Is adolescence really a mental illness?

Apr 18, 2007

A study of over five thousand adolescents by the US Food and Drug Administration has determined that treating teenagers with antidepressants like Prozac, Celexa, and Serzone is much more safe than previously thought, and that the long-range benefits outweight the short term side effects, such as suicidal mania. The study was performed using the data from the original studies back in 2004 along with data from eleven other studies that were either unavailable or not considered in the final breakdown. The study just released shows that antidepressants seem to work the best on anxiety disorder and the least on depression itself (which is counter-intuitive, if you think about it). This is what I don't get: During adolescence, when the body is rewiring itself in preparation for the final growth spurt, neurotransmitter and hormone levels are all over the place. Sex hormones that formerly had been in low supply suddenly flood the body, which as anyone who's ever grown up can attest to does strange and scary things to one's mind. As a result, neurotransmitter levels suddenly change, which certainly doesn't help matters any.

Adolescence is a time of mood swings, unexplained outbursts, and doing strange things (from the perspective of outsiders) in an attempt to figure out who and what we are. It's a rough time for everyone, because even though your rational, logical mind is telling you "Hey, this is a normal part of growing up" your feelings are keeping you from taking logic seriously. Adolescence has always been like this; different cultures handle it differently, be it with intense labor, rites of passage, or giving kids a little more leeway than other people to work themselves out. I find it profoundly disturbing that this time of life can now be considered a treatable mental illness.

I've got a question for the parents out there: What are the implications of interfering with the normal process of maturing into a functional adult in American society? What are the potential repercussions?

I also find it unusual that a growing number of states maintain records of who is on which prescription drugs and when for later reference. Pennsylvania and Virginia are just two of the thirty-three, and another fifteen are in the process of setting up such programs. Word of this got out in connection with news about the Virginia Tech shootings a couple of days ago.