Objective: Earlier studies have suggested that symptoms of depressive disorder in adolescents may differ from those found in adults. Even so, diagnostic criteria developed in adults have come to be widely applied to younger subjects. This study examines the frequency of ICD-10 symptoms in depressive disorder and their association with severity in a large community sample of adolescents aged 15 to 18 years. Method: A six-wave prospective study of adolescent health and emotional wellbeing in 2032 Australian secondary school students provided an opportunity to conduct a two-phase study of adolescent onset depression. A self-administered computerised form of the revised Clinical Interview Schedule (CIS-R) was used as a first phase diagnostic measure. Second phase assessment using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) allowed the delineation of a group fulfilling criteria on both instruments. The ICD-10 symptoms and severity profiles for depression were generated with standard algorithms. Results: 1947 (95.8%) out of 2032 subjects in the designated sample completed phase 1 assessment at least once. Participation rates at phase 2 interviews were 93%. Over the 30-month study period 69 subjects (10 male, 59 female) fulfilled criteria for ICD-10 depressive episodes on both the CIS-R and CIDI. Thirty-one per cent (n = 21) had experienced a severe episode, 46% (n = 32) moderate and 23% (n = 16) mild episodes. Loss of interest and pleasure, decreased energy and fatigue, sleep disturbance, suicidal ideation and diminished concentration most clearly distinguished adolescents with depressive disorder from controls. Self-reproach and guilt, psychomotor agitation and/or retardation and appetite disturbance with weight change showed the clearest increase in frequency with increasing severity of episode. The somatic syndrome was reported by close to one in three of those with a severe depressive episode, but was uncommon in those with mild and moderate episodes. Conclusions: The ICD-10 diagnostic criteria are applicable to depressive disorder in older adolescents. With the exception of depressed mood, found in one in five non-cases, all other symptoms were common in cases and uncommon in non-cases. Practitioner awareness of symptoms indicating the presence and severity of disorder should enhance early identification and choice of treatment in adolescent depression.
- Affective disorder