Understanding Adolescent Depression Handout

Understanding Adolescent Depression
Ramon Eduardo Gustilo Villasor, Sr., Ph.D., RPsy, R.G.C., CSCOP



  • Depression is serious business.
  • The use of the term should not be abused.
  • But when heard, it should also not be taken lightly.

Definition of Depression – DSM-IV (1994)

  • Depression can be considered once it has to met the Diagnostic Criteria from the DSM-IV.
  • An individual needs to 5 (or more) of the following symptoms for the “same two-week period” or longer. (Major Depressive Episode)
  1. Depressed mood most of the day or nearly every day. (Personal and external observations)
  2. Loss of interest or diminishing pleasure in activities.
  3. Loss of weight.
  4. Insomnia or hyper insomnia.
  5. General loss of energy or fatigue.
  6. Negative perceptions of the self or excessive/inappropriate guilt.
  7. Indecisiveness or inability to concentrate.
  8. Suicidal ideation.

Defining Adolescent Depression

  • Depressive symptoms persist for two-weeks or longer.
  • At times, it is difficult to diagnose adolescent depression due to social, emotional, and intellectual changes that occur in this stage of development.
  • Remember: The difference between being depressed and normal behavioral symptoms is the length of time it is experienced.

Facts About Adolescent Depression (Carwile, 2008 & Mental Health and Psychiatry news, 2008)

  • One out of eight adolescents are diagnosed to have depression.
  • Of that number, girls are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.
  • Every year, there are a number of adolescent depression cases that are misdiagnosed or under diagnosed.
  • Carwile (2008) adds that there are “roughly 5,000 adolescents in the United States who commit suicide each year.”
  • Among adolescents, depression is present about 5% of the time.
  • A child is at risk to have a depressive episode (a factor of 2 to 4) if they have a parent with a history of depression.
  • Females are more likely to attempt suicide whereas males are more likely to complete them.
  • In 1998, the suicide attempts among 15 to 19 year-olds, were 14.6% (per 100,000 males) and 2.9% (per 100,000 females).

Adolescent Depression can be caused by:

  • Poor Academics
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Anger and Rage
  • Bereavement
  • Bullying (e.g., abuse, fighting, excessive teasing, social isolation, etc.)
  • Discord with parents, siblings, significant others (e.g., boyfriend/girlfriend) or friends
  • Displacement or inability to acculturate
  • Drug abuse
  • Caused by a possible mental illness (e.g., clinical depression, bipolar disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, etc. )
  • Illness in the family or close acquaintances
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Parental separation or displacement
  • Neglect
  • Other concerns (e.g., inability to sleep; inconsistent eating patterns)


  • Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.
  • There are a number of coping styles out in the proverbial market.  Just remember that: What works for one individual may not work for you.
  • Most of all, remember that you are never alone and that there is always someone out there that you can talk to!

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