Express press service
BENGALURU: A recent study in England revealed an increase in prescriptions for depression. Closer to home, anecdotal evidence in Karnataka has revealed that antidepressant prescriptions among adolescents have increased dramatically. The research from the University of Bristol, UK, was published in the Britain Journal of General Practice.
Doctors and mental health experts in Karnataka say the number of teenagers and young adults aged 10 to 24 suffering from anxiety and depression has doubled, and the use of drugs to combat these conditions has also increased.
Dr. Mahesh Gowda, psychiatrist and director of Spandana Healthcare, says: “The number of teenagers and young adults needing prescriptions for depression and anxiety has doubled. Post-Covid psychological presentations have increased dramatically, with many wishing for quick relief and speedy recovery. Prescription medications, if clients have medical indications, are important to ensure that they recover faster. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed and withdrawn once they feel better.
Explaining that the incidence of mental disorders in this age group in India has risen from 7% to 14% post-Covid, Dr Preethi Galgali, consultant, pediatrician and adolescent health specialist, Nimhans, says the increase is due to various stressors they face. Immaturity in terms of brain development to adequately manage these stressors, and the absence of family and support systems compounded the problems, she adds.
“In addition to socio-economic reasons and academic pressure, Covid itself causes brain inflammation and a decrease in neurotransmitters like serotonin, which help stabilize mood. Many teenagers are trying to cope with Long Covid Syndrome…for example, type 2 diabetes mellitus, sleep problems, etc. Additionally, unhealthy eating habits during the pandemic have led to obesity and resulted in body image issues and depression,” Dr. Preeti said. Explain.
She says many have returned to school and college and have seen a major shift in peer equations due to the lack of social interactions during the pandemic. However, not everyone is put on medication. Dr. Raghu J, HoD and Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases Specialist, Sakra World Hospital, explains that treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy (or “talking therapy”) and when that does not work, people SSRIs such as fluoxetine or escitalopram are introduced for anxiety-related conditions in adolescents.
Explaining that it is sometimes important to prescribe these drugs if there are medical indications which otherwise can lead to severe depression and also suicide, Dr. Pallavi Joshi, Consultant, Psychiatrist, Manipal Hospitals generally states that antidepressants and mood stabilizers help them sleep, and sometimes medication is needed to disengage them from addictions. However, doctors warn that drugs should not be bought without a prescription or prescribed unnecessarily without proper assessment.