Distinguishing mood swings from depression in teenagers

The teenage years are a time of emotional highs and lows. So how do you distinguish normal teenage mood swings and rebellion from actual depression? The September 2008 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter highlights some ways to tell.

Although depression can occur at any age, it affects teens more than younger children. Depressive symptoms may start appearing around age 13, and often peaks between 16 and 24. Yet depression can be difficult to diagnose in young people, because symptoms seldom involve mood alone. One study concluded that fewer than half of teen patients suffered mainly from depressive symptoms. More often, they developed a mix of mood and behavioral problems, for example, agitation, anxiety, attention difficulties, or defiant behaviors.

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