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Depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a complex disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that depression is “characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities,” resulting in significant impairment in one’s daily life. According to the Mayo Clinic, teenage depression affects how an adolescent thinks, feels and behaves, and can cause emotional, functional and physical problems. There are a variety of approaches as well as a range of treatment options when it comes to treating teenagers with depression. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) underscores common components of treatment plans for teenagers with MDD, which typically include one or more psychotherapeutic modalities as well as medication.


Depending on one’s needs, the treatment plan for an adolescent with depression may comprise primarily of psychotherapy. Certain therapeutic modalities that could be incorporated into one’s treatment plan, may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive arts therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). CBT is a type of therapy that combines behavioral therapy with talk therapy. DBT primarily uses mindfulness-based principles to help an adolescent learn tools and techniques to work towards achieving one’s therapeutic goals through understanding one’s emotions and subsequent behaviors related to one’s emotions. IPT uses an interpersonal filter to explore and examine relationships and their effects on one’s life. Some young people diagnosed with major depressive disorder may benefit from including medication into the treatment plan, in conjunction with various therapeutic methods.


Antidepressants are medications prescribed to help treat moderate to severe depression. The two most common types of antidepressant medications are SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). SSRIs work by altering the brain’s chemical balance of serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical in one’s body that is directly related to one’s moods. SNRIs work to elevate one’s mood by interacting with both the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in one’s brain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following two medications that can be used for the treatment of teen depression, both of which are SSRIs: Lexapro (generically: escitalopram) and Prozac (generically: fluoxetine). Treatment for adolescent depression will require a customized and nuanced treatment plan, where all treatment options are considered, incorporating medication when needed and utilizing the best possible therapeutic modalities that are expressly geared to each teenager’s personal needs.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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