How does depression affect a teenager?

Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy

The symptoms of depression differ in the respective age groups. In smaller children up to about six years of age, the symptoms often focus on increased anxiety, physical complaints, violent outbursts of temper and behavior problems - e.g. aggression, rebellious behavior. In older children, symptoms such as a lack of self-confidence, feelings of guilt and feelings of hopelessness ("nothing matters") are more pronounced. Often, older children and adolescents also show strong and permanent irritability as a symptom, which can then be misinterpreted as “typical puberty”. Young people also suffer from feelings of worthlessness, joylessness, loss of interest as well as sleep and appetite disorders, loss of libido, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

If states of depressive mood and extremely elated mood (mania) alternate in children or adolescents, this expression is referred to as bipolar affective disorder. During the manic episodes, the mood is inappropriately uplifted, carefree cheerfulness and uncontrollable states of excitement can occur. Bipolar diseases in adolescence more often begin with a depressive phase and only in the course can it be recognized that it is a bipolar disorder. So-called hypomanic states can also occur, especially in adolescence, which are characterized by an irritated mood and a no longer normal level of activity, without the highly elated mood occurring.

Up to puberty, adolescents are just as likely to be ill as girls, but girls are more likely to develop illnesses than boys through puberty. Depressive episodes in adolescence are usually shorter than in adults; in a third of the children and adolescents affected, the symptoms subside within 3 months. However, in 80% of adolescent patients there is a risk of relapse and thus becoming chronic if treatment is not received. Many young people affected have difficulties in school and in dealing with their peers. It is not uncommon for them to suffer from low self-esteem, withdrawnness or pessimism as adults.

It is estimated that up to 3.4% of primary school children and up to 8.9% of young people in western industrialized countries are affected by depressive disorders.