Antidepressants are not inherently evil or inherently good. They have pros and cons that you should consider when deciding on your teen’s best treatment methods.
Teens are more vulnerable than adults. Their brains haven’t developed- both physiologically and psychologically- and their conditions deserve special attention.
This article discusses the pros and cons of antidepressants for teen depression and also catalogs different treatment approaches. Continue reading to discover the benefits of antidepressants and learn how they can use them in alignment with other methods.
Teenage Depression Symptoms and Signs
Signs of teen depression are primarily emotional, though they can also manifest as physical symptoms.
Emotional Symptoms for Teen Depression
If your teen is experiencing depression, some emotional symptoms may include:
• Feeling hopeless.
• Lack of interest in friends or family.
• Frustration and even anger.
• Intense and prolonged periods of sadness.
• Low self-esteem.
• Trouble concentration and poor performance in school.
• Thoughts of death or suicide.
Behavioral Symptoms for Teen Depression
Additionally, some symptoms may be expressed on a behavioral level. These symptoms of teen depression may include:
• Anger and sudden outbursts of frustration.
• Lack of energy.
• Oversleeping or the inability to sleep.
• Changes in weight or appetite.
• Unexplained body and headaches.
• Social withdrawal from activities, friends, and family.
• Poor performance in school and other activities.
• Abuse of alcohol or drugs.
Risk Factors for Depression
Research has found the most substantial risk factors for depression in adolescence are family history of depression and exposure to psychosocial stress. Other factors include developmental factors, hormonal changes, and psychosocial adversity.
Other Risk Factors for Teen Depression
Outside of the typical risk factors for teen depression, the following risk factors can also cause teenage depression.
• Bullying and other peer issues
• Academic pressure or problems
• Chronic disease
• Alcohol or drug use
• Family discord
• Sleep deprivation
• Confusion about sexual orientation
• Other mental health disorders
• Learning disabilities and ADHD
• Low self-esteem
• History of violence (witness to or victim of)
Why Do Antidepressants Have Warnings About Suicide?
Ironically, antidepressants come with warnings on them about suicidal side effects. Extensive trials concluded that antidepressants might cause or worsen suicidal thinking or behavior. The analysis showed that children and teens had a slight increase in suicidal thoughts compared to those in the control group who took placebos.
Notably, none of the children or teens in the study committed suicide. However, the findings were concerning enough for the FDA to issue a public health advisory and require manufacturers to label antidepressants, linking them to suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and young adults.
On the contrary, some researchers suggest that the benefits of antidepressants may be greater than the risks involved.
Pros of Medication
Many teens experience the benefits of psychopharmacology. Antidepressants can help teens in the following ways:
• Improve mood
• Improve appetite
• Increased focus
• Resolve sleep disturbance associated with depression
• Decrease anxious symptoms that can occur with depression
• Decrease depressive symptoms that can trigger suicidal thoughts
During depressive episodes, the risk of suicide is already heightened and teens should be monitored and evaluated throughout the episode. Antidepressants work best in monitored environments in conjunction with psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Cons of Medication
Medications come with side effects and affect individuals differently. Some of these side effects might be minor and annoying and manageable, while others can be severe and damaging. At the beginning of treatment, it’s critical for patients to understand potential side effects. This alerts the patients’ loved ones and physicians what to look for while under observation.
The most common side effects of antidepressants include:
• Gastrointestinal symptoms
• Insomnia or sedation
• Dry mouth
• Weight gain
• Sexual side effects
Antidepressants are also not a “quick fix” solution for depression. They typically take 6-8 weeks to take effect. However, recent research has suggested antidepressants may not benefit children and teens at all.
When deciding whether antidepressants are suitable for you or your teen you have to consider the consequences and weigh the benefits. One teen might experience side effects that another does not. The point of treatment is to keep experimenting, evaluating, and seeing which methods have the most effective results.
Should We Use Antidepressants to Treat Teens At All?
Most researchers suggest the possible link between antidepressants and suicidal thoughts shouldn’t prevent us from using them in therapy. They suggest the warnings shouldn’t frighten you away from considering antidepressants in your teen’s treatment plan.
However, parents should be aware of the risks involved in antidepressants. Many children experience positive results from antidepressants for teen depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health conditions.
Conclusion- The Pros and Cons of Medications for Teen Depression Treatment
Antidepressants have both pros and cons, but these medications are often viewed as an end-all solution to teen depression. It’s important to remember these drugs are not the only treatment available to your teen.
Psychotherapy and teen residential treatment centers can all provide sustainable results for your teen. Medications may help restore balance to your teen’s physical chemistry, but there are still underlying psychological issues that need to be addressed.
Resources such as teen residential treatment centers help give troubled teens the tools they need to cope with their conditions.