/or anger.
Depression during adolescence can significantly interfere with multiple important areas of a young person's life. The depressed adolescent will have trouble coping with academic, family and social demands.In addition, they will have serious problems in shaping their own identity, since depressive symptoms at such an early age as between 12 and 18 are a huge obstacle to personal growth, self-concept and self-esteem. The young person may feel so bad and see him/herself as of little use to society that he/she ends up committing suicide.
Taking all this into account, we can understand that the importance of detecting depression in young people is crucial, since the sooner it is done, the sooner it will be possible to intervene on the particular case, improve their psychological well-being and prevent their disorder from worsening.
Symptoms of depression in adolescence.
The most distinctive and defining feature of a major depressive episode is that it must be experienced for at least a two-week period. During that period, the patient must have felt very despondent, with deep sadness and lack of interest in almost all the things he used to enjoy.. In the case of adolescents and young adults, extreme irritability should also be added as a distinguishing symptom, which, together with the other symptoms, represents a significant change in the patient's functioning.
In addition to these symptoms, at least four of the symptoms listed below should be present:
- Anger and hostility
- Changes in eating behavior
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Poor academic performance
- Lack of motivation
- Trouble concentrating
- Frequent and easy crying
- Body aches and pains with no apparent physical cause
- Thoughts of death and suicide (planned or unplanned)
Warning signs of suicidal behavior.
The possibility of the young person committing suicide exists throughout the duration of the major depressive episode. The statistics are staggering, pointing to the fact that about 20% of 14 to 18 year olds have at some point seriously considered committing suicide, 10% have made a plan to carry out suicide, and 10% have made a plan to carry out suicide.The statistics are chilling, indicating that about 20% of young people aged 14 to 18 have at some time seriously considered committing suicide, 10% have made a plan to do so, and between 5 and 10%, depending on the country, have made the attempt on more than one occasion.
Taking into account the seriousness of this problem and its potential tragic end, it is essential to detect depression in young people, both in the context of consultation and at home. For this reason, we can look at the following signs of suicidal ideation among adolescents.
- Talking about suicide
- Writing poems or stories about suicide.
- Getting rid of prized possessions
- Engaging in highly risky behaviors
- Romanticizing death
- Saying goodbye to friends and family (in person, in notes, or on social media)
- Cryptic social media posts referencing death
Treatment of depression in young people
It is essential to detect any other possible problems before proceeding with psychotherapy, with the intention of offering the best of therapies to the patient and thus improving his or her quality of life. There are multiple approaches and treatments to improve the state of mind of young patients with depressionbut all of them can be encompassed within the following three types of therapies.
The star psychological therapy for treating adolescent depression is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This option is especially useful for cases of mild to moderate depression, produced by problems that are thought to be solved in the short term.
On the other hand, it should be kept in mind that psychotherapy oriented towards individual patients is not limited to being a patient-therapist relationship..... Beyond the sessions themselves with the psychologist, it is essential to adopt a series of habits (learned in therapy) on a daily basis, and likewise, the involvement of the family is also a very important element that facilitates the good progress of the treatment, both psychological and medical.
2. Group therapy
Therapy groups can be very useful for adolescents with depression. Through this type of therapy adolescents connect with other young people who are going through the same thing and with whom they can share their problems and create support networks. beyond those offered by family and close friends, as well as finding role models and people from whom to draw inspiration and motivation to move forward in treatment.
The most commonly used drugs to treat depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants that may be beneficial for adolescents diagnosed with major depressive disorder and in whose cases psychotherapy alone does not seem to have a powerful effect on their improvement.
It should be noted, however, that the taking of these drugs should always be done under psychiatric supervisionThis is especially true if we take into account that research shows that SSRIs increase suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents in the first weeks of treatment. In addition, drug addiction is more common in people with depression, so that medical supervision when taking psychotropic drugs becomes even more essential.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)