Millions of Americans struggle with depression. Some suffer a few weeks of their lives while others consistently fall prey to the symptoms of the condition. While this mental health issue is devastating at any age, the emotional and physical damage of depression in teenagers puts them at higher risk than you might think.
The Scope of Depression in Teenagers
Nearly one-fourth of all teens will experience depression before adulthood. Unfortunately, only about 30% of those are receiving the help they need. This is especially alarming since suicide is closely related to depression and is the third-leading cause of death in individuals from ages 15 to 24. In fact, every 100 minutes, a teenager will take his or her life.
Though most people suffer depression at some time or other, depression in teenagers can last longer and is usually more devastating. In addition, no one is immune from depression. In fact, some people are more likely to develop issues than others. There are many factors that increase the threat of depression, including:
- Sex/gender; depression in teenagers develops twice as often for females than males.
- Problems at home; individuals who are abused or neglected are more likely to become depressed.
- Other health issues; depression in teenagers is more likely when chronic illnesses or physical conditions play a factor.
- Family history; depression in teenagers tends to appear in family histories that include depression, anxiety, or mental health problems. As many as 50% of depressed teens also have a family member suffering from one or more mental illnesses.
- Untreated issues. Two-thirds of adolescents with major depression also have untreated mood disorders, behavior issues, or substance abuse problems.
- Stressful, traumatic events lead to a greater chance of depression as well. Divorce, death, and accidents can cause depression in addition to problems like PTSD.
A Difficult Diagnosis
One of the biggest problems with diagnosing depression in teenagers is that it’s hard to differentiate from other mental health issues or even regular mood swings. The hormonal changes of adolescence can fuel symptoms that mimic other conditions or even mask more serious problems. However, diagnosing depression can be crucial in some cases. The disorder is dangerous because it makes the individual more at risk for short and long-term issues. Short-term actions include mutilation and suicide, while long-term results can range from physical illness to social maladjustment and more. In the past, doctors listened to described symptoms and met with children to determine their mental state. This method works in many cases, but science has developed a better way to reach a true diagnosis.
Blood Testing for Depression
There are certain genetic markers associated with some depression. Scientists have now identified these markers and can actually pinpoint them through blood testing. This “objective measure” of the condition is poised to do wonders for those suffering from depression because doctors can get to the root cause faster. In addition, blood testing can result in faster and more definitive diagnoses for depression in teenagers. This means the individual will be able to get the help they need sooner, lessening the chance of stronger side effects or harmful behaviors.
Alleviating the Stigma of Mental Illness
Blood testing can also help reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses. Without a scientific answer, some see mental illness as a kind of laziness. Being able to show actual results instead of interpretive ones brings depression into the same arena as other health issues. No one can say “it’s all in your mind” when there is proof that the condition changes the body physically.
This is a very important part of blood testing for depression since the social implications are the main factor that keeps the majority of depressed teens from seeking treatment. Both adult and teen patients will feel less ostracized and therefore will find it easier to get help. Many children dealing with depression feel like there is no hope, but this breakthrough says the opposite. With earlier diagnoses, less stigma, and a better understanding of how the condition works, teenagers who suffer from depression can see a much more hopeful future.