Rising Rates of Depression Amongst Teen Girls

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This article is sponsored by CHOC Children’s Hospital

The teenage years are a time in life unlike any other marked by new, fluctuating hormones, social pressures, and school stresses. These new situations can understandably cause kids to feel down or depressed at times. But for others the feelings of sadness or hopelessness can persist in a state of depression. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 20% of teenagers experience depression before reaching adulthood.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found depression rates amongst teens stayed fairly stable from the years 2005 – 2011. However from 2012 to 2014 the rates of depression were on the rise for both boys and girls, with a more pronounced increase for teenage girls.

What is causing this increase? Is the advent of social media playing a role at putting more girls at risk for depression?

I am exploring this question, along with other extremely helpful information provided by Dr. Adrianne Alpern Ph.D. a child psychologist at CHOC Children’s Hospital on warning signs of depression in teens, symptoms and how to get help if you suspect your teenager might be depressed.

depression in teens

My daughter will be eleven soon and over the past year I have seen her evolve from a little girl into a blossoming tween where friends are paramount and’s have taken the place of pretend play. She’s growing up.

And it terrifies me.

But why is the idea of having a teenager so scary? Growing up is part of life. We all have to go through it. Logically I know this. However, as I see the years of hovering under her at the big ladder at the park and holding her hand across every street slowly come to an end I also see my ability to protect her start to fade.

At the root of the fear is the loss of control.

Up until now it’s been my job as her mom to protect her and keep her out of harms way. When our babies are close to the nest we can watch them and keep them safe. But as she spreads her wings and starts to fly into the world without me I won’t be able to protect her in the same way.

Girls will hurt her feelings, disappointments will sting on a bigger scale, and pressures at school will build. All of which will be things completely out of my control.

My role as her mother is starting to change. 

Instead of trying to protect her from these hurts, my job will be to listen, support and encourage her to dust off her wings and try again.

More damage control versus prevention.

And it is my prayer that  she will be able to work through whatever hard times the teenage years hold for her.

But what happens when your teen has difficulty getting through a hard time? What happens when hurt feelings or disappointments turn into sad moods that last for weeks?

How do you know when a teen mood swing isn’t a swing at all, but could actually be an episode of depression?


This week I had the opportunity to interview pediatric psychologist Dr. Adrianne Alpern Ph.D. about depression in teens which I am happy to share with you today as I feel it is extremely important information to have as parents.

Normal Teenage Moodiness vs. Depression

My first question was, “How do you know the difference between ‘normal’ teen moodiness and clinical depression?” Dr. Alpern highlighted the fact everyone feels sad or down sometimes and being sad is a normal part of the human experience. But an episode of depression differentiates in important ways and this is a simple way to remember possible warning signs of depression.

Depression is when feeling sad or disinterested in activities you used to enjoy lasts for:

– > Most of the day

– > More days than not

– > For two weeks or more

Say it with me moms…depression is when feeling sad or disinterested in enjoyable activities lasts for most of the day, more days than not, for two weeks or more. I will remember that, won’t you?

Some Other Symptoms of Depression in Your Teenager Could Include:

– > More or less sleep

– > Changes in appetite

– > Fatigue

– > Changes in concentration

– > Thoughts of being a “bad daughter” or “bad friend”

– > Changes in movement….moving either quicker or slower than normal

– > Thoughts of not wanting to be around anymore, wanting to disappear or die

Study Finds Depression Rates Increasing in Teenage Girls

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found depression rates amongst teens increased from 2012 – 2014 from 8.7% to 11%, and the rise in rates of depression was more pronounced in teenage girls.

Professionals theorize the use of social media could play a role in the increase in depression. Teenage girls are more likely to engage in social media and use it as a source of their self-esteem looking to others for validation or acceptance. Social media can unfortunately also be another avenue for bullying or social shaming.

Others suggest the economic downturn could have played a role in the way teens viewed the future. Or, maybe our evolving openness in the media with celebrities sharing their mental health struggles might encourage teens to be more apt to report their depression than in years past.

But regardless of the cause, the take away for us as parents though is the same – depression amongst teens is very real, and our girls are especially vulnerable. Teen depression is increasing and we need to be aware of it.


What To Do If You Think Your Teen is Depressed

Dr. Alpern stressed parents know their teen the best. If you notice changes in your teen’s mood or behavior, there’s no reason to panic, but it is a sign to pay attention and start some conversations.

When talking to your teen, she emphasized how the most important thing we can do as parents is to listen. Sometimes it is easy to downplay teen struggles because many parents think “life is easy” for a teen. What on earth could be so stressful? They have no mortgage, food is on the table, they have a roof over their head, etc.

