Adolescent depression and treatment

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“Depression” is a word that is used both by the professionals and by ordinary people. Nevertheless, the meaning that each of them associated with the word may be different. Thus, some might suggest that depression may be seen as a scientific term for temporary problems in life that take a slightly longer time to resolve. However, the professionals will disagree with this position, suggesting that depression should be recognized as a serious health disorder that should be treated accordingly. This paper supports the latter position. It will argue that adolescent depression is a serious health condition that should be treated with the help of a variety of different methods. The purposes of the paper is manifold. First of all, it will prove that adolescent depression is a serious condition, but referring to the relevant studies and statistics. Secondly, it will present the arguments of the opposing side and refute them successfully, but showing  where they fail to reflect the problem correctly. Finally, it will analyze the available treatment and comment on the effectiveness of each method, envisioning the positive consequences that it will bring in the future.

Overview of the situation

It is worth mentioning that adolescent depression has been the object of interest of the scholars for a considerable period of time. One of the recent studies shows that the figures are higher than expected. Thus, Bhatia and Bhatia report that approximately 15% of children and adolescents show symptoms of depression (73). In spite of the fact that some might argue that this figure is somewhat exaggerated since “showing symptoms of depression” does not equal “having a depression”; moreover, the percentage also includes children which mean that it cannot be fully projected onto teenagers. Nevertheless, given the population of the United States, it is clear that 15% of children and adolescent make a significant group in terms of size which means that this health condition is quite spread.

In addition to that, the same study also shows that some age groups are particularly vulnerable to depression. Bhati and Bhati state that five percent of all respondents aged 9 to 17 showed signs of the major depressive disorder. This means that this might be seen as a justification for intervention as well as medical assistance. In other words, while 15% may be seen as a somewhat exaggerated figure to some, 5% is the minimum that everyone should take into consideration. 

Moreover, some studies explored the disparities in the distribution of this health condition. According to Goldman and Wren, by the age of 14, a girl is twice more likely to develop symptoms of major depressive disorder than a boy (225). Given the bigger number of girls in the country, one might assume that adolescent depression will mostly strike females. In spite of the fact that there is a significant number of teenage boys affected, it is clear that the specialists should take into consideration the gender structure of the affected population.

Finally, one should point out that while adolescent depression might seem to be a condition that will disappear as a person grows older, it is clear that it has long-lasting consequences. For example, those diagnosed with depression in their teens are more likely to take up alcohol abuse when they are adults. The connection between depression in the early age and suicide is self-evident. In other words, adolescent depression should be treated as a serious factor the impact of which must not be undermined since the damage that is done at this age will multiply in the future.

The negative impact of depression on adolescents

This paper will argue that the negative impact of adolescent depression has often been overlooked and the extent of it should be revisited. For example, Davidson insists that depression should be regarded as a serious health disorder in spite of the fact that it might lack characteristics that the public traditionally associated with such conditions (8). Indeed, a depressed person is able to function or carry out simple day-to-day tasks, but one can hardly agree that this kind of life is fulfilling. There are instances when depression triggers some diseases that can be effectively treated, but in the majority of the cases, it is no accompanied by such conditions. Nevertheless, the absence of damage to the body should not be used as justification of unimportance of adolescent depression.

Another point that should be mentioned with this regard is that there is a number of reasons that are responsible for the development of this condition. Law states that the scholars agree on the idea that the brain of an adolescent is slightly different from an adult brain in several ways, including the set of hormones that influence it (36). However, one should also keep in mind that such factors as a traumatic event that happened early in the childhood or a family history of depression can also put a person at risk. That is why there is often more than a single cause of adolescent depression.

Those who deny the seriousness of this condition should consider the severity of the negative effects that it has on the life of a person. While the actual manifestations may vary, these experiences fall in the broad range of family conflicts, substance abuse, anti-social behavior, losing interest in life. It is worth mentioning that while depression does not always directly leads to suicide, a person who is diagnosed with such condition is much more likely to end his or her life if compared to other people.

Finally, speaking of the negative impact of adolescent depression, one should point out that there is no single approach to treatment that is seen as the best one for all cases. It is generally suggested that the treatment can be broadly divided into three categories. The first of them is the administration of drugs. Given the biological nature of it, this kind of treatment is often seen as the most effective one. The second kind is psychotherapy. It often happens so that specialists are able to achieve wonderful results. Finally, there are different kinds of alternative therapy.

