Q. There is a history of depression in my family. But how do I know whether my teenage daughter is just moody (like lot of girls her age) or whether she’s actually depressed?
Answer By: Myrna Weissman, Ph.D.
Diane Goldman Kemper Family Professor of Epidemiology (in Psychiatry)
Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University
Here we need to differentiate between population science and individual care. On a population level it is clear that teenage girls have high rates of transient (short-term) mood changes. Whether an individual girl has crossed the boundary between normal behavior and depressed behavior requires a personal evaluation with a clinician who is an expert in adolescent mental health. A family history of depression should make that consultation more urgent, whether or not the young woman’s symptoms have impaired her schoolwork, friendships, and/or family relationships. If she is not willing to go with you to see someone, seek advice about her behavior yourself with someone who can evaluate the seriousness of her symptoms.