Is Depression Common During Puberty?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines puberty as “the condition of being or the period of becoming first capable of reproducing sexually that is brought on by the production of sex hormones and the maturing of the reproductive organs…” From a legal standpoint, the age at which puberty occurs is at age 14 in boys and at age 12 in girls. Adolescence is the time in which the start of puberty occurs, and the introduction of new and increased levels of hormones can be incredibly difficult to manage. Additionally, young people are fraught with an abundance of internal and external pressures throughout their entire adolescence. It is typical for a teenager to experience a wide range of emotions throughout his or her adolescence. Teenagers are innately inclined to make decisions and react from an emotional standpoint, not a rational standpoint. This is largely because the frontal cortex of the brain does not fully develop until a person reaches age twenty-five, at the earliest. This area of the brain is responsible for problem solving, decision making, rational thought processes and more. Therefore, teenagers must rely on the amygdala (the area of the brain that is most closely associated with impulsivity, aggression, emotion, and instinctive behavior) to problem solve and make decisions. The seemingly erratic, impulsive, and emotionally charged reactions and behaviors exhibited by teenagers during adolescence are natural.
Yes, teenage depression and depression during puberty is, unfortunately, highly common. Depression is one of the most frequent mental health illnesses that teenagers experience. Findings from the National Institute of Mental Health in 2017, report nearly 3.2 million adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 had experienced at least one major depressive episode. Depression is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. It is normal for situations that are stressful, painful, and/ or difficult to elicit fluctuating emotions. As a teenager, it is to be expected to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and sad, at times. If, however, a young person does not emotionally recover in an appropriate timeframe and the teen experiences severe and extended time periods of debilitating sadness, he or she may be struggling with depression. If there is a teen is exhibiting atypical, excessively depressive behaviors it may be cause for concern, and it is generally best to err on the side of caution and consult a professional.
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