Girls, Depression, and Meds - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 08-30-2007, 10:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm writing an article on teen girls and antidepressants. I'm reading/re-reading several books right now (Reviving Ophelia, Packaging Girlhood, a couple others), but I want to get some varying opinions on the subject. People on MDC seem to have an opinion about everything , so I was hoping to get some thoughts.
Here are some questions to start with (only answer those you feel comfortable, and PM me if you prefer. No names are going to be used. I'm basically brainstorming, and since I am very against antidepressants in most circumstances after personal experience, I need some perspective from the other side):
What do you think of antidepressants? Why do you think girls are almost twice as likely as boys to be placed on antidepressants?
Thanks for giving me some opinions.
ETA: Mods, please don't move to mental health. I want the opinions of teen parents.
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#2 of 21 Old 08-30-2007, 04:56 PM
 
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I'm not sure if I'm really answering your question, but....

My daughter (now 16) was diagnosed as depressed last year. She has a talking therapist but has not been prescribed antidepressants. (No one particularly recommended them, although she did see a psychiatrist and a psychologist.)

One issue for my D was that she was very slow to develop, and didn't get her period until well after her 16th birthday. My temptation, before treating her with antidepressants, was to put her on hormonal therapy, which one doctor did recommend. When we consulted with someone else, they did not think this was a good idea, and we didn't end up doing it. I felt that at least some of her problems were related to the fact that she was still very "girl-like" at ages 13 and 14, and this caused some alienation from long-term friends.

She is doing better now (fingers crossed.) I worry about her a fair amount. She has developed into (I think) an attractive 16-year-old.

**I didn't answer your question about what I think of anti-depressants. I guess I'd say that I am relieved that we didn't need to go that route. Actually very relieved. But if that was what they thought she needed, I would have listened to what they had to say and would have proceeded with caution. I would have gotten several opinions because I sometimes have trouble trusting what mental health professionals have to say.
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#3 of 21 Old 08-31-2007, 03:31 AM
 
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I'll bite on the anti-depressant hook ....


I think that they can be useful, but only when used in conjuntion with therapy. I was on AD for about a year or more ... did they help? Yes .. got me through the days, made me easier to live with. Do they "cure" a depression? No -- they simply allowed me to function, and made me a lot less likely to give my XH any grief. What helped me through the depression .... getting a divorce, believe it or not, therapy, and LOTS of tennis.

Why do girls get placed on AD? Don't know --- are they getting diagnosed with depression more than boys?

In my opinion ... it's hard to be a young girl these days. If you act like a kid, and play with toys, you're made fun of. Society hyper-sexualizes everything .. so there is intense pressure to fit a certain physical mold, so to speak. All this, while your body is changing, hormones are out of control, etc.

I'd have to think long and hard about putting DD on AD -- I'd go for therapy, and non-pharmacological treatments first.

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#4 of 21 Old 08-31-2007, 04:00 AM
 
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ITA w/ Dianna re girls' tough time in adolescence.

My DD is just entering pre-puberty, and I see the hormonal changes affecting her emotionally much more than they do my best friend's 13y.o. son. She spent the majority of last year in trouble at school, and in therapy. There were a few noises beginning about anti-depressants, but I think I'll try every other option first, including diet, acupuncture, and of course, continuing talk therapy. But if, after other options have been exhausted, she ends up needing them, I will definitely go that route. Anti depressants saved me emotionally a few years ago (and, actually, I need to be back on them, I just don't have the insurance).

I have noticed a lot of changes brought about by hormones, including the emotional, plus acne, and unfortunately inheriting my restless leg syndrome.

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#5 of 21 Old 08-31-2007, 09:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Dianna,
FWIW, I agree about meds being good for the occasional rough spot. But I feel like the issues girls face is often met with meds and nothing else in an attempt to just make the symptoms disappear and basically shut up the girl.
Some people need meds, but I think those people are rarer than our culture thinks. I think a lot of medicated girls and women would be better off if they were listened to, had an outlet for their anger, etc.
ETA: Thank you for the thoughtful replies.
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#6 of 21 Old 09-01-2007, 02:17 AM
 
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Dianna,
FWIW, I agree about meds being good for the occasional rough spot. But I feel like the issues girls face is often met with meds and nothing else in an attempt to just make the symptoms disappear and basically shut up the girl.
Some people need meds, but I think those people are rarer than our culture thinks. I think a lot of medicated girls and women would be better off if they were listened to, had an outlet for their anger, etc.
ETA: Thank you for the thoughtful replies.
Exactly ....
My XH loved the fact that I was on anti-depressants .. why?? It basically made me a zombie -- I no longer cared that he was out running around, and I no longer cared that we were not having sex. I hated being on meds, because I felt like a freak. TMI, I know.