However, teenagers have legitimate stressors in life, many of which they are encountering for the first time, so it’s important to empathize and validate their feelings versus discounting them.


If the sad or down moods persist and start to interfere with your child’s relationships with friends or family, school work, or ability to complete daily activities (such as chores), it might be time to seek the help of trained mental health professionals.

Your child’s pediatrician could be the first place you turn to for direction on where to go to help. Many insurance plans also have lists of mental health providers.

Help is available and effective treatments exist for depression. 

How to Explain What Therapy is to Your Teen

Dr. Alpern expressed how there are so many misconceptions about therapy and we both agreed that “myths and facts about therapy” deserves its own entire blog post for this very reason! Many people think therapy is a place where you just talk about problems and vent but that is what friends and family are for. Therapy is so much more.

To break it down simply for your teen, therapy is a place to get help with the thoughts or behaviors that are causing you to be “stuck” and therapists are trained to notice these thoughts or behaviors and are able to brainstorm with you to help get you “unstuck”.

But What If My Teen Doesn’t Want to go to Therapy?

Dr. Alpern brought up the point that a lot of teens are resistant to the idea of going to therapy. However, if as a parent, you can get them in the door, the therapist can take it from there.

She suggested telling your teen how much you love them and how as their parent you want them to give it a try to see if it helps. Urge them to try it for 3 – 4 times and assure them they do not have to talk about anything they don’t want to. Tell them they can decide what they want to talk about. Giving them this sense of control can be comforting when going into an unknown situation.

There are Effective Treatments for Depression!

Dr. Alpern told me effective treatments exist for depression, and there is ALWAYS hope. With the help of a licensed trained counselor or psychologist in addition to adjunct consultation from a psychiatrist when necessary, depression can be treated.

If you are looking into help for your child, the website can be a great place to start.  She suggests this site to many parents as a mental health resource. Click on “The Public” and you can find lists of symptoms and treatment options.

Teens Are Not Ticking Time Bombs

When I was expressing my fears about having a teenage daughter someday she told me many parents approach their teen like a ticking time bomb with gloves on, trying to diffuse whatever might come their way. I had a good laugh at this visual. So true!

She assured me that MOST teenagers do JUST FINE in the teen years. She assured me that many teens are using social media appropriately without significant harmful effects. After all, 87% of girls and 94% of boys in the study in Pediatrics did not report significant symptoms of depression within the past year. She assured me that many teens will  be able to navigate life without any major issues.


However, help is out there and you do not, I repeat, do NOT have to face these challenges and your child does not have to face challenges alone. Getting help for depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns is nothing to be ashamed of, it is just as important as their physical health. If your child has a broken leg, you would rush them into the doctor for treatment. If your child seems “stuck” in weeks of sadness or withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy, it’s time to take them into the doctor for treatment.

Same, same.

For more information on the CHOC Children’s pediatric mental health initiative visit:

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Helping Your Kids Cope with Doctor Fears

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As mamas, we can kiss scraped knees, bandage minor cuts, give extra cuddles and run for the iced boo boo pack for owies. But, helping your kids cope with doctor anxiety?  That can be a toughie.

When a trip to your favorite pediatrician is in order (sometimes I swear I need a “frequent visit” card punch) it can cause stress for everyone involved. Does anybody else’s kids freak out when you mention a doctor’s visit?  Well, mine do.

Recently, I was sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class lounge chatting with the other moms, and this very topic came up.  Turns out, each one of our girls had different fears about the doctor and all of us shared what worked.

It was all such great advice…girlfriend to girlfriend, mom to mom…that I thought I’d compile it and share with all of you!  So, in no particular order, here’s our two cents. I very much hope you find these tips handy in helping your kids cope with doctor anxiety.

Getting Them TO the Doctor…

1. We ALL agreed that honesty was the best policy (on a need-to-know-basis). If you know your little one is scared of the doctor and you tell them you’re going someplace else to get them in the car, then show-up in the doctor’s parking lot, you’ve lost credibility…and future doctor’s visits will be REALLY unpleasant.

2. On that note, we also all agreed that there was no reason to fuel any unnecessary anxiety or fears by telling them they were going to the doctor next week/tomorrow/etc. (for any well checks), or even, we’re going after lunch/nap/etc.  This gives their little minds time to worry and fret…and get really worked up.

3. One mom said she kept their location vague, and when they pulled into the parking lot and her daughter recognized it (because, of COURSE, most children know the doctor’s parking lot), she calmly told her that they were going in to tell her doctor hello and let them know how [insert child’s name] was doing. She told her daughter she could tell the doctor how well she was doing in school, sports, milestones, how much she’s grown, etc.  This made it a little less scary than saying “Dr. so-and-so is going to give you a check-up!”  Obviously, this will only work for planned, well exams or visits.  Not lying, but not explicitly saying “check-up!” Needles!  Shots!

