QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Teen

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

I am 16 years old and I have noticed a few things. I am very moody and my mood changes quickly. I cry a lot for no reason. I can't sleep and I hate things I use to love. My friend tells me I have a depression problem with all the stuff I have mentioned and more. Is he right? I am a 16 year old female.

Answer

It sounds like your friend may be correct. You mentioned about five of the symptoms that are related to depression. Without knowing more about how long you have been experiencing these problems and what, if anything, has happened in your life that may have triggered these responses it is difficult to say what method of treatment may work for you.

There are two kinds of depression. One is a normal response to something sad or traumatic in your life that may go away after a period of time without any treatment. The other kind of depression comes from a chemical imbalance and is considered a medical problem. Even with normal periods of depression following a trauma, if the symptoms linger for a long period of time and/or interfere with your normal activities (like missing school or your grades are falling) you may need counseling and/or medication.

The first step is to see your doctor for a physical so he or she can rule out any medical problems that may be causing these symptoms. You need to tell your doctor about your symptoms, how long they have been going on and what if anything happened that may have triggered your depression. If your doctor gives you a clean bill of health, meaning there are no physical causes for your depressive symptoms, ask him or her to suggest what you should do next. Your doctor may recommend a trial of medication, or suggest that you find a counselor or minister to talk with. Not all doctors are knowledgeable about teenage depression, so if you do not get help there don't give up! Many medical doctors think depression is just part of being a teenager . . . this is not true, although the teen years are difficult at best.

If your doctor says you are healthy, but does not address the depression I would suggest that you find a local therapist to talk with or see the school social worker or guidance counselor. Any of those people could help you with your problem. You do not have to live with depression . . . it is not a normal part of growing up and can lead to other problems, even suicide, if left untreated. If you begin to have thoughts of hurting or killing yourself seek help immediately! Check out my response to another teen who needed to find someone locally to help with her problems but did not want her parents involved.

Whatever you do . . . don't do nothing. Talk to your friends, parents or a trusted adult when you feel moody and make an appointment with your doctor or school counselor as soon as possible.

Also, read more about depression in our Resources Department.

Best of luck!

3/12/98

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