Depression in Teens: Your Top 8 Questions Answered

Dysthymic disorder is a less severe but longer lasting depressive illness. Teens with dysthymic disorder have many of the same symptoms as those with major depressive disorder, but fewer of them, and their symptoms are not quite as severe. They may suffer from chronically poor sleep and energy level problems; they often feel bad about themselves and hopeless about the future. Dysthymic individuals often suffer with their symptoms for many years at a time.

3. How common are these illnesses?
Serious depression is very common. Some experts have estimated that as many as one in five people will have symptoms of major depression during their lifetime.

4. How is teen depression treated?
Adolescents with milder depressions can sometimes be treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy), but research shows that "just talking" to a trusted friend or adult isn't enough. A special kind of psychotherapy called cognitive therapy helps identify and change depressed thinking patterns and has been shown to be as effective as medication for some patients. Severely depressed adolescents and adolescents with bipolar disorder, however, should always be evaluated for medication. Several decades of clinical research have shown that antidepressant medications are safe and effective treatments for serious depression in adults, adolescents and even children.

5. How long will my teen need to be treated for depression?
We know that major depressions last about a year without treatment, so staying in treatment for at least that long is clearly necessary. We also know that people who have had a bout of major depression have a 90 percent likelihood of having another one at some point in their lives. There is evidence that serious depression that starts early in life is even more likely to recur, so it's important to take the long view when making decisions about treatment.

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