The younger a girl is when she gets her period, the more likely she is to show symptoms of depression and antisocial behavior. That association lingers into adulthood, a new study finds, with grown women who started their periods early staying more depressed than their peers.
Parents and health care providers, be vigilant. If your daughter or patient seems moody or down on herself, don’t write it off as normal for her age. Here’s what the study lead had to say:
“It can be very easy for people to dismiss the emotional challenges that come along with growing up as a girl, and say, ‘Oh, it’s just that age; it’s what everyone goes through. But not everyone goes through it, and it’s not just ‘that age.’ And it’s not trivial. It puts these girls on a path from which it is hard to deviate.”
If your daughter goes through puberty early — and these days a third of girls have entered puberty by the age of 8 — watch her especially closely. Talk to her about how she’s feeling. Listen well. Help her to feel safe talking to you. Make sure her primary care provider screens her for depression at her annual check up.
Signs of depression to watch for include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
- Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
- Changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
- Changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
- Changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
- Having a hard time paying attention
- Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
- Self-injury and self-destructive behavior
Our children shouldn’t have to deal with depression alone. Professionals can help. We don’t just throw pills at any sign of a problem, either. There are so many ways to take care of mental health, and we use all of them thoughtfully.
If you think your child might be struggling with depression, reach out for help. You will set them up for a better life.
Go here to read more about the connection between early puberty and psychological problems.