Teenagers and Depression

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Are you checking your teenage girl for depression? Do you know what to do to help instead?

Recently I saw an article that was published on Parenting magazine sharing the symptoms of teenage depression in girls. I’m glad to read it, glad to see it.


What I find disturbing is the lack of articles about what we can to with and for our teenagers to keep them from getting depressed in the first place. Do you know how to develop, improve and maintain good Mental Health & Happiness? I fear too many of us have bought into the notion that mental health is somehow a mysterious brain disturbance or disorder. In fact too often what is natural and normal upset and unhappiness is now understood as mental illness.

There was a time not so many years ago when sadness, upset and unhappiness were the words used to described feelings not depression. Now it is not uncommon to hear someone say I was so depressed that the football game I wanted to watch was blacked out in my area. Feeling disappointed or angry because of such an event is understandable, not depressed.

Choice Theory psychology explains that all emotions are the result of either the match or the mismatch between what a person wants the world to be like and what the world is actually like. When you hope for sunny day and you awaken to a sunny day you feel happy, satisfied and glad. What you want and what you are experiencing is a match. When you hope for an A on your chemistry test and receive an F you feel upset, disappointed or perhaps sad and angry. What you wanted and what you are experiencing are two very different things.

Unfortunately there are too many people believing and being told that the reason for depression has to do with a broken brain or chemical imbalance in the brain. Amazingly there is no evidence to support this claim, despite what the pharmaceutical companies claim. There are plenty of companies making the claim and selling the drugs to correct this imbalance. No one seems to question the next drug put on the market when the first antidepressant is no longer working alone and needs a second drug to boost the first. What happened to the magical drug correction from the first? Isn’t this suspicious? There are also many, many studies conducted by psychiatrists (some independent doctors, some paid by the pharmaceutical company!) resulting in worse outcomes longterm for patients taking these antidepressant and antipsychotic medications.

No one says that being a teenager is easy. It is probably the most challenging developmental period of childhood, and for some of their entire lifetime. There are plenty of times, experiences and life events for an adolescent that are different from what she wanted or he imagined. These differences result in powerful disappointing and overwhelming emotions, sometimes even depression. But the answer is not to take a drug to try and correct broken brains or brain chemical imbalances that do not exist. In fact, taking these medications too often keeps a young person from being able to learn and practice new behaviors and strategies to deal with these life events and disappointments.

The answer is to help our young people learn how to meet their genetic psychological
instructions responsibly and respectfully. We need to help our teens and young adults learn the successful and effective strategies to develop and maintain good, strong connections with the important people in their lives. This is much more effective in helping to eliminate sadness, loneliness and depression. These are the answers for teenage depression in girls and boys that lead to Mental Health & Happiness.

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