According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is the most common mental health disorder for teenagers in the United States, but it can be hard to quantify what that really means. How common is depression? In 2016, the NIH found, "An estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode."
Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital points out, "For many, behavioral health issues emerge during adolescence and young adulthood, with symptoms often surfacing around this time." Parents and caregivers should know what to look out for as the teens in their lives attempt to navigate these difficult years.
One important step is to recognize when your teen is depressed. A major depressive episode is defined as two or more consecutive weeks in which someone has a depressed mood, loss of interest in normal amusements, and a change in at least four other aspects of the person's lifestyle, including disinterest in eating, lack of energy, trouble sleeping, problems with concentration, or thoughts of suicide or death.
Understanding the causes of depression
There is no one cause of depression in teens. Possible triggers include physical or sexual abuse, bereavement, serious illness, genetics, conflict with family members and substance abuse. On the flip side, feelings of depression may also contribute to some of these factors, which makes determining which came first difficult.
Substance abuse is one of the leading risk factors associated with depression. WebMD estimates, "Nearly 30 percent of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression."
The connection between depression and substance abuse
While depression itself can't cause substance abuse problems, it can lead to emotions and behaviors that teens struggle to control on their own. They may experience any of the following:
Females may experience worse or more symptoms, as the NIH study found, "The prevalence of major depressive episode was higher among adolescent females (19.4 percent) compared to males (6.4 percent)."