Needles, Shots, Pokes, Oh My!

4. Speaking of shots, one mom handles them this way.  When her daughter asks if she is going to get one (in advance of the appointment), and says how scared she is of needles, the mom will say validate her fear (“I know needles can be scary, honey.  But, they give your body medicine sometimes when you need it.”), and then says they can talk to the doctor together about whether she will need a shot that day.

Yes, there may be a meltdown at the doctor’s office…it may be unavoidable…but we agreed that listening to your child’s fear and saying that you would talk to the doctor together helped advance fear and fretting.

5. If you know your child is due for shots, ask if they have a numbing spray. One mama told her pediatrician that her little girl was terrified of needles and they gave her a numbing spray first to help with any sting or poke. Every office is different, but it’s worth an ask!

Make it a Game!

6.  Bring a favorite doll, train, car, stuffed animal, etc. with you to also get “examined.”  Have the doctor do anything to the toy first, before your kiddo – most likely, they’ll play along!

7.  If you haven’t heard of Doc McStuffins on Disney Junior yet, let me introduce you to your new best doctor friend.  By watching this show, and playing “clinic” at home with doctoring their toys, my kids have made major progress with doctor fears!  Check it out!  I actually turned our front hall closet into a “clinic” – of course, my babies are still pretty little, so a closet is the perfect size for them to pretend for a doctor’s office.

More Advice…

8.  Talk about the doctor at home when they aren’t sick or hurt.  Tell them how wonderful it is to be a doctor, how they help people, times when you went to the doctor and were scared…but didn’t need to be, because they made mommy all better!  Slipping these casual little conversations could help fighting fears in the long run.

9. If all else fails, bribe.  Okay, yes.  Sometimes I am THAT mom who will promise a lollipop or big sticker or Target dollar spot item if they are extra brave.  I figure it’s a decent investment!

Spill it, mamas!  What do you do to calm little minds and big fears about the doctor?  Share in the comments below!

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Regular Skin Checks Could Save Your Life

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Several years back, my dad had a dark spot on his nose that was getting bigger. It wasn’t until someone blatantly asked him outright, “What’s that thing on your nose??” did he make an appointment to get it checked and see about getting it removed.

At the time, he was a little perturbed as he thought this person was quite rude for making the comment, but his rude remark likely saved his life. The spot on his nose was melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer,  but also the most curable if you catch it early enough.  And thank God my dad’s was caught early, it was Stage I and they were able to completely remove it.

But this kind of cancer isn’t something that just happens to older people. More and more I am hearing of younger and younger people being diagnosed with skin cancer.

Click here to read Kristin Bush’s personal story she shared at OC Family. Kristin is a young mom who was recently diagnosed with melanoma (again caught early, thank God.) And here to read Jenny’s story, diagnosed with melanoma at age 26 with a nine-month-old at home. Gulp. But she has now been melanoma free for 5 years because they caught it early.

Please read those posts I just linked, their information could save your life.

But others that don’t catch melanoma early can risk it spreading to other parts of the body.  In the course of people planning our 20-year high school reunion this summer, classmates were putting together a memorial list of people from our class that had passed away which is how I found out a boy I went to middle school and high school with had died.

I came to find out he had Stage IV melanoma diagnosed when he was only 32 that had spread to his brain. He was only 34-years-old when he died. He was the nicest person, I remember him so well. Devastating. It was his story that inspired me to write this post as a reminder to us all.

So, what should you know?

With detection being the key, EVERY single person should get a full body skin check by a doctor ANNUALLY.

Ladies! When you make your annual PAP appointment, make it a habit to make your yearly derm appointment at the same time.

And when you do your monthly breast self exam, remember to check your skin as well.  It’s important to have your partner also keep an eye on your back, and the areas that you can’t see well.

But if you have a family history of skin cancer (like I do), and/or any other higher risk factors like lots of moles and fair skin, every 6 months is advisable.

Because of my dad’s melanoma and my fair skin and myriad of moles I get checked by a derm every 6 months. I have had probably 20 moles taken off to be biopsied over the last 6 years.  And I tell them to keep taking ANYTHING that looks even slightly suspicious because I would rather have it taken off than chance it being cancer.

Pay attention to your skin and anything that is new or changes!

Skin cancers come in all different shapes and sizes.

Basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers are most often found in areas that gets lots of sun but they can be found anywhere.  Look for new growths, spots, bumps, patches or sores that don’t heal after a couple months.

