How to Recognize The Signs Of Depression In Youth

African American girl stressed frustratedEveryone occasionally feels blue or sad, but these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Research has consistently shown that symptoms of depression are a key risk factor for suicide-related behaviors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey data, approximately 8.3 percent of African American teens compared to 6.2 percent of Whites attempt suicide.

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Although depression can be treated, many often do not receive care for a variety of reasons. However, depression can be treated and even those with the most severe depression can get better with treatment (such as medications, therapy, and other methods).

The DSM-5, which is used to diagnose psychiatric disorders, describes several forms of depressive disorders. Depressive disorders include: major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder and minor depression.

  1. Major depressive disorder, or major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.
  2. Dysthymic disorder, or dysthymia, is characterized by long-term (2 years or longer) symptoms that may not be severe enough to disable a person but can prevent normal functioning or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.
  3. Minor depression is characterized by having symptoms for 2 weeks or longer that do not meet full criteria for major depression. Without treatment, people with minor depression are at high risk for developing major depressive disorder.

Signs of Depression

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.