Distinguishing Between Normal Teenage Angst And Clinical Depression

2464 words - 10 pages

It is not uncommon to hear stories about a teenager experiencing mood swings and rebelling against those in authority. Nor is it uncommon to experience general sadness or anxiety in high school and college. However, it is often difficult to tell the difference between normal teenage angst and clinical depression. It is not commonly known that there has recently been a staggering rise of depression in adolescents. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in twelve adolescents in the United States suffer from depression, which is 8.3 % of the teenage population. In order to combat the problem of adolescent depression, it is essential that parents take an active role in their adolescent’s life by both acknowledging and identifying the problem early on and by providing the necessary tools to help an adolescent to live healthfully and happily.
Depression, according to the book Introduction to Psychology, is a “state of despondency marked by feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness”(443). Most people experience a mild form of depression during their lives. Once in a while there are days when one feels down and has negative thoughts. The determining factors that help psychologists distinguish between a normal mood swing and a more severe form of depression are the intensity of the sadness, the duration the sadness and whether that sadness interferes with normal life. While depression isn’t a new problem, childhood depression was not considered a disorder until the last twenty-five years (Hosansky). Though some may argue that the reason there is an increase in adolescent depression is the result of changed diagnosis criteria for depression, the Kansas City Star newspaper states in the article, “A Very Dangerous Time Drives Up Teen Suicides…” that “five times as many high school and college students today deal with mental health issues as those surveyed in the Great Depression.” Psychologists would agree that there are other explanations for the rise in adolescent depression.
One theory, argued by Peter Gray, a research psychologist at Boston College, is that the rise in adolescent depression is due not only to the adolescent’s feeling of lack of control over his or her life but also a shift from intrinsic goals to extrinsic goals. Gray explains that teenagers in our modern society do not feel as if they have control over their lives even though it may appear that we do have more control over factors such as disease and wealth. Julien Rotter’s questionnaire is used to measure a person’s sense of control, and Gray points out that the scores of modern day indicate that the average young person in 2002 was more “external” than were “80% of the young people in the 1960’s.” This means that teenagers today have the attitude that what is supposed to happen will, indicating a sense of lack of control over a situation, which is one of the main reasons depression and anxiety occur. (Gray, Dramatic Rise) Along with this idea, Gray...

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