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6 Risk Factors of Teen Depression

November 10, 2014

6 Risk Factors of Teen Depression


An estimated 1.3 million U.S. children, ages three to 17, deal with the daily struggles of depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Considering this number is so high, it may be shocking to find that 40 percent of them never receive the counseling or psychiatric treatment they need to heal.

Being that depression is so common among youths, you may be wondering how likely your son or daughter is to develop this mental health disorder.

While there is no known cause of teen depression, there are several risk factors to look out for. According to the National Association for School Psychologists, the Mayo Clinic, and Psych Central, your teen is more likely to develop depression if any of the following circumstances apply:

Mental illness in the family - If a parent or sibling of your teen has a history of major depression, he or she could be two to three times more likely to develop depression, according to the Stanford University School of Medicine. 

Trauma - Experiencing or continuing to experience traumatic events, such as the death of a loved one, a natural disaster or being bullied at school can leave a teen feeling “blue” for an extended period of time. 

Chronic illness - Long-term illnesses, such as an irritable bowel disease, year-round allergies, or chronic pain can affect your teen’s outlook on life. Feeling restricted or isolated by symptoms of physical illness can be a serious detriment to a young person’s happiness. 

Low activity level - Low levels of physical activity can cause a depressed mood. Physical activity encourages the brain to release “feel-good” chemicals, which improve mood. So, even mild to moderate exercise can make a big difference in your teen’s mental health. 

Nutrition - If nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables are not a significant part of your teen’s diet, this will also increase their risk for depression. Foods that are high in vitamins and minerals are necessary for proper brain function and development. 

Hormones - Unlike the normal flood of hormones that occurs during puberty, hormonal imbalances can cause prolonged feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and lethargy to the point that it interferes with daily activities. 

Untreated Teen Depression Can Lead To...

According to a 2005-2011 report by The Journal of the American Medical Association, untreated depression can lead to more serious problems for children and teens, such as:

Physical health problems - Researchers have found that depression can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. 

Substance abuse - Symptoms of depression can be especially difficult for teens as they go through puberty, which is challenging enough on its own. Without professional treatment, teens may find that drugs and alcohol make them feel happier, more outgoing, or more energetic than their untreated depression allows them to feel. The longer they self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, the greater their risk of developing a chemical dependence becomes. 

Suicidality - Some teens may feel they cannot tolerate the persistent feelings of hopelessness and self-loathing that often come along with depression. If left untreated, depression may cause a teen to think about, attempt, or even complete suicide.

Academic failure can also result from untreated depression. This is because symptoms like lack of interest and difficulty concentrating can negatively impact a student’s capabilities in school.

Teens Can Recover From Depression

As terrible as depressive disorders may sound, they can be effectively treated. In fact, the earlier the disorder is caught and addressed by medical professionals, the greater the chances of recovery are.

In another study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that of the 14- to 22-year-old participants who were treated for depression, 96% recovered within two years. The treatments for depression varied between each group and included cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, and a combination of the two for varying lengths of time. 

Another factor that can improve a teen’s chances of recovery is peer support, such as group therapy for teen depression. Teens who suffer from depression find it especially helpful to talk to teens who are experiencing a similar mental state. Relating to others helps depressed teens realize they are not as alone or isolated as they feel, in turn lessening the severity of their symptoms.

If you’re concerned about your teen, we urge you to speak to a licensed mental health counselor who can help you decide what’s best for their mental health. 

Residential treatment may be necessary if your teen is abusing substances to cope with their depression or if outpatient treatment has been ineffective. 

Related Articles:
The Link Between Depression and Substance Abuse
Signs of Depression in Teen Girls
4 Surprising risk factors of Depression

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