Depression, says the World Health Organization, is the primary cause of disability and illness in the world. It has known to impact approximately 300 million people all over the world. The most ominous aspect of depression is that it is characterized by a high risk of suicide.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 3.2 million people in the United States between 12 and 17 years of age have exhibited at least one major depressive episode in 2017. The adolescent population represents nearly 13.3 percent in the United States. According to reports, females have greater risk of developing depressive episodes than male.
Studies delineating the widespread presence of depression among adolescents and children report higher risk developing depressive symptoms. The symptoms of depression in adolescent population is almost similar to major clinical depression, but symptoms in adolescent and children population may manifest in different ways than in adults. The reason behind this could be undergoing significant changes in their body, hormonal level and peer pressure.
Depression is closely linked with elevated levels of anxiety, stress and in worst case scenarios it can trigger suicidal thoughts and behavior. Depression impedes the personal social, family, school, and work lives of the adolescent population, making them feel isolated.
Depression in adolescent population is often mistaken with signs of puberty and typical behavioral changes an adolescent faces during that phase. Therefore, it becomes difficult to identify the signs of depression in adolescents by the parents.
A few symptoms of depression in adolescents may include:
- Experiencing tearfulness, sadness and appearing irritable
- Feeling boredom
- Change in weight and appetite
- Low on energy
- A decreased interest in activities, which were once pleasurable
- Feeling guilty, worthlessness or helpless
- Developing dependency on illicit substances
- Experiencing sleep regression
- Self isolation
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior
- Poor academic performance
- Exhibiting self injurious behavior such as cutting or burning of any body part
Now, research is focusing on finding out early signs of adolescent depression and which adolescent depressions pose a threat to develop persistent depression with poor adult outcomes. By characterizing variance in depression developed in adolescent population, early medical intervention can be remitted with allocation of finite clinical resources.
The researchers focused on investigating adult outcomes of adolescent-onset paths of clinical depression. They also focused on finding the trajectories that could differentiate between the symptoms of depression that can get resolved in adulthood and symptoms of depression that persist in adulthood.
The research considered a data for 4234 participants out of which 63% were female, aged between 10 to 25 years of age. They were made to fill a questionnaire and gave details of major depressive episodes during their adolescent stage (13 to 18 years) to 25 years of age.
The researchers used a latent class growth analysis to make distinctive analysis of trajectories to determine depression symptoms. The adult symptoms for depression were assed based on developing suicidal behavior or tendency to self-harm and functional impairment at the age of 24 years, including academic performance and productivity at workplace.
The results of this study evinced that adolescent depression developed into four different types of depression during adulthood. 7% of the population who developed signs of depression in early adolescence developed persistent depression in adulthood.
They found that 14% of the population who developed signs of depression in later stage of adolescence, resolved signs of depressive in adulthood. However, 54% exhibited stable-low levels of depression and 25% posed to develop adult-increasing depression.
The researchers also noted that among those who developed persistent depression in adulthood, 62% of them faced functional impairment, poor performance at academics and workplace.
This study established the link between transient adolescent stress and adolescent-limited depression. It showed that poor adulthood outcomes and developing persistent depression could be due to experiencing physical or emotional trauma during adolescence or may be due to change in brain chemistry and inherited traits.
The results of this study could be used to determine who will develop persistent depression or periodic depression with impaired adult outcomes or whose depression will fade away in adulthood.
By differentiating the different trajectories for depressive symptoms, adequate treatment plans can be determined to combat the symptoms on time.
Depression during adolescence can be treated, but parents and caregivers need to pay attention towards the symptoms and seek medical intervention at the earliest. Medication and psychotherapy or a combination of both can help combat the condition.
Psychotherapy can include interpersonal therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
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