Adolescent Depression: The Under Acknowledged Disease
Depression is a disease that afflicts the human psyche in such a way that the afflicted tends to act and react abnormally toward others and themselves. Therefore it comes to no surprise to discover that adolescent depression is strongly linked to teen suicide. Adolescent suicide is now responsible for more deaths in youths aged 15 to 19 than cardiovascular disease or cancer (Blackman, 1995). Despite this increased suicide rate, depression in this age group is greatly under diagnosed and leads to serious difficulties in school, work and personal adjustment which may often continue into adulthood. How prevalent are mood disorders in children and when should an adolescent with changes in mood be considered clinically depressed?
Brown (1996) has said the reason why depression is often over looked in children and adolescents is because "children are not always able to express how they feel."
Sometimes the symptoms of mood disorders take on different forms in children than in adults. Adolescence is a time of emotional turmoil, mood swings, gloomy thoughts, and heightened sensitivity. It is a time of rebellion and experimentation. Blackman (1996) observed that the "challenge is to identify depressive symptomatology which may be superimposed on the backdrop of a more transient, but expected, developmental storm." Therefore, diagnosis should not lie only in the physician's hands but be associated with parents, teachers and anyone who interacts with the patient on a daily basis. Unlike adult depression, symptoms of youth depression are often masked. Instead of expressing sadness, teenagers may express boredom and irritability, or may choose to engage in risky behaviors (Oster & Montgomery, 1996). Mood disorders are often accompanied by other psychological problems such as anxiety (Oster & Montgomery, 1996), eating disorders (Lasko et al., 1996), hyperactivity (Blackman, 1995), substance abuse (Blackman,