Treating Teen Depression

The Prevalence of Teen Depression

Nearly 20 percent of adolescents may experience depression at some point during their teen years. Approximately 8 percent of kids between the ages of 12 and 18 will have a major depressive episode. Unfortunately, many teens who are depressed do not receive treatment from a mental healthcare provider. Parents who are concerned about a change in their teen's behavior or suspect that their teen is depressed can first address these issues with their child's pediatrician.

Making a Diagnosis

In addition to talking with the patient, the pediatrician can use a questionnaire that the teen completes to help identify thoughts and behaviors that are associated with depression. Two questionnaires often used are the PQH-A and Beck's Depression Inventory. The doctor will discuss the results of the questionnaire with both the adolescent and parent and formulate a treatment plan.

Psychotherapy Treatment Options

Mental health care for teens is managed though a collaborative effort between the child's pediatrician, licensed therapist, case manager for family support (if needed) and parents or guardians. Treatment may be provided through in-house pediatric services offered by your child's primary care office or through a referral to a mental health specialist outside of your pediatrician's office.

Psychotherapy options include cognitive behavioral therapy, computerized cognitive behavioral therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy for adolescents. Weekly or biweekly sessions may be conducted one-on-one with the patient or with a parent or guardian present. Psychotherapy alone may be sufficient to treat cases of mild depression, with many patients seeing improvement after 6-8 weeks of therapy.

Antidepressant Treatment

Teens with moderate or severe depression, and teens with mild depression who aren't improving with psychotherapy alone, may be prescribed an antidepressant medication, such as fluoxetine. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines for Adolescent Depression, using psychotherapy- such as cognitive behavioral therapy- in conjunction with antidepressant therapy results in more significant improvement of symptoms compared with using only one method of treatment.

The Importance of Treating Teen Depression

Dr. Nadini Mani, an editor with Harvard Health Publishing, states that teenagers who deal with depression are more likely to have difficulty in school, abuse alcohol or drugs, engage in risky behavior and have suicidal thoughts. They also tend to experience depression as adults. It is important for parents to continue to monitor their teen's behavior throughout treatment and after treatment has concluded. Talking with your child's pediatrician is the first step toward managing your teen's depression and helping your child achieve a happy, healthy future.

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