in Adolescence

This Is What It Feels Like To Be Depressed

Depression in Adolescents

"Depression is the most common psychological problem of adolescence" (Berk, 2014, p. 421). 15 to 20 percent have experienced multiple depressive episodes, and up to 8 percent are chronically depressed, having episodes that can last anywhere from months to years. Depression is twice as likely to affect girls as it is boys, and there are several possible factors (Berk, 2014, p. 421).


Depression is linked to a variety of biological and environmental factors, the combination of which is different for each individual. Biologically, genes can cause an imbalance of neurotransmitters. This affects hormonal levels and the body's reaction to stress or negative feelings (Berk, 2014, p. 421). Other factors include cognitive factors such as children with other disorders, tendencies toward negative thoughts, and negative self-percetptions; social factors such as low peer acceptance, problems with friendships, and lower levels of social skills and social problem-solving; negative life events such as death of parent/parents and parental divorce; and family and protective factors like parental history of depression and other disorders, marital conflict, functioning of the family, attachment status, and the general relationship between parent and child (Roberts, 1999).


The scariest thing about depression is the risk of suicide. According to Berk, it is the "third leading cause of death among American youths" (2014, p. 422). While girls are more likely to experience depressive symptoms, boys who do are 3 or 4 times as likely to commit suicide. Caucasian Americans have a higher suicide rate than African Americans and Hispanics, but Native Americans will commit suicide at a rate twice to six times national averages. Adolescents with "gender-atypical behavior" (Berk, 2014, p. 422) -gay, lesbian, bisexual- are three times as likely to attempt suicide.

There are typically two kinds of young people who commit suicide: those who are intelligent, but withdrawn; and those who express hostility and "antisocial tendencies" (Berk, 2014, p. 422).

Those more likely to commit suicide often have experienced severe emotional turmoil, whether in the form of parental conflict/divorce, abuse, or conflict with their parents or peers.

The table below is from our Berk text (p. 423). It lists some of the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. All too often, we miss these signs, as most perceive the "storm and stress" of adolescence to be "just a passing phase" (2014, p. 421).

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Steps for Prevention and Treatment

The key component to treating any disorder is to first acknowledge its existence and its reality. Depression is a very real thing, but most of the time it is dismissed due to the social stigma that surrounds it. We need to be on the lookout for its signs and take preventative action wherever necessary.

Programs are being developed to intervene and help guide those with depression. Some of them are being implemented in schools, and there are hopes that they will soon be established in the curriculum worldwide. The focus will be on late childhood through early adolescence, as this is the optimal window in which to catch depression early on (Roberts, 1999).

As for treatment, some choose medication, while others focus more on therapy, and some utilize both. Once a teenager has expressed depressive thoughts or suicidal tendencies or actions, it is imperative that support be given by parents, peers, teachers, etc. Remove any and all weapons and drugs from the house. Listen. Be compassionate. But most importantly, get help (Berk, 2014, p. 423).


Berk, Laura E. (2014). Development through the lifespan (6th ed.). (pp. 421-423). Chicago, IL:


Roberts, C.M. (1999). The prevention of depression in children and adolescents. Australian Psychologist, 34(1), 49-57.

doi: 10.1080/00050069908257425