young woman at Chicago Rehab Center seeking help for her mental health disorder

The Rise In Youth Mental Health Diagnoses.

The kids aren’t alright. Children today are growing up in a world that would look intense and strange to the children of older generations.  Today’s youth faces a grown-up world with deeply adult problems.  Sadly–but not entirely unsurprisingly–over the past decade, the diagnoses of mental health disorders amongst teens have nearly doubled.

Between 2005 and 2017, the rate of teenagers diagnosed with major depression increased by 52 percent.  Currently, one in six children has an undiagnosed mental health disorder.  Low energy, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, and guilt or inclination toward self-harm define this condition.  It is a suffocating illness that saps the joy from those afflicted.

But why the recent spike in diagnoses?  The diagnostic criteria for depression have not changed.

Studies point towards a variety of potential factors: from social media use to the pressure to succeed in both the academic and extra-curricular realm, to the decline of unstructured playtime, kids face an increasing number of personal challenges on the path to adulthood.

But, like failing to wash your hands during flu season, those factors are merely heightened conditions for depression, not causes.  Depression is a neurological disease with a strong genetic component.  Families with a history of depression often produce depressed children.  For years, the side-effects of the disease (suicide, substance abuse, disengagement) were understood as failings of character.  Because of this, a misplaced stigma lingered around the disease.  Thankfully, that stigma is on the way out.

With increased awareness surrounding the nature and symptoms of the disease and frankly, the cultural understanding that depression is a disease is a hugely positive development. That being said, abstract talk about large cultural changes does little to ameliorate the situation of either those suffering from depression or their loved ones.

Depression diagnoses in youths can be complicated by the fact that many symptoms of depression can be ascribed to ‘typical teenage angst.’ This is an important pitfall to avoid.  Fortunately, there are legions of trained counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists at Chicago Rehab Center who can guide families through a correct diagnosis and the healing process that follows.

Awareness is the first step.  Thankfully, as a society, it’s a step we are taking.

Reviewed by Dr. Beth Dunlap

Dr. Beth Dunlap, a board-certified addiction medicine and family medicine physician, is the medical director at CRC Institute, where she is responsible for overseeing all the integrated medical services at the Institute. Beth completed medical school, residency, and fellowship at Northwestern University, where she continues to serve on the faculty as a member of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. She has extensive experience in addiction medicine at all levels of care, and her clinical interests include integrated primary care and addiction medicine, harm reduction, and medication-assisted treatment.

Get Involved & Stay Up to Date

Get the latest CRC Institute news and event updates directly to your inbox.

Related Articles

Mental Health

How to Stay Healthy in Chicago

Winter in Chicago is not an easy time for many as the winds pick up, ice accumulates, snow falls and temperatures drop. Yet, there still is so much to do in this great city and there are so many ways to stay healthy and active while enjoying what Chicago has to offer.

Read More »
Chicago Rehab Center offers mindfulness tools and practices to help those stay present and better understand their addiction
Mental Health

Mindfulness Chicago

The world is often very fast-paced and full of potential stressors. As people busy themselves with their lives, they sometimes forget to be present. Add in the fact that we are in the midst of a stressful pandemic, and we see that many people are just going through the motions, oftentimes with anxiety and fear.

Read More »