Some researchers have suggested that "even among psychiatrists . . . the extent of the disability caused by depression is vastly underestimated." (Empfield, 2001) Further, it is logical to argue that "major depression causes more long-term human misery than any other single disease." (Empfield, 2001) Diagnosing and treating such a disease as early as possible in an individual's life may enable it to be effectively eradicated for their later years. While some early childhood depression does occur, the condition mainly appears in the teenage years. It will remain with the patient, become episodic or cause drastic symptoms such as suicide if it is left untreated.
The causes of depression in general are still somewhat controversial within the medical community: situational and biological theories often conflict, while those that argue for a situational and biological cause are perhaps gaining ground. The physical features of the brain of person suffering from depression/who are liable to depression. As Cynthia Haines puts it, "there is absolute proof that people suffering from depression have changes in their brains . . . the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is vital to the storage of memories, is small in those people." (Haines, 2005) A smaller hippocampus has less serotonin receptors, and it appears that serotonin is important for the brain to communicate with the body, as well as a regulator of mood. A lack of serotonin appears to cause depression.
There are also genetic causes of depression, or at least the propensity to become depressed seems to run in families. As Haines (2005) puts it, "children, siblings and parents of people with severe depression are much more likely to suffer from depression than are members of the general population." However, despite current searching, scientists have yet to discover the gene that may cause depression. (Alpert, 2005) The fact that both psychosocial and biological factors cause and maintain depression seems accepted, but the exact manner in which they combine is not certain.
One reason that teenagers appear to suffer from more depression than other groups may be the 'quality of life' estimates that individuals constantly make. As Miller et al (2005) suggest, "quality of life reflects the patient's overall perceived satisfaction or quality. . . ". Teenagers often have a much lower perception of their lives than other age-groups, due to the physical, emotional, psychological and economic changes that are occurring to them.
Teenage depression may express itself in different ways than adult depression. Thus teenagers may exhibit "additional psychiatric disorders, such as behavior disorders or substance abuse problems." (www.focusus.com) Often these additional symptoms seem to swamp the signs of depression and so the teenager may be treated (and/or disciplined) for the symptoms of depression when in fact the cause is not looked at. Thus a teenager who is suffering from depression may drink alcohol excessively, indulge in highly risky behavior or take drugs. These acts will be more visible than the underlying depression, and so are easier to latch onto for parents, school authorities and the police.
Another complication is the fact that parents need to be able to identify the