Depression in young people is not a weakness or something that can be overcome with a strong will, but it is a disease that can have serious consequences and requires treatment. Although depressed mood is one of the developmental characteristics of adolescence, the large number of young people who show a tendency to develop this disorder is certainly alarming.
Development of depression in young people
The increasing prevalence of depression and the often present serious consequences of depression make it one of the most important disorders from a public health point of view. Due to its complexity, depression can manifest itself in changes in almost all mental and numerous bodily functions and deeply affects the social functioning of patients.
Consideration of the different concepts and mechanisms responsible for the onset of depression helps in understanding and brings the clinician closer to the problems of the depressed patient. As with the development of adult depression, a number of mechanisms are thought to be responsible for the onset of depression in young people. Genetic inheritance increases the risk of occurrence and makes a person more prone to react to stressful situations with depressive symptoms.
Biological changes - neurochemical and structural changes in the brain, hormone effects, overload or stress, poor child-parent relationship in which the parent underestimates the child, emphasizes his worthlessness, no respect, connection or care, parental marital problems and domestic violence, separation or loss important or close people, peer abuse, lack of support from family and social environment, as well as impaired physical health - may be just some of the predisposing factors for the development of youth depression.
Clinical presentation of depression in children and adolescents
Depressed patients are known to be moody, sad, listless, and increasingly tired. In addition, depression can interfere with basic bodily functions, and manifest itself in sleep disturbance, decreased or increased appetite, lethargy, restlessness, increased irritability, weakness, exhaustion, loss of concentration and forgetfulness. But depending on the developmental stage, the manifestation of depression can be different.
Namely, although mood disorders (such as depression) can occur at any time in life, the symptoms are still different between young people and adults. According to the existing classification systems, the criteria for diagnosing depressive disorder are the same for both adults and children and adolescents, although the clinical picture of depression in children and adolescents differs. In young people, it is often associated with behavioral problems, impulsivity, aggression, anger, and somatic symptoms.
Depression in young and school children
Young and younger school children look sad, have slow movements, and are often lonely. In smaller children, depression is often masked by somatic disorders such as abdominal pain and headaches. Such children almost always look unhappy and sad. Furthermore, they are inhibited in play, often seek contact, have bouts of crying or anger, and often have night terrors, nocturnal urination, and general sleep and appetite disorders.
Preadolescents often do not admit that they are in a depressed mood but complain that they are bored or not interested in normal activities. Irritability, social withdrawal, and an inability to cope with even the slightest frustration and showing anger are often present. Such children may complain of poor concentration and attention, and begin to achieve poorer school performance.
Depression in adolescents
In adolescence, the manifestation of depression is increasingly similar to that in adulthood with certain specifics. Depressed adolescents often complain of apathy and lack of energy, and sleep and appetite disorders often occur (the latter in terms of lack of appetite or excessive food intake). Difficulty falling asleep and waking up often at night can make an adolescent exhausted during the day, and increased daytime sleepiness may also occur.
Depressed adolescents may start taking alcohol or other addictive substances in a desire to feel better. They are often irritable and impulsive, have a sense of futility and hopelessness, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts and parasuicidal behavior are present. Taken together, this often leads to significant negative consequences of depression: poorer school performance, problems at school, alcohol and drug abuse, running away from home, or a generally greater propensity for violence and risky behaviors.
Young people often feel lonely, thinking that no one understands them. Such thinking often leads to the escape of a young person to communication via computer and mobile phone, which seems much safer and simpler, but in fact is just a copy of real communication between people and offers apparent security. Meeting the real world can then be traumatic for young people and provide a basis for the further development of insecurity and depression.
Diagnosis and specifics of treatment of youth depression
Diagnosis and treatment of depression requires a comprehensive approach that includes early recognition, good diagnostic and differential diagnostic assessment, recognition of leading symptoms of the clinical picture, suicide risk assessment, early treatment, individual planning of different treatment procedures, choice of treatment, but also a plan to prevent recurrence. depressive episodes.
In the treatment of depressive disorders in children and adolescents, various psychotherapeutic techniques, psychosocial interventions are used, and if it is a more severe form of depression and, if necessary, antidepressant drugs. When using drugs, it is necessary to know and respect the specifics of the application of pharmacological therapy in children and adolescents. It is important to know the physiological characteristics of the child's body as well as the psychological characteristics of children and adolescents, which especially refers to the question of how to give the child information about the drug, but also get feedback on changes or possible side effects.
Informing and counseling parents is an important aspect of any type of treatment where it is important to support parents and explain the impact of depression on family, school and social functioning. Most often, a combination of different therapeutic interventions is required, which are determined by the treatment plan for each patient individually.