Causes and Effects of Depression

Depression is a mental health condition where intrusive feelings of sadness plague an individual, and last for two weeks or more and are accompanied with a loss of interest in the goings on around him or her, feelings of hopelessness, and a lack of energy. These feelings of distress can be so overwhelming that it begins to impact all areas of an individual’s daily life. Children and adolescents struggle performing appropriately at school, have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships with others, and begin isolating themselves. Young people who grapple with depression are also likely to struggle sleeping, show a change in eating patterns, no longer care about their appearance, and lack the ability to experience pleasure. However, regardless of how hopeless one might feel, there is treatment available. With the correct care, young individuals can get back to living happy, healthy lives.

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Statistics

Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in the country, as it is believed to impact one in ten individuals. However, only 52% of those who grapple with a depressive disorder obtain treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), major depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44. Furthermore, research has found that one in 33 children and one in every eight adolescents meets criteria for a depressive disorder diagnosis.

Causes and Risk Factors for Depression

Various factors that can impact the onset of depression in children and adolescents are noted in the following:

Genetic: It has been determined that depression is genetic, as it runs in families. Therefore, young individuals who have close relatives who have/had depression are twice as likely to develop this disorder. Roughly one third to one half of all depressed individuals are said to have developed depression as a result of genetic makeup.

Environmental: Certain environmental situations, such as serious trauma or the loss of a loved one, experiencing divorce, or even starting a new job, can all serve as triggers for depression. A young individual’s reaction to external factors impact the normal level and activity of the chemicals in the brain, which also impact mood and emotion.

Risk Factors:

  • Underlying general medical condition
  • Suffering from trauma, especially during childhood
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Fluctuating hormone levels
  • Chronic stress
  • Loneliness
  • Substance abuse
  • Chronic health problems or chronic pain
  • Family history of depression or other mental illness
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Being female (reports state that women are 70% more likely than men are to develop a depressive disorder throughout their lifetimes)

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

The signs and symptoms of depression will vary from person to person and they will depend on a variety of factors. Opposite of what some might believe, they will not always include extreme sadness that is often linked to this disorder. Additional symptoms of depression can lead to psychological changes that can impact a young individual’s thinking, sleep patterns, or energy. While symptoms will vary, there are some common signs and symptoms that include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Regularly misses work or school
  • Unprovoked angry outbursts
  • Self-injuring
  • Loss of energy
  • Frequent crying
  • Inability to perform appropriately at work or school
  • Engaging in reckless behavior
  • Loss of interest in activities that one used to enjoy
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Chronic headaches
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Stomachaches
  • Excessive lethargy
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Digestive problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Indecisiveness
  • Slowed thinking
  • Lapses in memory
  • Trouble concentrating

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Negative or pessimistic thinking
  • Having a poor self-image
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feeling helpless
  • Anger or irritability
  • Experiencing self-loathing
  • Irrational feelings of guilt
  • Anxious or worried a lot
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Depression

While everyone is bound to go through periods of time where they feel sad, there is a big difference between these mood disturbances and clinical depression. In addition to the typical debilitating symptoms, depression can have long-lasting effects on a young individual’s health and wellbeing. If not cared for appropriately, these symptoms can become worse and lead to more damage within a young individual’s life. Some of the most common effects that can come from depression when it is not effectively treated can include:

  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Overall decline in mental and physical health
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Anxiety, including panic attacks
  • Increased susceptibility to illnesses and weakened immune system
  • Social isolation and not wanting to leave the house
  • Family difficulties
  • Unemployment
  • Chronic pain
  • Divorce / loss of significant interpersonal relationships
  • Academic or occupational failure

Co-Occurring Disorders

It is highly common for young individuals who are struggling with the symptoms of depression to also grapple with symptoms of another mental health condition. The disorders that most often co-occur alongside of depression include:

  • Adjustment disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Substance use disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Eating disorders
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