Depressed teens may improve with change in meds

June 30, 2010

Fortunately, depression in teens is highly treatable. But for some, depression doesn’t respond to standard treatment. A new study, however, offers teens with treatment-resistant depression some hope.

The study showed that one-third of teenagers with treatment-resistant depression became symptom-free after changing their medication, or by combining a medicine-change with talk therapy. Many of the teens had been depressed for more than two years.

The study was conducted at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and other academic institutions across the U.S. It also revealed that teens whose symptoms improved after three months were likely to show lasting positive effects.

“This study provides hope for parents and teenagers that persistence in seeking treatment will lead to recovery in some patients, especially if early treatment is aggressive,” said Dr. Graham Emslie, division director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Children’s Medical Center, professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern and a principal investigator of the study. “Even after six months of treatment, however, about two-third of teenagers were still suffering from at least some symptoms of depression.”

Is my teen depressed?

Many teens have bad moods and occasional melancholy. So, as a parent, how do you know if your teenager is depressed? Dr. Emslie, an internationally known expert on depression in children and adolescents, said teenagers may show different signs of depression. The following are the most common symptoms:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness.
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless.
  • Having low self-esteem.
  • Feeling inadequate.
  • Excessive guilt.
  • Feelings of wanting to die.
  • Loss of interest in usual activities or activities once enjoyed.
  • Difficulty with relationships.
  • Sleep disturbances (i.e., too little sleep or too much sleep).
  • Changes in appetite or weight.
  • Decreased energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • A decrease in the ability to make decisions.
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  • Frequent physical complaints (i.e., headache, stomach ache, fatigue).
  • Running away or threats of running away from home.
  • Hypersensitivity to failure or rejection.
  • Irritability, hostility, aggression.

What can I do as a parent?

Dr. Emslie has this advice for parents:

  • Educate yourself about depression so you can be on the alert for signs of the illness.
  • Seek medical advice for your child or adolescent if his or her symptoms persist for two weeks or more.
  • Mood disorders will not go away on their own. Treatment is needed.
  • Medications are available specifically for children and adolescents.
  • Talk therapy may be an alternative to or go along with medications in treatment.
  • Family support is very important in treating depression.
  • If the first treatment doesn’t work, don’t give up. Work with you teen’s doctor to try another treatment.

Related Article:

Medication switch could help depressed teens

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