It Is Those Raging Hormones After All!

Researchers find link to teen behaviors

 A hormone that the body produces under stress calms children and adults but actually produces more anxiety in teenagers. The effect is also more likely to occur in teenage girls. This new finding may shed some light on why teens react more emotionally to stress than those in other age groups.

 Researchers at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center experimented with mice of different ages. When they exposed the mice to stressful events, the animals secreted a hormone called allopregnanolone, which worked as a tranquilizer in young and adult mice. However, in pubertal mice, the hormone seemed to make them more, not less, excitable.

 Similar changes in hormonal activity happen in humans, Sheryl Smith, a professor of physiology and lead researcher, believes. “Puberty is a time when a lot of emotions and responses to stress are increased.”

 The study appears in the March 12 issue of Nature Neuroscience.

 Parents Should Help Teens Through Emotional Break-ups

A new study from the Menninger Clinic suggests that adults can help teens recover after emotional break-ups.

“Some relationships may seem so intense and so necessary that teenagers harm themselves when the relationship ends,” said Dr. Norma Clarke, a child psychiatrist who led the study.

The most vulnerable teens are the ones that spend all their waking hours with their boyfriends or girlfriends, who sleep if that person is not around, and who stop seeing other friends.

“If your teen falls off the deep end and you have a sense that you are losing control of him or her, you need to intervene,” Dr. Clarke said.

She said parents should talk over the situation with their child. She believes it is okay to monitor Internet usage and to “stay abreast of changes made to your child’s MySpace or Facebook pages. Trust your instincts if the messages or content seems out of character and discuss this with your child.”

Dr. Clarke also advised, “Be alert to cutting or other self-harm behavior, such as your teen no longer wearing short-sleeved clothing. Keeping an open line of communication … is more welcomed by your child than may be apparent. I don’t think parents realize the impact they have on their teenager’s behavior.”

 More Than 8% of Teens Suffer from Depression: Girls Have it Twice as Often as Boys

A new study of over 67,700 teenagers found that 8.5% suffered from depression last year. The rate for girls was 12.7% compared to 4.6% of boys. Depression was defined as lasting at least two weeks, and including symptoms such as problems with sleep, self-esteem, energy levels, and school. Half the teens who suffered from depression told researchers that it interfered with their ability to function at school, work, or with family and friends.

Researchers from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration performed the study, using the Sheehan Disability Scale to gather data from participants 12 to 17 years old.

“Depression responds very well to early intervention and treatment,” SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline said. “Parents … should seek help with the same urgency as with any other medical condition.”

Depression can lead to suicide, the third-leading cause of death among American teens.

Low Birth Weight Connected to Depression in Teenage Girls

Girls who are born weighing less than five and a half pounds are more likely to develop depression at ages 13 to 16, according to the results of a scientific study. Low birth weight was not linked to depression in teenage boys.

 Researchers at Duke Medical School in Durham, NC, kept track of 1420 children ages 9 to 16. They found that 23.4% of the girls with low birth weights developed teenage depression, compared to only 3.4% of those girls born at normal weights. While the researchers could not explain the link, they recommended that pediatricians and parents monitor the mental health of teenage girls who had low birth weights.

 This article appears in the March 2007 Archives of General Psychiatry.

 Doctors Not Following FDA Rules When Treating Depressed Teens

Young people undergoing drug treatment for depression may not be getting enough follow-up care, which in turn can endanger their lives, according to a study by the Minnesota Council of Health Plans.

Some teens and children become increasingly suicidal when they first begin to take anti-depressant drugs. For this reason, the FDA recommends that they should meet with a doctor or provider at least one a week in the first month of medication, then every other week in the second month, and once at the end of the third month.

However, the Minnesota study found that one-fifth of the children ages 5 to 19 years old did not meet with a doctor until three months after they began taking drugs.

The Minnesota Council looked at the health records of over 2.5 million Minnesotans from 2005. They found that about 10% of children in that state experienced some kind of mental illness – half of that group experienced depression.

Some physicians suggested to the Council that the FDA guidelines were confusing when they were first introduced.

Teen depression is a very serious matter. If you teenager is showing signs of depression, do not wait to get them help.

Utah Researchers Discovering Genetic Component in Suicide

Can you inherit genes that put you at risk for suicide? A longitudinal study from the University of Utah finds that certain genes may indeed occur more often among suicide victims in different generations of the same family.

Researchers have been collecting DNA samples of people who committed suicide since 1996. So far, they have about 700 vials of blood samples.

Among their findings are that two-thirds of the teens who committed suicide had experience in the juvenile court system, and many had recently stopped taking prescription drugs for depression and mental illness. Committing suicide is linked to depression and aggression.

“Certain genes are showing up more than you would expect,” according to Douglas Gray, a suicidologist and associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Utah. Gray and his colleagues are hoping to produce a database of information that will help people understand their risk for suicide so that they can take the necessary measures to lower their risk.