Tested For Emotions

May 9, 2018


It has never been easy being a teenager. Hormones are raging, peers are stirring the drama pot, homework weighs down on your shoulders and you are constantly reminded that your fun, carefree childhood has ended. With the constant blitz attacks of these heavy factors, it’s no wonder that many teenagers show signs of depression. Still, life goes on and many of these teens go undiagnosed, or, at least, they used to go undiagnosed.

Roughly 50% of teens with depression get diagnosed before adulthood, and only one out of every three receive proper help to treat this mental disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics wishes to change this. Recently they implemented a new set of guidelines aimed at diagnosing teens with depression. According to Columbia University associate professor and board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Rachel Zuckerbrot, who helped write the guidelines, it is recommended that “everyone, 12 and up, be screened…at least once a year.”

The process of screening is simple: while doing a yearly wellness or physical exam, teenagers are given a questionnaire to fill out. These questionnaires ask questions such as “How often do you feel helpless or down in the span of 3 weeks?” and help target teens with clinical depression for proper treatment. Teens diagnosed with depression through these screenings will then be asked to create a safety plan with their families to prevent suicide and limit access to harmful materials. This is because suicide is the leading cause of death for ages 10-17.

For youth, depression is hard to diagnose not only due to the stigma around it, but also because symptoms mimic other mental disorders common in youth, such as ADHD. Both ADHD and depression display lack of motivation, issues starting tasks, and inability to concentrate on a task once started. Insomnia and loss of appetite, two critical physical signs of depression, are also common side effects to the medications prescribed for treating ADHD. With the common confusion, most teens have to be tested to see if they have either.

Many adults don’t know what to do when their kids show signs of depression, or when friends notice that their friend isn’t acting the same. The first thing to do is to see if the person shows three or more signs of depression, such as acting upset or moody for the past several days, a lost interest in the things they enjoyed before, eating or sleeping habits changed to poor conditions, and so on. If they do show any signs of depression and are diagnosed with it, the best thing is to be a supportive parent or friend. Try to slowly ease them out to talk about their emotions, and try to be a positive aura for them, helping to block the negativity. Most people who have depression just need a good friend.

Over time, depression has become a more dangerous, and more common illness affecting those who are young. Many teenagers don’t know how to handle it, and either blow it off or ignore it causing the symptoms to poorly increase. We, as neighbors, friends, and family, can help. Greater strides have been made to increase the awareness and diagnosis of depression, and now, with this new scanning, hopefully more teenagers can receive the treatment that they need.

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