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Teen depression is a serious and often misunderstood mental health condition that should never be ignored. Understandably, many parents chalk up their teen’s persistent low mood as just a typical teenage trait, right up there with hormone fluctuations and social angst. In most cases, moodiness in teens is indeed a feature of that stage of life, but if there are other symptoms involved that also linger for more than a couple of weeks, it is appropriate to have the adolescent examined.

A teen who is being treated for depression but who still struggles with debilitating symptoms may need a step up in care. For these adolescents who have found no relief or whose symptoms continue to worsen, there is a real danger of self-harm or suicide. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, teen suicide rates have steadily climbed since 2007, with the highest rates for adolescent girls doubling. Teens with severe depression can find the highest level of care at an adolescent residential treatment center for depression. These programs provide an intensified comprehensive treatment program designed specifically for the mental health needs of each teen client.

About Teen Depression

Rising rates of teen depression among adolescents aged 12-17 are a cause for concern. In 2021, the prevalence of U.S. teens who experienced at least one major depressive episode reached 5 million, or 20.1% of that age population. Of the 5 million teens who experienced a depressive episode, 74% of them, or 3.7 million, experienced depression with severe impairment. As has been the trend, depression among female teens occurred at approximately three times higher rate than teen males.

Diagnosing depression in teens follows the same DSM-5 criteria as when diagnosing adults. The DSM diagnostic criteria for depression include nine symptoms, five of which must be consistently present for over two weeks. These symptoms include:

  1.  Depressed mood much of the day, nearly every day
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in most activities most of the time
  3. Significant weight loss or gain; decrease or increase in appetite almost every day
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
  5. Slowed or agitated movements nearly every day
  6. Fatigue: loss of energy nearly every day
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
  8. Concentration problems; indecisiveness nearly every day
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death, suicide ideation, or a specific plan for suicide

Teens are more apt to exhibit symptoms of boredom, hopelessness, hypersomnia, substance abuse, and suicide attempts than adults presenting with depression.

Risk Factors for Teen Depression

Depression is a difficult mental health disorder with a complex list of potential factors. Although centered in the limbic system of the brain, where mood and emotions are regulated, there are a multitude of causes for the dysregulation that controls these functions. In teens, stressful events or situations can trigger a depressive episode, including bullying in school or over social media, divorce, academic pressures, trauma or abuse.

Some of the risk factors related to teen depression include:

Biologic factors

  • Family history of depression
  • Female gender
  • Hormonal changes
  • Obesity
  • Learning disorders
  • Low birth weight
  • Medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, and migraines
  • Sleep disorders

Psychological factors

  • History of self-harm or suicide attempts
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative body image
  • Social anxiety
  • Negative mindset

Environmental factors

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Overeating
  • Increased parental conflict
  • Antisocial friends
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor academic performance
  • Loss of a loved one or loss of a relationship
  • Traumatic events such as physical or sexual abuse, witnessing a trauma, serious car accident

Signs a Teen Needs Higher Level of Care for Depression

Whether your teen has been receiving psychiatric care on an outpatient basis or has never been treated for depression, the need for a higher level of care can be a surprising event, such as a suicide attempt. Teens are not skilled at sharing their deepest feelings with parents and may have been experiencing deep distress unbeknownst to their family. But there are some signs, in addition to the diagnostic criteria noted above, that a teen is in need of adolescent residential treatment centers for depression.

Signs a teen needs residential treatment may include:

  • The teen is becoming impaired, unable to get out of bed and go to school
  • The teen no longer wants to participate in team sports or social events
  • The teen exhibits isolating behaviors, choosing to hole up in their room
  • There is evidence that the teen is contemplating methods of suicide
  • The teen is engaging in self-harming activities
  • The teen’s academic performance is plummeting
  • The teen is often truant, unknown to parents
  • The teen exhibits dissociative behaviors, detached from self and others

Adolescent Residential Treatment Centers for Depression

An inpatient depression treatment program can provide the expert care needed for a teen with severe depression. The teen will be thoroughly evaluated, including physical examination and mental health history, whether a substance use disorder is coexistent, medication history, and a risk assessment for suicide. If an acute event is what prompted the admission, the teen will be stabilized before any treatment can begin.

In most cases, treatment for adolescent depression involves an emphasis on psychotherapy and other experiential or recreational therapies. In some cases, antidepressants are prescribed, corresponding to the acuity of the depressive disorder. Some side effects are associated with antidepressants, so these should be monitored over the trial period. 

Psychotherapies most beneficial to teens with serious depression include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). The goal of the therapy is to help the teen improve coping skills, communication skills, peer relationship skills, and problem-solving techniques and to change negative thought patterns into positive, proactive thought patterns.

Teens connect well with activity-based therapies that allow them to decompress and experience joy. These recreation-based therapies can help them open up and overcome their hesitation to be vulnerable and open in treatment. Relaxation activities, like yoga or mindfulness, can also assist in recovery, complementing the psychotherapy sessions.

BNI Treatment Centers Adolescent Residential Treatment Centers for Depression

BNI Treatment Centers of Los Angeles are dedicated to providing the utmost mental health treatment for teens with severe depression. BNI Treatment is owned and operated by psychiatrists who specialize in treating adolescent mental health and substance use disorders and tailor the program to meet the specific needs of teens. BNI Treatment utilizes CBT, DBT, and a variety of recreational therapies, such as surf therapy, equine therapy, art therapy, dance therapy, and yoga. For more information about our residential depression treatment program for teens, please contact BNI Treatment today at (888) 522-1504.

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