Identifying Depression in Adolescent Girls

As all of us grown-ups already know from experience, the time of adolescence can be a brutal phase in a teenage girl's life. With roaring hormones, new responsibilities, expectations, and social structures to live up to, it's no surprise why teens are more prone to developing anxiety and depressive disorders than any other demographic. But while we can empathize and relate to the difficulties innate to being a youth, many of us adults cannot relate to the nationwide epidemic of juvenile depression in today's America.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), roughly 20 percent of teenage girls have lived or are currently living with major depression - approximately 8 million teens. Making circumstances even direr is the rising trend of suicide among youth, which (as of 2020) currently stands as the third-leading cause of death among young people (ages 15-25).

Now more than ever, it is more necessary for parents to recognize the warning signs of depression. As tragic statistics confirm each year, failure to identify depression in a teenage girl can result in immutable and potentially fatal consequences. 

Fortunately for parents of a depressed teenage girl, with the necessary treatment regimen and healing environment, major depressive disorder is considered highly treatable by psychiatric professionals. 

To support parents in recognizing the symptoms of depression, in the following article, we will explain the specificities as well as possible warning signs and key aspects that are commonly associated with major depressive disorder in teenage girls

Adolescent Girls are Statistically More Depressed Than Boys

Depression is a disorder that behavioral specialists refer to as 'an equal rights' disease because it affects all demographics. 

Even so, statistics confirm that teenage girls are at higher risk of contracting a depressive condition than any other demographic.

According to the latest clinical research and studies, nearly 25% of teenage girls will endure significant depressive symptoms during adolescence. Studies also show that girls two-thirds of teenagers prescribed antidepressants are female. 

As to why teenage girls are more likely to develop depression than boys (a 2014 study by the National Survey of Drug Use and Health estimated as high as three times more likely), experts analyze a few factors.

However, the most viable hypothesis is that girls typically develop at a younger age than boys in terms of emotional regulation. The study posits this added responsiveness to emotional stimuli can cause teenage girls to develop anxiety and depression - two common yet severe illnesses that often symbiotically supplement each other in an afflicted youth's psyche. 

Typical Tell-Tale Signs of Depression 

As previously stated, depression, although severe and possibly dangerous if left untreated, is also highly treatable (psychiatric consensus is that depression is actually among the most treatable mental illnesses). 

However, before a depressed adolescent girl can receive therapy, parents must first recognize whether or not their daughter has a likely case of major depressive disorder.  

The following are the most common and identifiable depressive symptoms for parents to look out for. 

Persistent Feelings of anxiety

According to research conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), teenage females are twice as likely to develop mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, than males. In fact, girls who have a depressive disorder typically experience both anxiety and depression at the same time. 

That said, if a parent discerns their daughter is having an uncharacteristically challenging time maintaining her stress, it could be indicative of an undiagnosed depressive disorder. 

It is also common for teens suffering from depression to suffer from a supplemental anxiety disorder. This added stress is likely because depressed teens have a challenging time managing complex emotions - especially at the same time.

Persistent physical symptoms (headaches, body aches, upset stomach)

Depression is an illness of the mind. It is also an illness that can cause intense physical reactions such as headaches, body aches, or upset stomachs. If severe enough, depression is known to cause symptoms that mimic physical illness, such as throwing up.  

Withdrawing from normal activities

One of the most recognizable and well-known signs of depression is when a teenage girl withdraws from activities, social circles, and most (if not all) society

Teens who battle with depression and anxiety tend to self-isolate or check out their day-to-day lives whenever possible. 

Moreover, teenage girls who develop major depressive disorder tend to lose enthusiasm for things and activities they were once fervently passionate about.  

Quick to Feelings of Anger or Frustration 

As one could assume, living with the pervasive and acute symptoms of depression can quickly become frustrating. When attempting to live with their condition independently, teenage girls with undiagnosed depression are quick to act on feelings of anger and frustration. 

Continuously expressing anger is also conducive to depression and can manifest if a frustrated and depressed teen fails to receive treatment, or least of all, recognition for having a critically undiagnosed mental illness.

Issues in school

Depression, being the debilitating illness that it is, often negatively affects a teenage girl's ability to concentrate. Of course, this is all the more evident in adolescent girls who are prone to suffering a sudden drop in their academic performance despite their intellect. 

The high-stress levels that come with balancing depression and academics can leave an adolescent female drained and exhausted.