You Asked: Depression - Thyroid or Hormonal Changes?

A reader wants to know if depression could be caused by undetected thyroid or hormonal changes. The short answer is yes. Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland), hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), and adrenal insufficiency (a dysfunctional adrenal gland) are hormone disorders that can cause symptoms of depression. These illnesses can be detected by simple tests performed by your child's pediatrician.

Other medical conditions that may be associated with depressive symptoms include metabolic illness, anemia, seizure disorder, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, Addison's disease, post-concussion, tuberculosis, diabetes, brain tumor, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Medications that can cause depression include antihypertensives, barbituates, corticosteroids, oral contraceptives, and albuterol. Green-Hernandez, C., Singleton, J. K., & Aronzon, D.Z. (2001). Primary care pediatrics. Philadephia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, pg 314.

Hormonal changes at puberty have been linked to an increase in depression in adolescents as compared to children. There is little difference in the rates of depression between boys and girls prior to puberty, but among teenagers, twice as many girls as boys become depressed. It is unclear why there is such a significant gender difference. Many research studies show inconsistent results for hormone levels, early or late onset of puberty, psychosocial differences, and body image issues as possible causes. One explanation could be that hormonal changes only affect girls with a genetic predisposition for depression. Gotlib, I. H. & Hammen, C. L. (Eds.),2008. Handbook of depression (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press, pgs 388-389.

Teens Don't Twitter, Facebook Still Rules

Mashable reports that only 16% of those under 25 use Twitter. (This rather high age-range for teenagers is one many parents of young adults can easily agree with!) Their report comes via a Nielsen survey which notes that the Twitter trend remains largely an adult phenomenon. This is good news for parents still trying to catch-up on their teen's texting, MySpace, and Facebook communication. As Nielsen reports elsewhere, 83% of teen cell-phones users are texting, and nearly half of ages 12-17 visited MySpace and Facebook in one month (May 2009).

My design for Twitter's "over capacity" screen

So why aren't teens joining their elders on Twitter? According to one 17-year-old's comment:
I think it's just because we're more into things like MySpace and FaceBook. They have more to do, so most teens probably get bored by twitter because they'll see it simply as updating their status, which they can do on other social networking sites, as well as loads of other things - such as photo albums and quizzes/games and commenting on each others walls.
Sixteen-year-old TechCrunch blogger, Daniel Brusilovsky, explains Why Teens Aren’t Using Twitter: It Doesn’t Feel Safe. He also provides a more targeted Twitter statistic for users ages 12-17 (11.3%).

In the meantime, parents still worry about how to protect their teen's safety and privacy on social networking sites. One way is for parents to sign-up for Facebook and "friend" their teen to gain access to his or her profile page. For this and other Facebook tips, see Lisa Belkin's Facebook for Parents - Motherlode Blog -

On the other hand, Teen Checkup's Sarah Newton discusses the cons of spying on your child online - Teens and Tracking Their Online Activity. She makes some good points about parental anxiety and trusting your child. Nonetheless, some basic safety steps seem warranted to me.

Here's a great place to start - NetSmartz411: Internet Safety Helpdesk