Do meds help people -- yes, to an extent. I believe that they can get you to a functioning point -- so that you have the strength to deal with your issues. The issues are there regardless of medication -- they don't just magically go away just because you're on Prozac.

As a health care provider, I KNOW that people have psychological issues. I've been there, done that. However, I think that society as a whole, has gotten into a quick fix mentality. Folks would rather throw their kids on meds, rather than attempt to parent. Frequently, parents will take doctors' recommendations without question. I know parents who have absolutely no confidence in their parenting skills, and listen to whatever anyone else tells them.

I'm 34, and when I was a child, RARELY was anyone diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. (My brother was the only one I know) Now .. I can bet all of us can think of at least 3 children who have been "diagnosed". Has there been a sudden explosion of these children? I doubt it. I think it goes back to the quick-fix thing again .... parents feel pressure from outsiders (school, doctors, etc) to medicate these children; rather than behavior modification, therapy, exercise, diet, etc.

getting off my soapbox now ... before I start blaming ADD/ADHD on the lack of PE in schools ....
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#7 of 21 Old 09-01-2007, 10:03 PM
 
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My dd is only 19 mos so, I'm not quite talking from exp with her yet. But I do have a 14 yo son and oh boy is he emotional! I can only imagine that if he was a she we'd see more emotion, just because girls are more emotional than boys.

I read a Reader's Digest article a while ago and it talked about guys being depressed. They show their depression in anger. Well, we already know that most females would rather cry than "tough it out" and be angry.

I don't think that anti-despressants do anything but make the user numb, like alcohol does. I do admit that it has to really help a small percentage, much smaller than the number of prescriptions being passed out.

With the number of broken homes where daughters don't see their daddy's enough it's bound to happen that they're not going to get that fatherly love that us females need so desperately. Moms try so hard, but they can't be daddy. Moms turn into friends, but daddys are daddys forever. So while daddy's not in the picture our daughters look for things to fill that void and it's inevitible that they are going to get hurt.

I think the best avenue is communication all the time so daughters know they can talk when they need to. Either a parent, friend, family, or therapist.

That was much longer than I anticipated.
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#8 of 21 Old 09-01-2007, 10:49 PM
 
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The most recent Sports Illustrated has an article on the very last page that is in a round about way about teenage girls and depression. It is a very moving piece about organ donation, the recipients, and an 8th grade girl who was on some antidepressant (sorry, I can't recall) for 10 days when she killed herself. She had no suicidal tendencies before taking the meds. If you can get a hold of the SI issue, I recommend reading it.

My kids aren't depressed, not sure what I would "do" if they were, but these medications do seem to have serious side effects which for some reason effect young people differently than adults.

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#9 of 21 Old 09-01-2007, 11:42 PM
 
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With the number of broken homes where daughters don't see their daddy's enough it's bound to happen that they're not going to get that fatherly love that us females need so desperately. Moms try so hard, but they can't be daddy. Moms turn into friends, but daddys are daddys forever. So while daddy's not in the picture our daughters look for things to fill that void and it's inevitible that they are going to get hurt.
Respectfully, I have to take issue with this "Daddy" thing.

Also, the assumption that "no daddy" = "messed-up girl" is cultural (if it is accurate, at all).

OP~ I think you are on to something regarding the 'pathologizing' of girlhood. I don't think that girls are permitted a 'safe' place/way to express their anger. It's not surprising that more girls than boys are taking antidepressants.
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#10 of 21 Old 09-01-2007, 11:59 PM
 
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I have a slightly different perspective because I had my first major depressive episode when I was 16. My parents sent me to see a counselor but when our family doctor suggested that I might be suffering from clinical depression and that there was medication that could help, my parents brushed him off. They said that medication for that kind of problem wasn't necessary and that I just needed to try harder to be happy.

I was in my mid-20s when I was finally diagnosed and started to receive treatment. Some people can get better with therapy alone. Others need medication to get them to the point where they can participate fully in their recovery. And some people, including me, need medication for longer. I know that antidepressants are over-prescribed in our society. I also know, however, that if it weren't for antidepressants, I wouldn't be here.

