Depression can hit teenage girls more than boys. An expert shares why
Depression hits people of all age groups. Over the years, it has been recognized that the age of onset of depression is decreasing, and it is now increasingly being surfacing among children, adolescents and teenagers.
Depression in teenagers is a serious mental health issue that causes a persistent feeling of sadness as well as a loss of interest in activities. It affects how they think, feel and behave, apart from causing them emotional, functional and physical health problems. Even though depression can occur at any age and time, symptoms may be different for teens than that of adults.
In case of depression, it occurs in both genders, but by the teenage years, girls are much more at risk than boys. Before puberty, the prevalence of mood disorders is about the same in boys and girls- around 3 to 5 percent. But by mid-adolescence, girls have double the chance to be diagnosed with mood disorders.
Why is there a disparity in mood disorders between a girl and a boy?
Girls mature in terms of their emotional recognition better and faster than boys, and it is their sensitive nature that makes them more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
In teenage depression, the thing people tend to notice first is withdrawal, or when the teenager stops doing things she usually likes to do. There might be other changes in her mood, including sadness, irritability or in her behaviour, including, appetite, energy level, sleep patterns and academic performance.
Also, read: Hypnosis for anxiety, depression and fear: Does it work?
What are the risk factors?
Psychological risk factors for depression in teenage girls include low self-esteem, poor body image, a tendency to be highly self-critical, and feeling helpless when dealing with negative events. Teen depression and other mood disorders are also associated with the stress of body changes, including the fluctuating hormones of puberty, as well as teen ambivalence toward increased independence. Additionally, it is also affected due to the changes in their relationships with parents, peers, and others and also due to emerging sexuality and identity issues.
Depression may also be a reaction to environmental stresses too, including trauma like verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, school problems, or being the victim of bullying or peer pressure.
Common signs of depression in teenage girls
- Persistent negative mood
- Problems at school
- Loss of interest in activities
- Low self-esteem
- Smartphone or social media addiction
- Reckless behaviour, running away, and anger outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Reasons why teenage girls experience depression more than teenage boys:
1. Hormonal differences
Teenage girls hit puberty early on, changes in hormones may increase the risk for some girls to experience depression, however, temporary mood swings related to puberty are normal. However, these changes alone don’t cause depression.
2. Differences in socialization
Girls are taught to be more sensitive to others’ opinion or can express themselves through crying and showing sensitive behaviours.
3. Social roles
Girls are given roles which are devalued in our societies.
4. Coping mechanism
Girls tend to use a more emotion-focused, ruminative coping style, which includes mulling their problems over in their minds. On the other hand, boys tend to use a more problem-focused, distracting coping style to help them forget their troubles.
5. Stressful life events
Evidence suggests that, throughout their lifetimes, women/girls may experience more stressful life events and have a greater sensitivity to them than men/boys.
6. Unequal power and status
Work overload/academic pressure and academic expectations are higher for females.
7. Sexual or physical abuse
Seek help if you have any signs of depression. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the teenager’s depression symptoms. A combination of talk therapy (counselling and psychotherapy), and medication can be very effective for most teens with depression.
Psychotherapy, done on a one-to-one basis or with family members, can help. Through regular sessions, your teen can learn about the causes of depression, and mainly how to identify and make healthy changes.