Depression Screenings Recommended for Children & Teens

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended universal depression screening standards for children and teens from ages 10 to 21. Many teens don’t have access to their own mental health specialists such as psychologists or psychiatrists, so this new recommendation makes depression screenings more accessible through a primary care physician when teens and children go to the doctor for annual or sports physicals.

An estimated 1 in every 5 teens will experience a depressive episode, but they are often undiagnosed and depressive symptoms can be dismissed as “growing pains” or “teenage moodiness.”  But teens are just as susceptible to depression as adults are, and many symptoms are the same for both age groups:

  • Loss of energy and/or increased fatigue
  • Restlessness or irritation
  • Expressing feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or self-injurious behavior

However, caregivers, educators, mentors, and loved ones of teens should also be on the lookout for these additional signs:

  • Difficulty in school
  • Complaints of frequent headaches, stomach aches, or body aches
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors such as reckless driving or unprotected sex
  • Withdrawal from social groups, sports, or other hobbies

Teens may also be more susceptible to experience depression if they:

  • Have a family history of depression or suicide
  • Have a history of being bulled or have experienced trauma
  • Have learning disabilities
  • Abuse drugs/alcohol

Currently, teens seeking treatment for depression are limited to either psychotherapy or medication. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy may be another option for those teens that are struggling with depression. TMS Therapy works by delivering magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain involved in mood regulation – areas known to be underactive in those diagnosed with MDD. The magnetic pulses stimulate brain cells, thereby improving the brain’s ability to regulate mood. 

Although Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy is not yet indicated for use on persons under the age of 22, clinical trials are currently underway to test the efficacy on children and teenagers from the ages of 12-21 who have been treatment resistant to medication. As a provider of TMS Therapy and observing the effectiveness of this treatment, we are hopeful that the FDA will lower the age indication for treatment so that children and teens struggling with depression will be able to consider TMS Therapy as a treatment option.