Depression in Adolescence and Early Adulthood
What is depression?
Depression is a very common complaint that can affect anyone, whether male or female, regardless of age. It's more than feeling sad or “bummed out” for a few days. Depression is longer-lasting, and can completely dominate your life in many cases.
What causes depression?
There are many different causes and types of depression. There are some obvious causes of depression such as the break up of a relationship, traumatic events at home, or not doing well at school. But depression is not always linked to current events; depression may be the result of past events, a family history of mental illness, a chemical imbalance due to the hormonal changes associated with adolescence, childhood trauma or many other factors.
Do young men get depressed?
Yes, young men get depressed. We know that overall men have lower rates of depression than women, but most believe that depression in men is more common than is reported because of the fact that it is something that is not often talked about. Women are diagnosed and treated more than men, but are more willing to report and seek treatment for it. Some men think that they are supposed to be ‘tough guys’, but it’s time that we face the fact that depression exists and we need to talk about it.
What are the symptoms of depression?
No one can feel 100% all the time, everyone feels a little down now and then, but a continual "down" feeling could be a sign of depression.
There is evidence that young men experience depression in a different way than young women, even though both sexes often share similar symptoms. Young men report feeling tired frustrated and irritable and young women tend to express feelings of sadness, guilt and worthlessness.
Although we all feel sad sometimes, clinical (major) depression is diagnosed when a person experiences at least 5 of the symptoms below (one of which must be depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities), on most days for at least 2 weeks:
- depressed mood (sadness)
- loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities
- changes in appetite or weight
- slowed reactions
- lack of motivation or energy
- insomnia (trouble sleeping) or chronic oversleeping
- noticeable changes in activity level (agitated or slowed down)
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Other symptoms of depression may include:
- loss of interest in work and other activities
- avoiding family members and friends
- crying easily
- hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren't there)
- delusions (having thoughts that are not based on reality)
Clinical depression may vary in its severity and in its extreme forms (i.e., thoughts of suicide) can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of other forms of depression, although generally milder, may still negatively affect a person's daily activities and quality of life.
Can depression be treated?
Yes, depression can be treated, although most men don’t seek treatment nearly enough. Traditionally, women are more likely to seek treatment than men. Young men often engage themselves into different activities or ‘self-medicate’ by turning to alcohol and/or drugs or engage in reckless behaviour as a way of coping. The result is a higher rate of accidental death and suicide among men than women.
Treatments for depression include:
- Counselling – talking about your issues with a trained professional.
- Psychotherapy - "the treatment of disorders of the mind or personality by psychological or psychophysiological methods." This can take on many different forms, depending on the training of the provider.
- Support groups – talking about your issues in a group setting.
- Antidepressant medications – medications to help correct an imbalance of chemicals in your brain that can be causing depressive symptoms.
- In severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy - Electric currents are passed through the brain in order to trigger a seizure (a short period of irregular brain activity), lasting about 40 seconds. Medicine is given to keep the seizure from spreading to the rest of the body.
How can I prevent it?
There is no way to prevent depression, but if you recognize and treat the symptoms quickly, you can lessen the impact of depression on your life. We also know that depression is often a chronic complaint – if you’ve had it once, the chances of having it again are as high as 60%.
Is there anything else I can do?
If you suffer from depression, you may want to look into some of these self-help measures:
- Check your vitamin B levels, especially folic acid. A deficiency of folic acid has recently been linked to heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, but could also be important in depression. You can get folic acid from fortified breakfast cereals and green vegetables. In fact, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will help protect your brain via their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation.
- Exercise. Doctors now prescribe exercise in place of (or with) antidepressants, because it's well known that exercise improves self-esteem and mood.
- Talk to your parents, friends, a healthcare professional, or anyone you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with. Try to find a way to let them know how you feel. It’s important to let others know what you’re experiencing in order to help yourself cope.
For more on depression treatment and different types of depression, click here.