When I think back over those years, I am filled with a sense of sadness and anger. Sadness because I went through so much pain and anguish, and I missed out on so much that other people took for granted, and anger because I needed help and I didn't get it. If my daughter ever exhibits symptoms of depression, and her doctor agrees that medication is worth a try, I will have no qualms about her using antidepressants in addition to things like therapy and exercise. The way I see it, I wouldn't refuse her pain medication if she were in physical pain from an illness or injury. Depression is a different kind of pain but it hurts just as much.
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#11 of 21 Old 09-02-2007, 12:26 AM
 
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Snowyowl~ I understand your perspective. I've suffered with PPD, and have taken meds. Antidepressants saved my life, and I am grateful for them. Clinical depression runs in my family, actually. Truly, I know how valuable they are/can be. Please don't think that I am, in anyway, diminishing, or in-validating the experiences of people who suffer with depression.

Clinical depression aside, I do believe that girls in our (North American) culture are socialized to "be happy". Girls are not allowed to be angry. Girls don't have a socially acceptable means of expressing their anger/frustration with the injustices that they perceive in their world (whatever they may be).

Where does that anger go? It manifests itself as 'sadness'. Sadness in girls is certainly more acceptable than anger. That sadness is then understood as 'depression', and antidepressants are prescribed to 'fix' the problem.
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#12 of 21 Old 09-02-2007, 01:24 AM
 
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The most recent Sports Illustrated has an article on the very last page that is in a round about way about teenage girls and depression. It is a very moving piece about organ donation, the recipients, and an 8th grade girl who was on some antidepressant (sorry, I can't recall) for 10 days when she killed herself. She had no suicidal tendencies before taking the meds.
Suicide AFTER beginning antidepressants is not entirely uncommon ... it's something that you are supposed to watch out for/warn against. The way it was explained to us was such ..... severely depressed people have every little energy, even to carry out ADLs (activities of Daily living). Put them on anti-depressants, they start to feel better, and then ... boom .. some will attempt suicide. Why? Did the medications make them suicidal? Not necessarily -- but they(meds) may have made them(people) strong enough to carry out the deed. Make sense??

Having said that .... I've also been taught, both as a nurse, as well as a consumer of antidepressants, that it takes at LEAST 2 weeks for the ADs to build up to a therapeutic level in order to see results. In a pharmokinetic sense, I'm sure this is slightly different for children

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#13 of 21 Old 09-02-2007, 01:28 AM
 
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Clinical depression aside, I do believe that girls in our (North American) culture are socialized to "be happy". Girls are not allowed to be angry. Girls don't have a socially acceptable means of expressing their anger/frustration with the injustices that they perceive in their world (whatever they may be).
socialized to "be happy" and to "be nice" .. I think I read this in Reviving Opheila ...

I'm attempting to teach my DD#1, and later, #2 .. that it's OK to be sad, unhappy, angry, etc .. and to try and deal with it in constructive ways ... journaling, exercising, etc.

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#14 of 21 Old 09-02-2007, 01:37 AM
 
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I absolutely agree, lolalola. It's like people don't want to deal with girls as real people with real, messy emotions. They are just supposed to shut up and look pretty

I tend to get a bit passionate about antidepressants because there are so many people who shy away from them out of shame. They feel like they have failed somehow when therapy or other non-drug treatments don't work for them. It's hard to find that balance between recognizing that lots of girls who are diagnosed with depression really are suffering from an illness and need medical help of some kind and being mad that non-depressed girls are being medicated for having feelings that make some adults uncomfortable.

I think part of the answer to both problems -- pinpointing clinical depression in teenage girls AND undoing some of the damage our society does to them -- is for people to really listen to what girls have to say. In my case, my illness went undiagnosed partly because the adults around me wouldn't afford me the same respect they would an adult who had the same symptoms. After all, I was just a teenage girl and everyone knows teenage girls are moody The thing is, I could have told them that there was something not right, that it wasn't just moodiness. But nobody ever asked me and I was too depressed to tell them on my own.

We need to let girls talk without making an assumption either way about their mental health. It takes time (more time that a lot of professionals have, unfortunately) but I think it's the only way to determine whether a girl is clinically depressed or if she is having a perfectly normal reaction to living in a world where she is constantly being told that she isn't good enough (or if she's experiencing both).

If anyone needs treatment (of any kind) for depression, she should be able to get it. And we should give all girls the tools to start knocking some sense into the world
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#15 of 21 Old 09-02-2007, 01:39 AM
 
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socialized to "be happy" and to "be nice" .. I think I read this in Reviving Opheila ...
What? You disagree? Not sure why you are quoting me.

I am not claiming these ideas as my own. But, I've read the scholarship on the subject, and I've done my own soul-searching (based on my personal experiences), what point are you trying to make?
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#16 of 21 Old 09-02-2007, 02:01 AM
 
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Snowyowl~ You and I are on the same page.

