Teenage girls are twice as likely as teenage boys to be diagnosed with a mood disorder such as depression. The reason may stem back to early evolutionary advantages and how girls and boys are differently wired as pertains to emotional stimuli. Girls tend to emotionally mature more quickly than boys and are biologically wired to nurture babies and children, while boys are biologically wired to spread their seed and tend to the protection of the tribe. This evolutionary advantage might be a bit of a disadvantage in the modern world where teens spend around six or so years in a sort of limbo—not yet old enough to be treated as adults and too old to be treated as children. Whatever the reasons, the teen years are fertile ground for depression and anxiety to develop in teen girls.
Signs and Symptoms
One of the most classic signs of depression is withdrawal. A depressed teen will begin to remove herself from activities, environments, and social events in which she used to find joy and pleasure. In addition, she may begin to let grades slide, sleep far more than usual or far less than usual, change her eating habits drastically, and complain about lacking energy or interest in anything. She may also be fixated on suicidal thoughts or actions and could develop other mood disorders such as anxiety or eating or behavioral disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or cutting. Parents should be aware that there are two types of depression: major depressive disorder, which is the most familiar type of depression and one that can drown a sufferer in deep despair for months at a time before lifting; and dysthymic disorder, which is depression that hits less severely but can last for years. In addition to depression, teen girls are also often faced with anxiety.
Caught early, female adolescent depression can be treated more effectively and often before other additional negative effects can begin to develop. Even if the depression has progressed, it is critical that the sufferer begin treatment in order to find relief and to overcome depression’s possible long-lasting side effects.
Treatment can include medications such as anti-depressants as well as therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which trains the teen to short-circuit the negative thought spiral that is one of the most pernicious symptoms of depression. Through CBT, the teen learns to recognize her negative reaction to a thought or comment, challenge the thought processes that have normally accompanied such a moment, and create new pathways of thinking that are positive and uplifting. Anxiety, eating disorders, and other mood disorders will need to be treated separately from the depression.
Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute offers inpatient and outpatient programs for adolescent girls and boys, including treatment of depression, anxiety, and other common mood and behavior disorders commonly associated with adolescence. To learn more about how we can help you or your teen, visit our Homepage for information or call us at (512) 819-1100 for a free assessment.