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Depression Rates Among Teenagers Are Increasing Rapidly, Why Is This Happening?

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Depression Misconceptions

Depression is a brain dysfunction that affects mood and emotions. It is a mood disorder characterized by strong and persistent negative emotions. These emotions can have a negative impact on people’s lives, causing social, educational, personal and family discord.

Depression is different from sadness or feeling “down.” Clinical depression is a medical condition that affects the way the brain regulates emotions. People with depression cannot simply “get over it.” Depression can affect a person’s thinking, feelings, and behavior. It becomes a negative filter through which the world is experienced.

Sometimes, negative events such as the loss of a loved one or severe stress that persists for a prolonged period can trigger a depressive episode, but it often occurs spontaneously. Depression is not caused by the ordinary stress that is common in life. When depression occurs, it usually lasts for months and then improves. This is considered a “depressive episode.” Most people with depression experience many episodes during their lifetime. Clinical depression is often referred to as major depressive disorder (MDD). It is often accompanied by anxiety and causes significant problems in family, friends, work or school.

Causes In Teens

There are multiple causes of severe depression in adolescents and young adults, including the loss of loved ones, social isolation, major changes in life, and trauma caused by abuse or interpersonal relationships.

Today’s teenagers also face problems that past generations did not know. Social networking is a major source of anxiety and stress for adolescents. When teenagers compare their lives with the lives of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, they can feel frustrated and inadequate. Scientists have discovered a correlation between the use of smartphones and depression in adolescents. Excessive use of technology can damage relationships, education, and extracurricular activities.

Many teenagers experience academic pressure in school. Also, uncertain economic conditions and fierce competition from universities and graduate degrees exacerbate this pressure.

Teenagers often experience their first love relationship in high school or college. Although this is an important part of adolescent development, these relationships can also be an emotional challenge.

Today’s young people may have less adaptability. Parents try to protect them from failure and disappointment which hinders them from learning how to effectively face life’s challenges. Consequently, today’s adolescents often have little opportunity to develop their adaptive capacity and resiliency when faced with adversity.

The brain is still growing during adolescence; the prefrontal cortex of adolescents is immature and this part of the brain controls self-regulation. Therefore, their ability to control impulses is limited. This leads to dangerous behaviors during adolescence, such as drug abuse and unsafe sexual choices.

Results Of A Recent Study In Washington

According to a survey of 10,000 students in 13 institutions in Washington in the last two to four years, nearly 33% of students reported depression last year, with 26% reporting anxiety and more than 10% reporting suicidal ideation. Nearly 4 out of 5 college students report that emotional distress can harm their academic performance.

These statistics reflect national data on student depression. In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 34. Among young people between the ages of 18 and 25, 8.3% have serious suicidal thoughts.

The data for the year are similar throughout the country. Concluding that, 24% report anxiety; 31% report depression; 11% of university students report suicidal thoughts.

Evidence Based Treatments

There is strong empirical evidence for the successful treatment of adolescent mental illnesses, including depression. In many cases, psychotherapy for depression is as effective as medication, and it is a recommended first-line intervention for mild to moderate depression in young adults. The Psychiatric Times reports that effective psychotherapy for depression include: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).


Am J Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 1;175(1):28-36. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223. Epub 2017 Oct 3.

Depression, anxiety affect more than one-fourth of state’s college students. (2018, January 30). Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/news/2018/01/30/depression-anxiety-affect-more-than-one-fourth-of-states-college-students/.

Zack, Sanno E., et al. “Treating Adolescent Depression With Psychotherapy: The Three Ts.” Psychiatric Times, 7 Nov. 2012, www.psychiatrictimes.com/adhd/treating-adolescent-depression-psychotherapy-three-ts.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Mitchell Olson is psychotherapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota and president of MindfullyHealing.com. Mindfully Healing is a community that advocates and provides free resources for modern approaches to mental health.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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