Psychological barriers to antidepressant use in adolescents

by Cohane, Geoffrey H., Ph.D., CLARK UNIVERSITY, 2008, 84 pages; 3334135


This study was designed to test a theoretical model of the psychological barriers to antidepressant use in a sample of 204 high school students. This model was informed by a series of 8 open-ended, qualitative interviews of adolescents around their views of antidepressants. Very little research has addressed adolescent attitudes towards psychotropic medications, and we therefore know very little about what sorts of factors might disincline young people from seeking psychiatric help for problems like depression. The model, created from existing theory and research related to help-seeking, shame, depression etiology beliefs, masculinity, and coping, proposed ten "candidate" barriers presumed to help predict resistance to taking antidepressants. Given the wealth of empirical research demonstrating more negative attitudes towards help-seeking and emotional disclosure in adult men, I was particularly interested in the effects of gender and adherence to masculinity norms on resistance to antidepressant use in our sample of adolescents. In addition, largely because of seminal and widely accepted theories that stress the development of the identity in adolescence, I focused on the psychological meanings—in terms of identity, affect, and development—of antidepressant use. Results demonstrated that the model accounted for over 30% of the variance in resistance to taking antidepressants, and that barriers related to the identity and affect-related meanings of taking antidepressants were the most robust predictors. Notably, masculinity and gender were not significantly correlated with resistance. The results have implications for how adolescents view help-seeking, psychotropic medications, and depression and may ultimately contribute to the development of interventions designed to increase this population's utilization of mental health services.

AdviserMichael E. Addis
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsClinical psychology
Publication Number3334135

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