Friday, May 8, 2009

Beyond The Blues: Kids and Depression

Over 11 million prescriptions were written last year for kids with depression. That did not include those who didn't even see a doctor.

Growing up is never easy. It is a time of upheaval and emotional storms. The very openness children exuded and were rewarded for seems to invite penalties as they grow beyond adolescence They are exulting in their hoped-for independence even as they are frightened by the demanding, often-uncaring world of adulthood. During this confusing period, they end up changing from one mode to the other so often and so rapidly that it confounds their parents. Teenagers often turn to actions that provide emotional stimulation to counteract feelings of self-induced emptiness and low self-esteem.

All kids get sad or upset about things now and then: getting a bad grade on a test, arguing with a friend, being grounded, or being without a date for a big dance. These temporary disappointments are not necessarily depression, but stress in its many forms and the inability to deal with stress is a major factor in creating and exacerbating the problem.

Changes in behavior are normal as our kids try to figure out who they are and what they believe in. Most depressed kids are troubled by who they are, how others perceive them, and what parents, peers, and the world at large expect of them. Researchers believe depression affects 3 percent to 5 percent of preteens and up to 15 percent of adolescents with girls suffering from depression at twice the rate of boys. In an alarming study by Seventeen Magazine, 28 percent of girls said they feel depressed every day or at least a few times a week. Girls are looking to peers for validation and it is often hard for them to retain a positive self-image. Adolescent girls undergo more life changes than boys and for yet unknown reasons, they are more vulnerable to negative life events, while the sources of stress in boys are more commonly school performance or other factors outside of social relationships, such as a move to another home. The good news is that serious depression in our children is treatable but it is often difficult to diagnose. The symptoms may be mistaken for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) causing misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment.

What should parents and teachers look for?

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