The experience of receiving a diagnosis of depression in adolescence: A pilot qualitative study in Brazil

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Clinical child psychology and psychiatry




Major depressive disorder; adolescence; lived experience; psychiatric diagnosis; qualitative methodology


Receiving a diagnosis of depression can have an important impact on the lives of adolescents. However, there is limited information about how youth tackle, attribute meaning to and understand mental health diagnoses. The aim of this study was to explore adolescents' initial reactions after receiving a clinical diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder in the context of a neurobiological study of depression in Brazil. Using a qualitative design, eight Brazilian adolescents were interviewed twice: immediately after a psychiatric assessment and neuroimaging study, in which they were given a diagnosis of depression, and in a follow-up visit 2 weeks later. Interviews were designed to explore the subjective experience of receiving the diagnosis and the impacts of depression on adolescents' lives. Framework Analysis was used to analyze the accounts. Diagnosis was perceived as a reification of an abnormal status, highlighting the role of stigma and the process of disclosing the diagnosis to others. Adolescents reported the multiple sensemaking processes that occurred when they received a diagnosis of depression, and most struggled with the idea that negative emotions would equate their experience with a disorder. The results show that future efforts could enhance clinical assessment processes with adolescents by exploring adolescents' reactions to diagnosis, as well as the support networks available to them, resulting in increased help-seeking behaviors, and diminished social and personal stigma.


Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences