With an ever-increasing demand for the transparency that social media sometimes brings about in peoples’ lives, it has become apparent to researchers that there may be a correlation between social media use and teenage depression, particularly in girls. A study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, M.D., looked at the years between 2005 and 2014 in the age group of 12–17, and found that depression is steadily increasing among teenage girls, according to labroots. The results mean that teenage girls in this demographic should be routinely and thoroughly assessed for signs and symptoms of depression.
The amount of teenage girls who experience depression is now more than one in ten, a startling statistic that has gone up dramatically since 2005, when approximately eight percent of teenage girls experienced depression. The statistic now sits somewhere around 11 percent, and there seems to be no reason to believe it will not stop growing according to the trend of the last decade.
Psychiatrists agree that it is very difficult at times to understand what is typical teenage moodiness and angst versus what is a true major depressive episode. Psychiatrists define a “major depressive episode” as a situation in which an individual experiences mental and physical symptoms that may include sadness, irritability or hopelessness and these symptoms must persist for two weeks or more to get a clinical diagnosis. That’s why it is particularly important that parents, psychiatrists, teachers, and others who routinely work with teenagers understand that while some sadness and anxiety is a part of growing up, persistent feelings that don’t go away for weeks may be a symptom of something more serious.
Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and a co-author of the study, says that one of the frustrating things about the screening and diagnosis of depression is that it is not universal nor judiciously utilized by all health care providers, which could mean that the numbers of girls suffering from depression are even higher than known, because the proper tools are not being used to assess them.
“Although a recent federal task force recommended screening for depression in young people 12 to 18 years of age, screening is far from universal. The new study highlights that most adolescents with depression do not receive treatment for their symptoms and underscores the need for increased attention to this condition.”
Untreated depression can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, poor academic performance, promiscuity, dangerous behaviors, drug usage, and suicide. Although researchers believe the number of depression cases for boys is growing as well, research has shown that girls are far more likely to be the victim of cyberbullying, which carries a unique set of psychological issues, and is difficult to tackle from a sociological perspective. The gender gap may also reflect on the fact that girls may be more willing to admit to feelings of sadness or depression, as it is considered more sociologically acceptable for girls to report this in many cultures than it is for boys.
The US Preventative Services Task Force advises that all adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 be screened for depression annually, regardless of gender. However, the task force also advised that thus far, such screenings are not routine for most pediatric patients, which may lead to a major barrier in diagnosis and treatment of depression in this age group.
Supportive treatment for children that are diagnosed with depression may include individual and family counseling, medication, support groups, addressing issues such as bullying and ostracism, and being able to discuss feelings of worsening symptoms, such as suicidal ideation or other psychological symptoms, such as self-harming behaviors, substance abuse, eating disorders, and abusive relationships.
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