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Teen Depression: Ignore It and It May Never Go Away

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"Conflict with parents is not uncommon in families in which there's a depressed parent or adolescent. This is not the mopiness or withdrawal that we think about when we think about depression. It's often irritability, anger, and conflict on the part of the adolescent and/or the parent," Gotlib says. He urges parents to recognize their own psychological limitations and to be aware that their personal histories may make their children more vulnerable to depression.

Gotlib says that depressed teens who may have some of the risk factors for recurrence should be seen by a doctor every six months or so to make sure things are going OK.

Findling adds that parents should find a mental health professional who is proficient in caring for depressed adolescents. "We're fortunate in Cleveland to have a center of experts in pediatric mood disorders," he says. "But every community is different. Even if there is no specific program available, your doctor can probably tell you who is good at seeing young people with depression within your community."

Almost half of the group of formerly depressed teens developed another type of problem, such as substance abuse or anxiety, between the time they were 19 and 23 years old.

Preventing new problems is another reason to treat depression early, the doctors say. "The earlier the disorder is caught, the less malignant it is, like any disorder in medicine," Findling says. "Because a disturbance in mood can affect a youngster's ... social, academic, and [family] functioning ... we know the longer we let the disorder go on, the more the 'tumor' grows. I wish I had a dime for every parent who said, 'I wish we had done this [gone for treatment] sooner.'"

Findling says he knows some parents are reluctant to bring their children in for treatment because of possible side effects of medications or uncertainty that the treatments will work. "There may be risks of treatment, and there may be some knowledge gaps," he says. "But more important is the fact that we know there are profound and pronounced risks associated with depression that should never go unaddressed. ... You need to find an expert who's comfortable and familiar and expert at this to assure the best for your youngster."

For more information from WebMD, visit our Diseases and Conditions Center on Depression.

 

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