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Although it is true that many adolescents experience emotional ups and down, it has been established that such moodiness is not necessarily a normal part of the adolescent years. Adolescents who seem moody and sad for a couple of weeks may actually be experiencing depression. Adolescent depression is a medical condition that involves persistent discouragement, sadness, loss of interest in usual activities and loss of self-worth. It is imperative to understand that depression is not just an occasional melancholy or bad mood, but a serious problem that affects every aspect of an adolescent's life. According to Schab (2008), between 4and 8 percent of adolescents experience depression in their lifetime. Left unattended to, adolescent depression can lead to problems at school, and at home, self-loathing, drug abuse, and other irreversible tragedies like violence, homicide and suicide.
Considering that the symptoms can be difficult to establish, depression among the adolescent is probably under diagnosed. Therefore, parents should not write-off or ignore behavior changes in their children as phases of adolescent. Signs and symptoms of adolescent depression It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the signs and symptoms of adolescent depression from occasional bad mood, negative attitude, and acting out that many adolescents experience at some point. The main difference between the two is that unlike bad mood and the other feelings, depression leads to noticeable changes in mood that lasts for a couple of weeks (Garber et al., 2003). Note that an adolescent can experience mild, moderate or severe depression. Some of the known signs and symptoms of depression include:
• Diminished pleasure or interest in almost every activity
• Irritable or depressed mood for an entire day
• Change in weight, eating and sleeping habits
• Loss of energy and fatigue
• Feeling of guilt or worthlessness
• Excessive sleep or insomnia
• Difficulty in making decisions and concentrating
• Frequent thoughts of suicide death
• Lack of motivation or enthusiasm
• Restlessness and agitation
• Withdrawal from family and friends
If you are not certain if an adolescent is just "being a teenager" or is depressed, consider how long he or she has exhibited the symptoms, how the adolescent is acting from his or her usual self, and how severe the symptoms are (McCarthy et al., 2008). Note that the first two of the named symptoms should be present for one to be diagnosed of depression. This means that the adolescent must either have an irritable or depressed mood or lost interest in almost every activity for most of the day and that this loss has lasted for at least two weeks. Suicide warning signs in adolescents There is a worrying and an increasing number of adolescents who attempt and succeed in committing suicide.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide as a result of depression is among the leading causes of death among 15 to 24-year-olds (Garber et al., 2003). For the vast majority of suicidal adolescents, depression and other psychological disorders play a vital role. It is imperative to understand that in depressed adolescents who abuse drugs and alcohol, the likelihood of committing suicide is even greater. As a result of the very real danger of suicide, adolescents who are depressed should be watched constantly and very closely for any signs of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. These warning signs include:
• Joking or talking about committing suicide
• Saying things like "I wish I could disappear," "I'd be better off dead," or "there is no way out"
• Romanticizing death or speaking positively about death
• Writing stories or poems about dying or suicide
• Giving away adored possessions
• Bidding family and friends goodbye as if for good; and
• Seeking out pills, poison, or weapons that might be used for suicide Causes of adolescent depression
Depression among adolescents can be a temporary reaction to various stresses and situation (McCarthy et al., 2008). It is believed that there is no definite cause of depression among the adolescents; therefore, several factors can lead to depression. Depression among the adolescents can result from the following:
a) Genetics: some adolescent carry the gene that augments the risks of developing depression. Nevertheless, not everyone with depression has these genes, and not everyone that has these genes suffer from depression.
b) Environment: an adolescent's surrounding as well as life experiences also enhances the risks of developing this condition. Any stressful situations, such as the death of a relative or friend, break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, and failure at school may trigger depression.
c) Biological factors: studies indicate that this condition is a biologic disorder that results from the imbalance brain hormones, such as dopamine, serotonin