Counter-arguments regarding adolescent depression

In order to achieve the objectiveness of analysis, it is crucial to hear out the opposing side. Thus, one of the major arguments that are brought up by those who reject the seriousness of the problem in question focuses on the difficulty to identify depression in adolescents and differentiate it from other conditions (Neinstein, 995). One would make no mistake suggesting that this period of life is quite difficult and experiences that resemble symptoms of depression often can be witnessed.

Some even argue that the very idea of adolescent depression may not be fully correct since it provides a term for a point of the life of a person that will inevitably pass (Rey & Birmaher, p. 194). This may be a rather bold statement, but it does make sense to a certain extent: the adolescent years are quite difficult for those who experience them; however, as one grows older the nature of problems changes, so does their impact on a person. Therefore, adolescent depression may be seen as a phase in the life of an individual.

Those who reject the seriousness of the condition in question may also be willing to point out that the number of factors that may be responsible for the development of depression in adolescence is tremendously big. That is why any definition will either have to include them all which will make it too broad or will have to consciously reject some of them which will make it limited. That is why given the nature of the problem, it may be beneficial to make sure that every case is investigated separately, rather than making sweeping statements about something.

Lastly, those who oppose the necessity to recognize adolescent depression is a serious issue point out that the available treatment may be moderately effective and causes serious side effects. Keeping this in mind, it becomes obvious that there is no unified approach to solving this problem that will be equally beneficial for everyone. That is why one should try to avoid make generalizations about adolescent depression and focus on ways to help individuals rather than making them take medical assistance that is not effective.

Refutation of counter-argument claims

In spite of the fact that the counter-arguments that were mentioned in the paragraphs above may seem rather convincing, it is worth mentioning that there is a number of aspects that the opposing position fails to take into account. For example, when they point out that it is difficult to identify the case of an adolescent depression, they are not fully correct. Richards and O’Hara state that while many aspects of this condition are open for a debate, there is a single definition that all medical specialists agree on and it is written in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) (219). Indeed, this source is constantly revised, but it seems that there is a clear definition of what constitutes a depression and whether the conditions that adolescents develop may be recognized as one.

Furthermore, one should carefully examine the idea that adolescent depression may simply reflect a certain stage in life. Indeed, it has been proven that there is a number of crises that people will experience as long as they mature; however, it is crucial to differentiate between crises that are expected to happen and lead to development and crises that have a significant negative effect and result in destabilization. Therefore, adolescent depression is much more serious that a regular crisis.

Those who believe that adolescents are exposed to a considerable amount of stress are quite right since they acknowledge the negative impact that the environment may have on a person. However, Wolfe and Mash believe that the ability to resist this pressure shapes the development of the character while depression represents the inability of a character to deal with the load (318). Therefore, those who were diagnosed with the health condition in question should receive assistance since they are not able to cope on their own.

Finally, it may be important to address the claims regarding the negative impact of treatment. It is true that some drugs that are traditionally prescribed to treat adolescent depression may have a negative impact on the organism. Moreover, it is not debated that their effectiveness can be reduced to a number of factors. However, the actual treatment, namely what kind of drugs a person will receive as well as the engagement of other methods is determined by the doctor and takes into account all peculiarities of the situation. That is why treatment is designed to reduce the negative impact and bring the positive consequences.

Treatment of adolescent depression

The literature suggests that treatment of adolescent depression can fall into one of three broad categories. The first of them is using medication According to Goodyer, the substances are known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to change the mood of the patients (96). The major idea behind this approach is to make sure that the negative reactions in the brain are stopped and a person can no longer feel depressed. After the negative pattern of behavior is dealt with, the medication is removed and a person keeps up living a full life.

The next category that is not less effective in any way is psychotherapy. It is rather obvious that this approach features a completely different mechanism: according to it, the deep emotional and cognitive causes of depression are addressed. Young, Mufson, and Schueler believe that sometimes it may not be necessary to administer any drugs since a complex psychotherapy will deliver the needed results (124). Nevertheless, it is generally advised what the two kinds of treatment are practiced together and this will allow a patient to increase the chances of dealing with the depression.

The third category that should be mentioned features practices that are alternative to the conventional treatment. Thus, it is suggested that a person may take up yoga, massage, meditation or seek spiritual guidance in order to deal with the depression. This approach engages a number of activities and each of them varies according to the situation. For example, fulfillment of a dream may have a positive impact on a person and help one combat the depression. However, it is generally advised that this kind of treatment should not be practiced independently and it compliment the other two which were mentioned above.

