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Adolescent Depression and Physical Health

Addressing mental health problems in people of different ages is a priority for medical staff operating in the field of psychiatry. However, when taking into account current social trends, working with adolescents is one of the most important areas. According to the World Health Organization, young people aged 10-19 make up the largest share of the population (about one-sixth of the world’s total population) (“Adolescent mental health,” 2019, para. 1). In this age group, the identification of mental health disorders is often overlooked, which, in turn, is fraught with complications in adulthood. As one of the problems, a depressive disorder develops in adolescents as a condition that, according to Manczak et al. (2019), is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, irritation, worthlessness, insomnia, and even suicidal thoughts. Addressing such conditions should be carried out at an early stage of their development to prevent further complications in adulthood. Depression in adolescents and young people under 24 is a factor that affects their physical health negatively and requires intervention from various stakeholders, including both parents and medical specialists.

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Threats of Neglecting a Depressive Disorder in Adolescence

Following a healthy lifestyle in adolescence is essential because, at this stage, many habits are formed, which can have various effects on subsequent adulthood. Regarding depression as one of the mental disorders in teenagers, the lack of measures to identify and eliminate it is fraught with severe psychological conditions. As Christ et al. (2017) note, responsibility for neglecting depressive disorder in adolescents lies with caregivers and parents. Few measures to eliminate dangerous symptoms, in turn, can worsen teenagers’ health outcomes. In addition, according to Mullen (2019), the implications of such neglect can be significant for the healthcare system since the treatment of adults experiencing depression in adolescence puts a strain on the medical industry. Psychotherapists are forced to carry out significant work to monitor all acute cases, build risk groups, and conduct many other interventions. To avoid this burden, neglecting the manifestations of depression in adolescents should be prevented. Therefore, the involvement of both competent specialists and parents is a necessity to monitor the psychological state of adolescents.

The problem is complicated by the fact that adolescents as a target audience are not inclined to seek help from adults in solving their difficulties. Mullen (2019) argues that shyness and distrust are typical behavioral traits in teenagers, which, in turn, reduces the likelihood of productive interventions. However, if adolescents with symptoms of a depressive disorder do not seek support, adults should take the initiative on their own and find out whether these symptoms are indicators of depression or not. In some cases, deeper psychiatric interventions may be required due to the development of dangerous disorders. However, to determine the prerequisites for specific behavioral characteristics, the interaction of adolescents with adults should be promoted. According to Christ et al. (2017), the desire for social isolation and insularity can be the indicators of different mental problems. Thus, communication with adolescents with a tendency to depressive conditions is an indispensable aspect that may help prevent the impact of the disorder on teenagers’ physical health.

The perception of life and certain aspects of interpersonal communication in adulthood is largely a result of those behavioral patterns formed in adolescence. Manczak et al. (2019) state that dissatisfaction with various aspects of social interaction among people over 30 is often the outcome of a major depressive disorder experienced in their teenage period. The authors call poor parent-adolescent communication one of the main prerequisites for the development of a depressive disorder and note that the lack of such interaction is a potential risk factor (Manczak et al., 2019). In this regard, the responsibility of parents for the formation of behavioral habits of their children is high and determines the obligation to support teenagers. Christ et al. (2017) confirm this statement and remark that the lack of emotional connection may be considered a parental gap that is difficult to fill when children grow up and start to live independently. Thus, neglecting the manifestations of a depressive disorder in adolescents and the lack of support from loved ones are factors that aggravate the situation and lead to disappointments in life in adulthood.

Depression and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are the common manifestations of depression in adolescents, which affects their physical health negatively and leads to problems in the functioning of the digestive and cardiovascular systems. This, in turn, is fraught with concomitant diseases that can occur in adulthood. In their research, Drieberg et al. (2019) find a positive correlation between depression and eating disorders and note that anxiety caused by poor social interaction is one of the prerequisites for impaired diet in adolescents. At the same time, the manifestations of eating disorders can be different depending on teenagers’ individual inclinations. According to Fox et al. (2016), based on their study, in one-third of adolescents with diagnosed depression, excess weight is a common feature, “and nearly 6% have severe obesity” (p. 1120). Such difficulties at an early age are dangerous prerequisites for the development of diseases in adulthood since the burden on a body is significant, and diverse systems are affected. Therefore, addressing depression is an important aspect of helping adolescents to deal with eating disorders.

Anorexia is another common manifestation of a depressive disorder in adolescents. Drieberg et al. (2019) argue that this problem is neurotic and usually occurs in female teenagers. In this case, self-perception is a marker for specific eating habits, and anorexia is a sign of low self-esteem. As Mullen (2018) notes, this factor is one of the clinical manifestations of depression, and the extent of the problem is determined by individual behavioral patterns. Female adolescents are more prone to anorexia due to a critical attitude to their appearance and unwillingness to put up with the real or imagined parameters of their bodies. At the same time, one should take into account that both problems, in particular, a depressive and an eating disorder, can be interchangeable. In other words, dissatisfaction with a personal appearance can lead to mental problems, but causal relationships can also be the opposite when depression entails an eating disorder. Thus, nutrition is a complex aspect of addressing adolescents with the manifestations of depression.

