Teen Depression and the Brain

It seems as though depression in teens has risen over the years and many people don’t know why. People speculate that it is a personality thing, but really it’s psychological.

U-32 student Olivia Bates was asked if she thought teen depression was increasing. Her response was “I believe it has been increasing largely because most of my friends have or are currently dealing with it.”

She  shared her own personal experience with depression: “My parents got divorced when I was in 6th grade and this led to a very lonely state. I felt that I had nobody. That led to me being depressed and having awful thoughts. I held in my emotions and they just kept building and I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t want to deal with the pain. I am on depression pills and talking to a counselor. I’m still struggling, but I’ll make it through it.”

Bates defined depression as, “That feeling of wanting to grasp onto something just to get through the day, most people define it as just being sad, but it’s not that. It’s something long term that leads to self harm.”

She was asked why she thinks teens use cutting (using a shape object to make gashes in a part of oneselves body) as a way to cope.

Bates explained, “When people cut, it releases dopamine, which makes them feel good. It makes them temporarily forget their troubles and gives them a sense that everything is okay.”

U32 psychology teacher Nicolle Schaeffer also shed some light on this topic.Schaeffer said The American Psychiatric Association defines depression as, “A mood disorder, a prolonged period of sadness accompanied by lack of concentration, low energy, difficulty responding to stressful situations, lack of motivation, and increased bodily pain for more than 2 weeks.”

She was asked why  teen depression is so common these days.Schaeffer responded, “Teenagers are more vulnerable to depression because you are going through a period of your life where you don’t always know what is expected of you and you are forced to figure out what you are going to do with the rest of your life. It’s a lot of pressure being a teenager.”

She was asked what is actually going on inside the brain.  She explained a theory “That a chemical in your brain called serotonin regulates your mood and we speculate that people with depression aren’t able to use their serotonin well, so when people are taking Anti-Depression pills, what it is doing is forcing your brain to use your serotonin a lot better.”

She was questioned about why she thinks teens use cutting as a way to cope. In her opinion,  “It’s because they don’t know what else to do. They don’t feel like they have social support when they actually do.”

In her opinion, the best treatment is, “ Anti-Depression pills and just talking it out with someone because people do really care about you, whether it be people near you or over the internet. And definitely Meditation helps as well.”

U-32’s onsite  Psychologist Kerra Holding,who can be found in room 107, gave some more insight on depression. She explained that depression is “ anhedonia (inability to be happy or feel pleasure), lack of desire and unhappiness for 6 months. It has to prevent you from doing well in school, work or a relationship.”

When asked what goes on inside the brain of a depressed person? Holding responded, “We have different neurotransmitters chemicals in the brain that carry messages: some good and some bad. When they get unbalanced, that is when you develop depression.”

She was then asked why she thinks teens use cutting as a way to cope. Her response was, “They feel that they can’t control their depression, so when they cut, they feel like they are in control.”

In her opinion the best treatment for depression  is, “Different medications help people over the bridge to get to therapy, but they aren’t the final solution. A combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle choices is key.” If you ever are feeling suicidal, please don’t hesitate to call the national suicide hotline at  1-800-273-8255