We need to listen to what our teen girls are telling us. We need to actually 'hear' our daughters, and pay respectful attention to what they are saying.

How do we help our daugthers recognize their worth? How do we give our girls the tools to ask for want they want/need?
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#17 of 21 Old 09-02-2007, 11:52 PM
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With the number of broken homes where daughters don't see their daddy's enough it's bound to happen that they're not going to get that fatherly love that us females need so desperately. Moms try so hard, but they can't be daddy. Moms turn into friends, but daddys are daddys forever. So while daddy's not in the picture our daughters look for things to fill that void and it's inevitible that they are going to get hurt.
As an observation, I see this more often than not.
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#18 of 21 Old 09-03-2007, 12:05 AM
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Perhaps the real issue isn't that there's no father in the home, but that society doesn't sufficiently support single moms, or force fathers to do so, so single moms tend to have spend more time away from their daughters working, and they have less money, which causes family stress. Another thousand dollars a month would be much more useful to us than a father.

I've never tried to be a "daddy", and I don't believe that my daughter needs a "daddy", and I'll always be "mom", even when my daughter is grown. Our home isn't "broken", either. My daughter isn't "desperate" for "fatherly love", and really these ideas are insulting to us. My daughter has lots of people in her life who love and and think she's terrific, and the fact that none of those people is her "father" doesn't matter.

I think our high school system isn't good for teens, especially teen girls... it infantilizes them, and doesn't fill their need to be autonomous and competent beings. Teens need to be in the real world, doing the things they're passionate about and making their own choices. The socialization in high schools is pretty awful, too, and middle schools are worse... because putting a thousand teens together 6 hours a day doing things they don't really want to do is a bad idea.

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#19 of 21 Old 09-03-2007, 12:38 AM
 
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Wandering in from new posts; I hope it's okay that I'm not (yet) the parent of a teen...

Chronic depression runs in my family. My dad had it; my mom has it; my brother has it; I have it. I have taken antidepressants. I don't take them anymore. For me and mine, I am against them. I've mostly been successful controlling my depressive tendencies with supplements and lifestyle changes. If these methods failed to work, I would consider drugs, but only as a last resort.

I have no problem with adults making the informed decision for themselves to take psychotropic drugs. Every person's individual situation is different, and I would not judge someone for choosing this route. I know that for some people the other methods don't work, and some people simply choose not to use other methods. That's fine. Their lives, their choices.

I do have a problem with the pharmaceutical culture, and the mainstream notion perpetuated by the pharma industry and the corporate media that drugs are for everybody, or that they are the only way. If an individual were asking my advice about whether or not to take psychotropic drugs, I would recommend he try supplements and lifestyle changes first, and drugs if those didn't work.

I'm not a fan of pushing counseling or talk therapy as an alternative, because in my opinion that is even worse, especially for children.

Why are girls more likely to be given antidepressants than boys? I think there are several factors. First of all, our society is very hard on girls. Many of them are probably experiencing situational depression (as are many boys, probably, but they are less likely to be diagnosed). If I had to be in high school again, you'd better believe I would be seriously depressed too. I believe the best solution to situational depression is changing the situation rather than changing the person through medication, but that's not the current way.

Secondly, there has been a trend of pathologizing traits that in previous times would have been considered in the range of normal. I don't doubt many of these girls are neurodivergent, but before the pharma revolution, they might have been classified as "moody and eccentric" rather than "medication-needing."

Thirdly, male depression manifests itself differently, so boys may be undiagnosed or diagnosed with something else.

Fourthly, depressive mannerisms are encouraged in girls. It's considered sultry and sexy. But some girls can't quite manage to turn off the switch, so they actually become depressed.

There are others I'm sure, but those are the main ones I can think of.
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#20 of 21 Old 09-03-2007, 12:54 AM
 
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What? You disagree? Not sure why you are quoting me.

I am not claiming these ideas as my own. But, I've read the scholarship on the subject, and I've done my own soul-searching (based on my personal experiences), what point are you trying to make?
no ... was saying I also read this in Reviving Ophelia .... and that I agree ...

I think that teachers, adults, society in general do expect girls to be happy and sweet ... and aren't really sure how to handle them when they aren't.

I want my girls to understand that they are made up of a myriad of emotions ... and that's normal and healthy. What I don't want is for them to keep things bottled up.

Maybe I wasn't making sense at 0030 ....

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#21 of 21 Old 09-04-2007, 05:48 PM
 
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no ... was saying I also read this in Reviving Ophelia .... and that I agree ...
Ok, gotcha.

I misread you. I agree with your other points, as well.
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