It is worth mentioning that if a patient has exhibited suicidal tendencies or attempted suicide, the patterns of treatment should be adjusted. For example, in case it is difficult to prevent a possible attempt of suicide, it may be advised to place a person into the hospital where one will be under the supervision of specialists. In addition to that, psychotherapy is likely to take a different approach if the issue of suicide is involved. It must be noted that this is often witnessed in cases of severe depression which means that it should require additional attention.

The expected results

One would make no mistake suggesting that the treatment that was described in the previous section is expected to deliver tangible results. The first point that should be emphasized in this case is mood management. Since adolescent depression is seen as a state that is manifested in the persistence of negative emotions, one of the first signs of being cured may be seen as the positive tendency of mood changes. In other words, the overall emotional condition of a person is expected to become more positive and this will be the first step in dealing with depression.

Secondly, one should point out that it is also crucial to help a person who was diagnosed with adolescent depression to deal with all the existing psychological problems. The importance of this aspect can hardly be underestimated since, otherwise, if the emotional and cognitive element of this health condition is overlooked, one will not be able to gain a proper understanding of it. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that the psychological problems that may have triggered or amplified the depressed state are taken care of by the specialists.

Thirdly, it is quite obvious that the idea of adolescent depression implies that it is closely associated with a certain part of life. That is why as a part of the treatment, a person should be explained that as one matures, one will be able to experience new stages and they do not have to be depressing. In other words, a successful treatment of depression in adolescence may be seen as a valid predictor of the fact that one will not have to deal with this health condition in the future which will certainly make one’s life better.

Finally, one should point out that in the case of attempted suicide or relevant tendencies, the treatment of depression should result in getting rid of the thought that encourages a person to perform this act. This means that at a certain point one was reported to have the inclination to suicide, by the end of treatment one is expected to abandon such thoughts. Nevertheless, it is crucial to make sure that real progress is achieved and the absence of suicidal tendencies is mistaken for getting better. Therefore, objective evaluation of the course of treatment should be performed.


Having examined all the points that were mentioned in the paragraphs above, one is able to come to the following conclusion: adolescent depression should be seen as a serious health condition; that is why the treatment of it should be systematic and aimed at different aspects of the disease. Some might oppose this approach and argue that the seriousness of adolescent depression is exaggerated. This position has been successfully refuted. Thus, it has been showing that while personal crises may constitute a part of growing up, their negative impact should be limited. Moreover, it is obvious that adolescent depression can be easily identified if all the provision of ICD is adhered to. It has been shown that there are three major kinds of treatment. The first focuses on the administration of drugs. This approach aims at the biological nature of the disease and tries to alter the mood of a person. The next kind involves psychotherapy. It is expected that this will allow a person to deal with the emotional as well as cognitive problems that one is having. Finally, there is a possibility to engage alternative approaches, but they should complement the other two which were mentioned before. If all this is adhered to, the prognosis of treatment is positive.

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  1. Bhatia, Shashi K., and Subhash C. Bhatia. “Childhood and Adolescent Depression.” American Family Physician 75.1 (2007): 73-80. Web.
  2. Davidson, Michele R. A Nurse’s Guide to Women’s Mental Health. New York, NY: Springer Pub., 2012. Print.
  3. Goldman, Stuart J., and Frances J. Wren. Child and Adolescent Depression. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2012. Print.
  4. Goodyer, Ian M. The Depressed Child, and Adolescent. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. Print.
  5. Law, Roslyn. Defeating Teenage Depression: Getting There Together. London: Robinson, 2016. Print.
  6. Neinstein, Lawrence S. Adolescent Health Care: A Practical Guide. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2008. Print.
  7. Rey, Joseph, and Boris Birmaher. Treating Child and Adolescent Depression. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009. Print.
  8. Richards, C. Steven, and Michael W. O’Hara. The Oxford Handbook of Depression and Comorbidity. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. Print.
  9. Wolfe, David A., and Eric J. Mash. Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in Adolescents: Nature, Assessment, and Treatment. New York, NY: Guilford, 2006. Print.
  10. Young, Jami F., Laura Mufson, and Christie Marlena Schueler. Preventing Adolescent Depression: Interpersonal Psychotherapy–adolescent Skills Training. New York, NY: Oxford UP, 2016. Print.
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