Basal cell carcinomas can look flat, firm, raised, pink or red, translucent, shiny, waxy or bleed. They can also ooze or crust.

Squamous cell carcinomas may look like growing lumps, often with rough, scaly or crusted surface. They can also be flat reddish patches that grow slowly.

Melanomas are known as the “Ugly Duckling“, or something on your skin that stands out as looking different from other freckles or moles.

Most everyone has normal moles, which are evenly colored brown, tan or black spots on the skin.

You always want to make sure you are watching for CHANGES in a mole in size, shape or color – or a new mole or growth on your skin.

I am sure you have heard the ABCD rules as warning signs of melanoma, but as a reminder, these are things you DON’T want to see in any mole:

A – Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other.
B – Border: Edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
C – Color: Color is not uniform, and may includes shades of brown or black, or possibly patches of pink, red, white or blue.
D – Diameter: Spot is larger than about 1/4 inch (approximately the size of a pencil eraser, although melanomas can also be smaller.

And my recent dermatologist reminded me to also add the “E” to ABCD:

E – Evolution: A new or existing mole or spot that changes size, shape and/or color.

If any of your moles have any one of these descriptions, it’s a good thing to get it checked out.

Other warning signs of possible skin cancer can be:

~ A sore that does not heal
~ Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
~ Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
~ Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness or pain
~ Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a bump or nodule.

And of course, for yourself, and your children, please always remember your broad spectrum SPF when going outdoors. Especially for your kids.  Use a LOT (at least a shot glass full when applying), and reapply OFTEN.  We LOVE this sunscreen by Patrick’s Sunscreen. It’s a chemical-free mineral shield and you can save 10% off your order with the code “ORANGES.”

Most of this information found on Now go make your skin check appointment!

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Dr. Brandie Metz: The Best OC Pediatric Dermatologist

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Recently I had a not-so-great experience at a OC pediatric dermatologist we saw for a skin condition for Emma so I considered it a stroke of brilliant luck when I happened upon Dr. Brandie Metz’s Pediatric Dermatology of Orange County Facebook page when I saw that a friend of mine “liked it.”

After reading her responses to people who posted on her wall, I could tell I already liked her before even “liking” her page!

I emailed my friend if she was happy with her and she wrote back “LOVE her!” which was all I needed to make an appointment.  After visiting Dr. Metz, I now feel so blessed to have found (in my opinion) the best OC pediatric dermatologist and was compelled to pass on her info to you.

Treating newborns to teens, she handles anything having to do with the skin, hair or nails. Newly opened in a brand new facility in Irvine, her office is beautiful.

Her goal in starting her own practice was to create a warm, kid-friendly atmosphere where the patient and parents come first. And from my point of view, this was exactly the experience we had.

From the moment I called to make an appointment, Chris, who answered the phone immediately radiated positive vibes. Probably the friendliest person I have ever talked to at a doctor’s office!

Then when we arrived both Emma and I were treated like VIP’s. Both Chris, who checked us in, and Candace, the medical assistant who got all of our information were just lovely and immediately put us both at ease.

Using iPad’s for check-in, consent forms, and patient information, the office is migrating to a paperless system. I sort of felt like I was in a medical office of the future. Very cool.

However, in her patient rooms, she has a “no computer” policy, meaning that when she is talking to you and your child, she believes in face-to-face conversation. Can you see why we loved her so much?

A mom herself of a four-year-old little girl (mom and daughter pictured above), that fact truly felt made a big difference seeing that she could relate to me as a fellow mom.

Isn’t there just some unspoken bond that exists when you are talking to another mom?

She was so good with Emma. I felt like my daughter’s care and comfort came first. She explained everything to her clearly and spoke to her with respect.

I also appreciated how she spoke and explained things to me too. I think talking to the moms must even be harder than the kids with all of our worries and questions!

She was so incredibly knowledgable and I found out was fellowship trained in pediatric dermatology so treating our little ones is her speciality and passion.

She treats a wide array of skin conditions, from birthmarks, port wine stains, moles, eczema, warts, molluscum, acne, to rashes and more.

And I thought it was fascinating that for treatments that would require a surgical procedure, she does the procedures she can in her office and has a pediatric anesthesiologist come to her office to administer the anesthesia when needed.

She says she finds, especially with children, that being able to do these sorts of procedures in her office versus a hospital makes the children (and parents!) feel more at ease.

I can’t more highly recommend Dr. Brandie Metz and her practice.

I have added her under “Doctors” in my OC Biz Guide if you ever need quick reference to get all of her information and here it is again so you know where to find her!
Follow Peds Derm OC on Facebook *  You can also visit her blog for helpful articles

[Disclosure: Peds Derm OC is a Tiny Oranges Partner.]

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