Why are so many teens claiming to have depression or …

  • Hi,

    Because they are actually experiencing depression and anxiety! I doubt that they are making it up!

    Moreover, most do not just experience depression or anxiety. In fact, depression and anxiety are like a couple-they usually come together!

    People experience and cope with depression and anxiety (intensity and duration of episode) very differently. For example, depression may present in the following ways:

    • the baby blues (pregnant women and new mothers),
    • a mild form of depression,
    • post-natal depression and or psychosis,
    • depression with psychotic features,
    • dysthymia,

    It is important to note that people must meet the DSM and ICD classification system(s) criterion to attain a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder or Generalised Anxiety Disorder. People need to experience depressive and anxiety symptoms for a prolonged period of time and their functioning must be impaired.

    For example, the sufferer must experience a combination of the following symptoms:

    • difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much,
    • low mood,
    • poor appetite,
    • low energy and libido,
    • lack of ability to get moving in the morning,
    • cognitive impairment, and
    • an inability to feel pleasure or joy.

    Depression and anxiety appear to be affecting a significant number of young people in the Western world. Other countries with high poverty rates and other difficulties tend to have lower rates of depression within their population.

    This implies that the high rates of depression and anxiety amongst our youth are a symptom of Western culture and the associated value system. Significant research is currently being conducted in this area.

    Perhaps, the 24 hour news cycle (that is full of negative stories about war and mass shootings), less face to face socialising and more keyboard and screen communication has caused the higher rates of depression and anxiety. Although many people state that they enjoy being alone, we are social beings and need to socialise.

    Moreover, the Internet has resulted in high rates of bullying and harassment. Younger people tend to be more vulnerable to bullying and more likely to hurt themselves or others as a consequence of it.

    In addition to the above, our media and beauty magazines instil unrealistic expectations and desires in teens. That is, many want to have it all and have it now. Unfortunately, when they realise that the real world does not work this way, they become depressed and anxious.

    The reality is that only a select few, usually belonging to the can have it all and now (at a young age)! Young people are starting to realise this!

    Perhaps being a teenager is harder in today’s world. It appears that our society has evolved in a direction that has placed significant pressures and on-going stress on younger people.

    It’s not easy being a teenager! It’s a time of change and turmoil where young people explore their sexuality and identity before transitioning into young adulthood.

    Young females are especially vulnerable at this stage due to the fake images of the ideal women seen on our TV screens, magazines, billboards and other media! The rates of eating disorders amongst younger people (especially females) have significantly increased.

    Young people, especially girls feel the pressure to look like the inebriated models on TV:

    • sexy,
    • attractive,
    • thin,
    • dress in designer label clothing,
    • act like a socialite.

    Unfortunately most teens do not consider the above images as being unrealistic and try to emulate their role models on TV. The reality is that young people fail to live up to the above mentioned persona!

    They don’t seem to be aware that the reality is that only a small percentage of the population can look like and live like the models and other celebrities. Unfortunately, many believe that they are a failure and tend to develop various mental health conditions.

    As a result of the above stressors, more young girls/women are developing eating disorders and body image issues. Many hate themselves, starve themselves, induce vomiting after eating and take laxatives. After a while, many females (and young males) end up with Bulimia or Anorexia nervosa and other comorbid conditions.

    Young men seem to be going in the same direction as their female peers. They are experiencing significant stress, anxiety and depression in relation to how they perceive themselves. Many feel like they have failed and feel helpless because they cannot become that happy, strong, cool male stereotype (as seen on TV and other places).

    At the same time, young people feel pressure to get their driver’s license and go out to night clubs or bars to be seen. They feel like they must take part in the above and other activities to be accepted by their peers. These activities require significant income to engage in.

    If the above mentioned factors do not cause depression and anxiety in young people then perhaps the stress associated with new responsibilities push them over the edge. For example, it has become more difficult and extremely expensive to get into university.

    Moreover, finding work has become more difficult for younger people. To make matters worse, many young people that manage to graduate cannot find work in their field of study. Or if they do find work, they are underpaid and lack job security.

    People aged 16–24 have one of the highest unemployed and underemployed rates. They find it hard to support themselves and are relying on their parents (financial and accommodation) for longer compared to previous generations. These young people ultimately develop a negative attitude about their future.

    Property prices and rental prices have skyrocketed! Getting into the housing market has become almost impossible for younger people. Most young people are finding it to become independent and need to live with parents longer.

    For those that are lucky enough to buy a home, the mortgage loan they have taken out causes them significant on-going stress. Many Australian households are experiencing debt stress and are struggling to get by day-to-day.

    To add to the above stresses faced by teens and young adults, we are witnessing the demise of the family unit. Their parents fight in front of them and talk about their financial stress. Young people tend to take on board and see it as a burden that they need to carry as well.

    Australia and other Western countries have high divorce rates. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that 55% of married couples divorce within 5 years!

    The impact of divorce on young people cannot be understated! They often grow up in a divided family where the amount of time spent with mom and dad is determined by a court!

    Many parents remarry but their children find it hard to live with their step-parent. They often fight with their step-father or step-mother and in many cases are asked to leave their home.

    Moreover, many divorced people do not re-marry and often date or have multiple partners within a short period of time. Young teens are seeing multiple new adults in their homes that don’t care about them and in many cases pose a risk to them. More and more young people have to contend with sexual and physical abuse.

    In the past, young people could depend on their extended family. Due to the changing nature of the family unit, younger people are more isolated than ever before.

    Grandparents used to be a great source of information and support. The rate of older people being admitted to residential aged care facilities has significantly risen over the last two decades. They cannot support their grandchildren like they used to.

    Many disillusioned young people act out. Young men tend to lash out and become violent and get in trouble with the law and experiment with drugs. A disturbing new pattern involves an increased number of females taking drugs and alcohol

    Drugs and young people are a bad mix (especially given that they are still developing physically and mentally). Drugs increase the incidence of depression and anxiety. We have witnessed a significant increase in the number of young people being admitted to psychiatric wards due to drug induced psychosis and other disorders.

    Psychotropic medications (for example, antidepressants) are being prescribed at record levels both to teens and adults! These drugs do not mix well with the teenage developing brain and many reports and researchers have found that psychotropic medications can cause more harm than good.

    Psychotherapy is a good alternative, but it is so expensive and requires a significant time period to work and a motivated courageous person. This makes it inaccessible to many that need it.

    Add up the factors mentioned above and it’s no wonder that young people are getting depressed and anxious! But there’s more!

    The incidence of depression and anxiety in young people is depressing (even in Australia, a well off country with a mental health system second to none-well maybe Canada might be a little better). What’s more depressing is that we have one of world’s highest suicide rates among teenagers and adolescents.

    We have thrown hundreds of millions in an attempt to solve the suicide epidemic over the last decade; research, community consultations, Industry Advisory groups, task forces, education, and early intervention programs.

    Yet, the rates of youth suicide have not gone down! What we have found is that the rates of depression and anxiety and suicide are higher in rural and remote regions as compared to the Metropolitan areas.

    My answer was long and convoluted, but if you check the statistics you will find it’s all true!

    Kamal

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