DEPRESSION: PHYSIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES IN TEENAGE BOYS AND GIRLS

By the time they hit 15, teenage girls are twice as likely as teenage boys to suffer from depression.

This could be because girls tend to think more negatively, dwelling on social and body image stressors. They’re also more likely to have experienced sexual abuse and other negative events. On a biological level, their hormones fluctuate more and they’re more vulnerable to inflammation.

A group of scientists from the U.K. and the U.S. wanted to understand what was happening in the brains of depressed teenage boys versus depressed teenage girls. They hooked up both depressed and non-depressed boys and girls to fMRI equipment and gave them a task: Press a button when you see a happy word. Don’t press it when you see a sad word. (Such an activity puts something called cognitive control to the test. Impaired cognitive control has been associated with depression.) Then they watched what happened in the subjects’ brains.

To keep it simple, they saw differences between the sexes, specifically in the brain’s supramarginal gyrus (an area thought to be involved in emotional responses) and posterior cingulate (an area associated with control, awareness, and memory). When faced with a cognitive control task, there’s a lot less activation going on for males with depression compared to healthy males–depressed and healthy female brains were relatively similar in that situation.

So what does this new knowledge do for the study of depression? It emphasizes that teenage boys and teenage girls suffering from depression have different things going on in their brains. The way we treat –and try to prevent –the disorder should, therefore, be different.

You Might Also Enjoy...

YOUTH AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

Suicides among teens ages 15-19 are the highest they’ve been since 2000, says a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Here’s a snippet from an NBC analysis of the study: The new study found that in 2017, 6,241 teenagers and adult

HOW TO FALL ASLEEP QUICKLY

This is second in a two-part series about sleep. Click here to read part one. Last week I wrote about how poor sleep can negatively affect your mental health. If you’re thinking, “It’s not my fault, I just can’t fall asleep at night!” then try this metho

HOW POOR SLEEP AFFECTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

I can’t stress this enough: part of managing your mental health includes getting enough sleep. I’ve written about this here before: in my career I’ve seen how poor sleep can lead to suicidal thoughts, memory issues, even weight gain. According to an artic

SOME ADHD MEDS INCREASE RISK OF PSYCHOSIS

New evidence is emerging that some medications for ADHD put teens and young adults at risk for developing psychosis. According to this study of more than 200,000 people ages 13 to 25, one out of 660 people had an episode of psychosis in a few months afte

SUMMER BREAK WITH YOUR HIGH-NEEDS CHILD

As thrilled as kids are with summer break, it can be difficult on parents to muster the same enthusiasm. You’re all out of your routine and it can take time to get used to a new schedule, and get used to each other. If you have a child with developmental

THE NEED FOR MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT IN SCHOOLS

A recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) makes a case for more mental health professionals–including nurses and social workers–in schools. From the report: School counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists are frequently