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How Do You Treat Depression In Teenager Males?

Question:

I have a 15 yr old son, who I has been diagnosed with "depression" by a Doctor. What treatment is available excluding the use of antidepressents. Please help. Thank you for your time. Regards Pauline

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Answer:

Dear Pauline,

I regularly recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of depression. What I like about it is that it focuses on specific ways of thinking that lead directly to feeling depressed and anxious. Then, the therapy examines excellent strategies to replace those negative or automatic thoughts with those that are based in reality and on solid evidence. The reason for this is that depressed thinking is never fully accurate and, therefore, not fully based on what is really happening. For example, if I miss the bus on the way to school I may tell myself, in frustration, that I am having a bad day. This is not accurate. The fact that I missed the bus has nothing to do with the remainder of the day. But, if I convince myself that this is a bad day I will start to become depressed.

You need to find a therapist who is well trained in CBT. There are excellent psychologists and clinical social workers who are trained and provide this type of therapy. The therapist should also have expertise in working with adolescents and who understands their issues.

As to medication, I fully understand your not wanting your son to use anti depressant medication, probably based on recent information about suicide resulting from their use. In actuality, actual suicide among young people has been extremely rare as a result of anti depressant medications but it is true that some youngsters show an increase in suicidal thinking. The evidence has been very inconsistent and now it is being said that these drugs may not be dangerous for children and teenagers. So, what should a parent do?

In my opinion the use of anti depressants among teenagers should be dictated by the level of depression that the youngster is experiencing. What I mean is that if a teenager is so very depressed that they are in danger of suicide then it is safer to use medications than to not use them. I do not know your son but I would suggest that you allow the doctors to make this critically important decision, particularly if your son is in such emotional turmoil that he is in danger. In that case he would need both the medication and CBT. If not, the CBT should do the trick.

Best of Luck

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