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During adolescence, people develop fast physically, psychologically and socially. Adolescence is an important period in terms of the development of mental health. Depression-like symptoms may appear as early as childhood, manifesting themselves as restlessness, self-effacement and behavioural disorders. However, the probability of depressive episodes is dramatically increased during puberty and shortly thereafter. Puberty is characterised by intense feelings, occasional melancholy and sadness. Depression can be distinguished from these mood changes involved in the turmoil of puberty.

When normal sadness becomes longer lasting and more severe and occurs together with other symptoms and causes difficulties in coping with daily routines, it can be a matter of major depression. Major depression is not uncommon during adolescence. Yearly, it is estimated that 5-10 percent of all young people experience real depression.

Changes in behaviour can be a warning signal for depression

Unlike adults, the most obvious symptoms of depression in young people are irritability or anger instead of the actual feeling of depression. Nevertheless, adolescents also experience the same feelings as depressed adults, such as losing interest in things they used to find interesting. Depression in adolescents becomes especially concerting when their behaviour changes dramatically when compared to their previous behaviour. 

Depression can manifest itself as decreased school success or difficulty concentrating in school. Socializing with friends may decrease and interest in various hobbies may disappear. The young person may have difficulty falling asleep and difficulty sleeping and also changes in appetite. Young people with depression may be constantly worried about their own body and have physical symptoms, such as stomach pain, headaches or diffuse pain. Depression in young people can also lead to self-destructive thoughts, self-destructive behavior or suicidal thoughts, especially if the young person also has substance abuse problems.

Good re­la­tion­ships with par­ents and friends con­tribute to the re­cov­ery of a de­pressed ado­les­cent

Many young people find it difficult to recognize their depression or seek help for it. It is therefore often a relative or, for example, the school health service who must take responsibility for the young person receiving treatment. Also, not all parents always understand that it is a depression that is behind the young person’s change.

Social support is extremely important to a depressed adolescent. Good relationships with friends and parents promote recovery.

Co-morbidity is common in adolescents with depression

Girls are more likely to get depressed than boys, or at least depression in girls is more likely to be diagnosed. Many young people suffering from depression also suffer from another problem at the same time. These problems are most likely to be anxietry disorders, SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEMS, attention deficit and behavioural disorders, as well as EATING disorders.

Treatment of depression in adolescence

Depression in adolescents is mainly treated with various psychotherapeutic methods. The benefits of antidepressant drugs are less in the treatment of depression in adolescents than in the treatment of adult depression. In some adolescents, antidepressants may even aggravate depression and anxiety.

Fact check: Kristian Wahlbeck, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry