Everyone feels depressed now and then.  It is normal to feel depressed if you experience a significant loss or failure.  For example, you would expect to feel depressed if someone you loved moved away or if you didn't make a team you tried out for.  Usually, however, the feeling of depression lifts after a few days or weeks, and you get on with your life.  Sometimes, however, feelings of depression linger.

Defining Depression - Maria used to be energetic and happy.  She had good grades and loved playing in the school bnd.  But recently her grades have dropped and she quit the band.  She cannot sleep and feels tired all the time.  Feelings of despair have taken over Maria's life.

Maria has a mood disorder known as clinical depression.  People with clinical depression may feel sad and hopeless for months  They are unable to enjoy activities that were once a source for pleasure.  As the depression deepens, people often are unable to accomplish their daily tasks.  Depression can cause problems at school, at home, and in one's social life.  If untreated, depression can also lead to to substance abuse, serious behavior problems, and even suicide.

Recognizing Depression - For a teen to be moodly, irritable, or tired at times is not unusual.  So how do mental health experts distinguish the signs of depression from typical teenage moods and behaviors?  Mental health experts use symptoms listed below to diagnose depression.  A person who has clinical depression will experience four or more of the symptoms nearly every day for at least two weeks.

Signs of Clinical Depression

  • Change in appetite, significant weight loss or gain
  • Change in sleep patterns, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Change in activity level, sluggish or fast
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Loss of energy, always tired
  • Hopelessness, excessive guilt
  • Difficult thinking or concentrating
  • Repeated thoughts of death and suicide

About one in every twelve teens will experience clinical depression before they are eighteen.  After age fifteen, females are twice as likely as males to suffer from depression.  Some teens may have a single episode of clinical depressions while others may experience more than one episode of depression.

Risk Factors - Depression sometimes seems to arrive out of the blue, but there are often explanations.  The following risk factors have been identified for depression.  It is important to know that having one or more risk factors does not mean that you will become depressed.

  • A parent or other close biological relative with a mood disorder
  • A major life change or a prolonged stressful situation
  • Being the victim of a violent crime or witnessing violence
  • A previous bout of depression
  • A sense of hopelessness

Treatment for Depression - Medication is an effective treatment for clinical depression.  Normally, chemicals in the brain control how signals pass from one nerve cell to another.  When someone is depressed, the brain does not use these chemicals properly.  Medication helps to restore normal brain function.  Mental health experts can also help people who are depressed to learn new strategies for coping with their problems.