Many people are unaware of the fact that once an adolescent girl hits puberty, her risk of depression is double that of her male classmates (Gary Ginter). This is important information to know, so parents, teachers, school counselors and youth leaders can be on the lookout for some of the tell-tale signs of depression. These symptoms include frequent sadness or crying, feelings of worthlessness & hopelessness, low self-esteem, fatigue, apathy, changes in appetite, loss of pleasure in life, and difficulty concentrating. For adolescents in particular, some additional signs to look out for include: a sudden drop in grades, uncharacteristic irritability, and moodiness. Depressed teenage girls commonly act out with self-harm, including cutting or burning their skin. Additionally, depressed young people are twice as likely to have a substance abuse problem than other adolescents (James Matta). Therefore, if a problem abusing substances exists, it is imperative to also check for signs of depression.
The unfortunate truth is that only about 40 percent of adolescents needing treatment get adequate care, often because the problem is not spotted (Dr. Graham Emslie). Perhaps this is because we assume, as a society, that it’s normal for a teenage girl to become moody and display frequent sadness once they go through the hormonal changes associated with puberty. However, it is crucial to identify the severity of these behaviors, and to assess for the other symptoms of depression as well. Interpersonal problems, such as difficulties or changes in peer relationships – – and how these changes are handled – – can become a trigger for depression among teenage girls.
Early identification of these problems is critical; the earlier these symptoms are identified, the greater chance of successful treatment and quick improvement. For adolescents with mild to moderate levels of depression, psychotherapy or talk therapy is most useful (Matta). If identified early, teens are likely to show improvement within four to six weeks of consistent counseling treatment. Research supports the recommendation that psychotherapy intervention should be considered the first-line treatment. (For more severe cases, the addition of an anti-depressant may be a consideration after several weeks of therapy without any improvement).
The good news is that with early identification and proper treatment, the recovery rate of adolescent depression is over 90 percent over one to two years from the onset of the depressive disorder (Matta). There simply needs to be an awareness of the additional risk of depression among teenage girls in order to watch for the symptoms in ensure they receive timely and appropriate treatment.