Depression is a serious and important medical condition that has an estimated prevalence of 4-8% in the adolescent population. This is probably an underestimate given the fact that some signs and symptoms of depression are mistaken for normal “teenage” behavior and that many teens are hesitant to report symptoms.
Yearly checkups with your pediatrician throughout puberty and adolescence are extremely important to provide screening for depression, anxiety and other conditions that may go otherwise undiagnosed. In childhood, depression is equally common in boys and girls; however, in adolescence, girls are twice as likely as boys to develop depression.
It is important for parents to be aware of the common signs and symptoms of depression in pre-teens and teens. These include: extreme sadness, irritability, school difficulty, losing interest in favorite activities, withdrawal from friends, changes in sleep habits, frequent outbursts, and low self-esteem. Additional symptoms include appetite loss, becoming extremely sensitive to failure or rejection, and comments such as “I hate myself” or “I wish I was dead.”
If you are concerned at all that your teenager is demonstrating any signs or symptoms of depression you should call your pediatrician right away. ReadyKids in Charlottesville has a 24-hour teen crisis hotline 434-972-SAFE that can be a great resource. Depression is treatable with counseling, sometimes medication and other measures.
Paige Perriello, MD, FAAP
Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville