Friday, August 3, 2012

Teenage Girls: Depression Rates Rising

Adolescence: the transitional period between puberty and adulthood in human development, extending mainly over the teen years and terminating legally when the age of majority is reached. (dictionary.com) The operative word in this definition is transitional.

We talk about our children "going through" adolescence, as if it were a quiet walk in the park. We all go through it, but not all of us have pleasurable memories of our own adolescence; therefore, we worry and anticipate what our own children will experience. The transitions can include growth spurts, body changes (including facial hair, skin problems), voice changes for boys, body image changes with curves and muscle development. It is also a time when we can begin to compare ourselves more closely with our peers. These comparisons can be as simple as "I wish I had blond straight hair as opposed to a curly dark brown hair" to as health threatening as "My friends have started to smoke cigarettes, I don't know how to say 'no'." 
The Front of the SAMHSA building at 1 Choke Ch...
The Front of the SAMHSA building at 1 Choke Cherry Road in Rockville, Maryland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 31, 2012, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released new research reporting that major depression rates "skyrocket" in young girls as they transition through adolescence. HealthDay offers these statistics:
  • The percentage of girls who experienced a  major depressive episode in the past year tripled from 5.1% to 15.2%
  • 1.4 million girls aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year
  • Girls aged 12 to 17 were at triple the risk of experiencing a major depressive episode when compared to boys (12% vs. 4.5%)
Parents should take note of changes in eating patterns, sleep patterns, moodiness.  Some changes are very normal. However, parents should not dismiss signs that could warn of the onset of a depressive episode. Family doctors may suggest a more in-depth review and/or intervention for adolescent girls who exhibit more symptoms than typical mood swings of puberty.
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