Following the principles of a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition, can help avoid dangerous diseases in adulthood, but if a teenager experiences a depressive disorder, the situation is complicated significantly. This means that addressing mental problems is an activity that has long-term prospects and may contribute to maintaining normal body functioning. According to Drieberg et al. (2019), the physical symptoms of depression are directly associated with eating disorders when no interventions are carried out by stakeholders. This confirms the aforementioned statement that the role of parents and caregivers in helping adolescents with mental problems is an important part of teenagers’ social adaptation. Applying relevant practices to overcome depression implies complex interventions, including those addressing eating disorders. Therefore, adults’ participation in maintaining the normal health of adolescents is significant as a mandatory activity to avoid dangerous health outcomes and provide opportunities for normal socialization.

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Suicidal Thoughts as a Manifestation of Depression in Adolescents

Suicidal thoughts are considered the dangerous manifestations of a depressive disorder in adolescents, and statistical findings confirm ever-increasing risks. For instance, as Twenge et al. (2017) argue, for the period 2009-2015, the number of suicides among American teenagers increased by 31% compared to previous years (p. 8). This information is an alarm to various stakeholders and requires adults’ participation. Persistent thoughts of suicide are negative experiences even if an adolescent does not show obvious intentions to take one’s own life. Identifying the possibilities of avoiding depression through suicide threatens his or her normal social adaptation and has a harmful effect on further life. According to the research by Mullen (2018), from a sample of engaged adults with diagnosed depression, 8% tried to commit suicide in adolescence, and at this stage of life, this risk factor is one of the most common (p. 275). Therefore, the threats are significant and require adults’ participation in case of the suspicion of suicidal thoughts in teenagers.

As one of the reasons leading to teenage depression and suicidal thoughts, one can call bullying. Vergara et al. (2018) argue that the high risk of bullying that teenagers face in both real and virtual communication environments increases the likelihood of self-injury. The situation is complicated by adolescents’ high emotional sensitivity and their isolation in relation to the discussion of personal problems with adults. According to Twenge et al. (2017), on social media, there are public interest communities, and the conversations of teenagers with suicidal thoughts occur in this environment. This means that a particular depressive mood is transmitted to a wide audience, which increases risks and serves as an additional threat to the target population. Unwillingness to solve problems with the help of adults leads to the detachment of adolescents and the search for support among peers. However, as practice shows, the time spent on social media is directly proportional to the degree of negative mood experienced by teenage users (Twenge et al., 2017). Thus, suicidal thoughts are a dangerous social phenomenon due to the threat of the spread of specific conditions among groups.

Finally, when considering suicidal mood in adolescents with depression from a life-threatening perspective, one should take into account the current statistical outcomes. According to the official information provided by the World Health Organization, “suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds” (“Adolescent mental health,” 2019, para. 1). However, despite such a high percentage of deaths, the number of unsuccessful attempts to voluntarily die is significantly higher. As Vergara et al. (2018) state, even if a teenager fails a suicide plan, it affects his or her emotional state severely and can disrupt an emotional background significantly. In addition, such an adolescent falls under the supervision of the relevant boards and is forced to undergo rehabilitation. Unwillingness to acknowledge the problem exacerbates the situation and affects physical health negatively since a teenager is not only dissatisfied with one’s life but also feels social condemnation. Therefore, addressing the manifestations of depression, including suicidal ideation, is highly significant in the context of adolescents’ socialization teens and can improve overall health outcomes.

Conclusion

Depression in adolescents is a dangerous condition that can affect their physical health in adulthood, and timely assistance from both parents and caregivers is an important aspect in preventing problems. Neglecting the symptoms of such a mental disorder and associated issues, for instance, bullying, is fraught with dangerous manifestations, including difficulties in the socialization of teenagers and a high burden to the healthcare system due to the increased rate of depression. Eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and other dangerous implications affect a wide target audience, and timely interventions are crucial.

References

Adolescent mental health. (2019). World Health Organization. Web.

Christ, S. L., Kwak, Y. Y., & Lu, T. (2017). The joint impact of parental psychological neglect and peer isolation on adolescents’ depression. Child Abuse & Neglect, 69, 151-162.

Drieberg, H., McEvoy, P. M., Hoiles, K. J., Shu, C. Y., & Egan, S. J. (2019). An examination of direct, indirect, and reciprocal relationships between perfectionism, eating disorder symptoms, anxiety, and depression in children and adolescents with eating disorders. Eating Behaviors, 32, 53-59.

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Fox, C. K., Gross, A. C., Rudser, K. D., Foy, A. M., & Kelly, A. S. (2016). Depression, anxiety, and severity of obesity in adolescents: is emotional eating the link? Clinical Pediatrics, 55(12), 1120-1125.

Manczak, E. M., Ordaz, S. J., Singh, M. K., Goyer, M. S., & Gotlib, I. H. (2019). Time spent with parents predicts change in depressive symptoms in adolescents with major depressive disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 47, 1401-1408.

Mullen, S. (2018). Major depressive disorder in children and adolescents. The Mental Health Clinician, 8(6), 275-283.

Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2017). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among US adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3-17.

Vergara, G. A., Stewart, J. G., Cosby, E. A., Lincoln, S. H., & Auerbach, R. P. (2018). Non-suicidal self-injury and suicide in depressed adolescents: Impact of peer victimization and bullying. Journal of Affective Disorders, 245, 744-749. Web.

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