Teenage depression is a serious concern. By some estimates, about 5% of adolescents suffer with major depression. A new NIH-funded study has found that the best treatment for depressed teens may be a combination of talk therapy and medicine.
Researchers looked at 439 adolescents diagnosed with depression. They were 12-17 years old when the study began. Some were treated only with the depression-fighting drug fluoxetine—also known as Prozac. Others had talk therapy sessions with a mental health professional but no medicine. A third group had a combination of talk therapy and medicine.
The study showed that combination therapy was the most effective overall. After 18 weeks, 85% of teens taking the combination treatment got better, but less than 70% of those taking only the drug or talk therapy improved. Even after 36 weeks, combination therapy continued to help more teens than the other approaches.
Early in the study, the researchers found that teens who took fluoxetine got better faster, with or without talk therapy. But more teens taking fluoxetine alone reported suicidal thinking, especially in the early stages of therapy. Adding talk therapy seemed to help vulnerable teenagers steer clear of suicidal thoughts.
The study included a mix of younger and older teens, from different ethnic and racial groups and a range of social and economic backgrounds, so the researchers say their results should apply to the adolescent population overall.
Signs of Depression
Depression is a serious medical illness that can interfere with your everyday life. Talk with your doctor if you experience some of these symptoms for a week or more:
- Sad or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt or worthlessness
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Trouble sleeping or oversleeping
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
- Loss of energy
- Thoughts of death or suicide