As if the teen years aren’t hard enough – kids face a myriad of different emotions. Our friends at R&A Therapeutic Partners wrote the article below describing the challenges faced when teens have depression and the difference between the genders.

The teenage years can be challenging. Between physical changes in the body, intense peer pressure, and an increased sense of social anxiety, teenagers often have difficulties finding their place. Many want to fit in while others want to stand out, even rebel. Teen depression is also becoming an alarmingly frequent trait of those transition years. Recent research has found that the rate of depression is increasing and that there are distinct gender differences in teen depression.

Transition Years

The teen years are a natural transition from being a child to growing into an adult. While women of all ages tend to be more aware of their appearance than men, particularly in terms of how others see them, most young people start to develop a heightened sense of socialization as they enter their teenage years. As children, their clothing choices and hairstyles were not as important to them. As teenagers, their entire social life may depend on those factors, at least in their own eyes.

Increase in Depression 

In recent years, the rate of depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts has increased dramatically. Research shows that in the late 2010s more adolescents experienced serious psychological distress, including major depression and suicidal thoughts, than in the mid-2000s. in fact, the rates of major depressive episodes increased 52% from 2005 to 2017, from 8.7% to 13.2% of young people aged 12 to 17.

Gender Differences

Girls experience almost twice the rate of depression that boys do, beginning as young as age 12. One study of self-inflicted wounds leading to emergency room visits indicated a significant difference in the increased rate of suicide attempts between young males and females. Self-inflicted wounds are a strong risk factor for suicide. While the rates for teenage boys remained constant from 2001 to 2015, the number of emergency room visits for teenage girls due to self-inflicted wounds increased 8.4% yearly between 2009 and 2015.

The difference in depression rates could be attributed to the differences in the rate of physical changes between boys and girls. Puberty typically starts earlier, and hormonal changes tend to be more evident in young girls. Teenage girls are also inclined to be more concerned with how others perceive them. While these differences in gender explain the overall differences in depression rates, other factors may be involved in the recent increase for female teenagers.

Social Media

The rise in depression rates among teenagers also coincides with the rise in popularity of the smartphone. Today’s teenagers have not known a world of social interaction that doesn’t include social media. Both young men and women spend a significant amount of time on their smartphones now. The use of smartphones and social media appears to correlate with the increase in depression rates among teenagers. However, it seems to have impacted teenage girls more than boys.

One reason for this may be that girls spend more time socializing on their smartphones, including texting and interacting on social media. Boys also text and use social media somewhat, but tend to use their smartphones more for playing games. Since teen girls are more focused on what others think of them than boys, the increased use of social media can increase that level of anxiety and, subsequently, the rates of depression.

An association has been found between moderate or heavy digital media use and the increased rate of mental health issues and worsened psychological well-being for teenage girls. One study found that the rate of depression also aligns with the amount of time spent on social media. In that study, girls who spent six hours or more on social media were significantly more unhappy than those who spent only 30 minutes a day on social media. The differences for boys were less noticeable.

Psychotherapy for Teens

The teenage years are full of pressures, from family, friends, and school. The increased usage of social media has increased the social pressure, which appears to affect teenage girls more than boys. When teenagers of both genders are not able to manage the stressors they face in real life and in the virtual world, therapy can help. Psychotherapy has been found to be effective for treating depressed teens, those who have turned to substance abuse, and those who are engaging in self-destructive behavior.

If you have a loved one struggling with depression, please contact Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss the best treatment options available.