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Teen depression

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Can teen depression run in families?

Yes. Depression, which usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30, sometimes can run in families. In fact, teen depression may be more common among adolescents who have a family history of depression.

How is teen depression diagnosed?

There aren't any specific medical tests that can detect depression. Health care professionals determine if a teen has depression by conducting interviews and psychological tests with the teen and his or her family members, teachers, and peers.

The severity of the teen depression and the risk of suicide are determined based on the assessment of these interviews. Treatment recommendations are also made based on the data collected from the interviews.

The doctor will also look for signs of potentially co-existing psychiatric disorders such as anxiety or substance abuse or screen for complex forms of depression such as bipolar disorder (manic depressive illness) or psychosis. . The doctor will also assess the teen for risks of suicidal or homicidal features. Incidences of attempted suicide and self-mutilation is higher in females than males while completed suicide is higher in males. One of the most vulnerable groups for completed suicide is the 18-24 age group.

How is teen depression treated?

There are a variety of methods used to treat depression, including medications and psychotherapy. Family therapy may be helpful if family conflict is contributing to a teen's depression. The teen will also need support from family or teachers to help with any school or peer problems. Occasionally, hospitalization in a psychiatric unit may be required for teenagers with severe depression.

Your mental health care provider will determine the best course of treatment for your teen.

The FDA warns that antidepressant medications can, rarely, increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. Use of antidepressants in younger patients, therefore, requires especially close monitoring and follow-up by the treating doctor.  If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your health care provider.

Does depression medicine work for teen depression?

Yes. A large number of research trials have shown the effectiveness of depression medications in relieving the symptoms of teen depression. One key recent study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, reviewed three different approaches to treating adolescents with moderate to severe depression:

  • One approach was using the antidepressant medication Prozac, which is approved by the FDA for use with pediatric patients ages 8-18.
  • The second treatment was using cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, to help the teen recognize and change negative patterns of thinking that may increase symptoms of depression.
  • The third approach was a combination of medication and CBT.

At the end of the 12-week study, researchers found that nearly three out of every four patients who received the combination treatment -- depression medication and psychotherapy -- significantly improved. More than 60% of the kids who took Prozac alone improved. But the study confirmed that combination treatment was nearly twice as effective in relieving depression as psychotherapy alone.

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