Teen depression is more than just teenage angst. It’s real and it’s affecting a growing number of young people.
A newly published clinical trial showed how cognitive behavioral therapy can be highly effective in preventing episodes of teen depression. The study also showed that how well parents were doing emotionally contributed significantly to the effectiveness of preventive treatment.
In 2008 major depression affected one out of every 12 teens, or more than eight percent of the total teen population. Depression strikes teen girls more often than teen boys, but for both sexes the condition impacts their ability to cope with everyday life situations. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that teen depression responds well to intervention. But even before it get that far, preventive strategy can keep depression from recurring among at-risk youth.
Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy The Answer?
The study followed 316 teens between the ages of 13 and 17. All of the teens had parents with a history of depression. The teens themselves did not currently meet the diagnostic criteria for depression, but had a personal history and/or exhibited signs that depression was threatening.
For the trial, teens were randomly assigned to either standard prevention treatment or to cognitive behavioral prevention (CBP). The CBP program met 90 minutes per week for two months and then one time per month for six months. The researchers then tracked teens for 33 months following treatment.
During the three years of follow-up, those teens who had received CBP showed markedly less depression than the teens that had been given the usual care. Researchers noted that in addition to CBP therapy, success rates for teens were also linked to how depressed mom and/or dad were when the teen entered treatment. In fact, when parents were not depressed the teens fared significantly better compared to those who received standard care. But for teens whose parents were depressed there was very little difference between CBP and usual care results.
The randomized trial was conducted through Boston Children’s Hospital and presents clear evidence that helping teens learn how to process negative emotions is key to holding depression at bay. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on correcting maladaptive thinking about things like anger, frustration and disappointment. The therapy teaches teens how behaviors are linked to thought processes. Changed thinking and lifestyle modification can produce a more positive affect.
Of course, the study likewise reveals that the home environment can seriously impact how well teens implement the learned strategies. Having parents who themselves understand the importance of positive outlook and behavior can make all the difference.