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Managing your depression - teens

Depression is a serious medical condition that you need help with until you feel better. Know that you are not alone. About 1 in 5 teenagers will be depressed at some point. Luckily, there are ways to get treatment. Learn about treatment for depression and what you can do to help yourself get better.

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Alternate Names

Recognizing depression in your teen; Helping your teen with depression

Take Part in Talk Therapy

Talk therapy can help you feel better. In talk therapy, you talk with a therapist or a counselor about how you are feeling and what you are thinking about. 

You usually see a therapist about once a week. The more open you are with your therapist about your thoughts and feelings, the more helpful the therapy can be.

Taking Medicine for Depression

Be involved with this decision if you can. Learn from your doctor if depression medicine might help you feel better. Talk about it with your doctor and parents. 

If you take medicine for depression, know that:

  • It can take a few weeks to feel better after you start taking the medicine. 
  • Antidepressant medicine works best if you take it every day. 
  • You may need to take the medicine for at least 6 to 12 months to get the best effect and to lower the risk of depression coming back. 
  • You need to talk to your doctor about how the medicine makes you feel. If it is not working enough, or if it is causing any side effects, your doctor may need to change the dose or the medicine you are taking. 
  • You shouldn’t stop taking your medicine on your own. If the medicine doesn’t make you feel good, talk to your doctor. Your doctor has to help you stop the medicine slowly. Stopping it suddenly could make you feel worse.

Stay in Touch with Your Depression Symptoms

If you are thinking about death or suicide:

  • Talk to a friend, family member, or your doctor right away. 
  • You can always get immediate help by going to the nearest emergency room or calling 1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-999-9999. The hotline is open 24/7. 

Talk with your parents or your doctor if you feel your depression symptoms getting worse. You may need a change in your treatment.

Avoid Risky Behaviors

Risky behaviors are behaviors that can hurt you. They include unsafe sex, drinking, doing drugs, driving dangerously, or skipping school. If you take part in risky behaviors, know that they can make your depression worse. Take control of your behavior rather than letting it control you. 

Avoid drugs and alcohol. They can make your depression worse. 

Spend time with friends that are positive and can support you.

When to Call the Doctor

Talk to your parents and call your doctor if you are:

  • Thinking about death or suicide 
  • Feeling worse 
  • Thinking about stopping your medicine

References

US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and treatment for major depressive disorder in children and adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Pediatrics. 2009;123:1223-1228.

Zuckerbrot RA, Cheung AH, Jenson PS, Stein REK. Identification, assessment, and initial management guidelines for adolescent depression in primary care. Pediatrics. 2007;120:e1299-e1312.

Cheung AH, Zuckerbrot RA, Jenson PS, Ghalib K. Treatment and ongoing management guidelines for adolescent depression in primary care. Pediatrics. 2007;120:e1313-e1326.

Bostic JQ, Prince JB. Child and adolescent psychiatric disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2008:chap 69.

Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). January 13,2010. Accessed March 25, 2012.

Updated: 11/3/2012

David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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