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What Is Teenage Depression?

Research surrounding today’s teens is a cause for concern. Statistically, modern teens are more likely to suffer from depression, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported an increase in average monthly call volume in the first quarter of 2018, with 68,683 calls per month. Teen depression characterized by a persistently depressed mood. It is a serious problem that often accompanies other health disorders, such as substance use disorder or drug dependence. An adolescent drug detox program can help provide targeted treatment and interventions that address any co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders.

Teenage Mental Health Statistics

Mental illness is receiving more national attention as suicide rates rise among different age groups and public interest in normalizing mental health increases. One way to understand this data is by tracking teenage mental health statistics. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, 20% of teens aged 13-18 have an identified mental illness, 13% have a personality disorder, 11% have a conduct disorder, and 8% have anxiety. An alarming 37% of teens who have a mental health condition will drop out of high school, and 70% of the population of the juvenile justice system has a mental illness. Unfortunately, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among youth aged 10-24.

Depression is one of the most prevalent teen mental health issues. Teenage depression statistics indicate that past-year reported episodes of major depression are increasing. SAMHSA data shows that 3.2 million young adults reported a past year episode of depression in 2017, and depression is much more common in females among this subset of the population. Though research shows that this most recent generation is less likely to report illicit drug use in adolescence, the rates of depression and suicide are increasing at a much faster rate than previous generations. These trends should be a cause for alarm for any parent.

Why Is Teen Depression Increasing?

Data from major government organizations, such as the SAMHSA and the CDC, show that teen depression is increasing, but why? One of the most reasonable explanations is social media. Social networks can be a way for teens to interact in a positive way, but it also provides a forum for cyberbullying. With little effort and anonymity, teens can expose secrets and spread false or personally damaging information online.

On a practical level, social media also decreases a teen’s social skills and ability to reason out conflict in person. Without the ability to read body cues or vocal tonality, it can be easier to misconstrue intent or even develop the skills necessary to operate in a social setting, which can be a risk factor for depression.

Finally, social media brings with it the pressure to fit in with the crowd. Since people tend to project themselves in the best possible light, teens might feel inadequate compared to their peers online. Teens are just as vulnerable to this phenomenon as adults, but they may lack the logic or coping skills to deal with these feelings in a healthy way.


Warning Signs of Teen Depression

All teens can be unhappy and moody at times – it is a hallmark of their development. Slamming doors, sudden changes in behavior, and lack of interest in a previously enjoyed activity can all be a part of normal adolescence. For this reason, it can be difficult for parents to determine when their teens are simply “being teens” or struggling with another underlying issue such as depression.

As a general rule of thumb, the symptoms of depression are persistent and will not abate over a few days. If a teen’s unhappiness lasts two weeks or more, it may be a symptom of depression. Additionally, they may show other symptoms of depression:

  • Apathy
  • Complaints of headaches or fatigue
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Decreased academic performance
  • Memory loss
  • Rebellious acts or behavior
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Withdrawal from social group
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Lack of interest in all extracurricular activity

Depression and Substance Use Disorder

Teens who are depressed are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol use. In fact, the National Center on Drug Abuse estimated that 60% of people with a substance use disorder also have a diagnosed mental illness. Since teens brains are still developing, they are more vulnerable to damage from substance abuse in adolescence. Depressive episodes can be powerful triggers for teens, who may turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to numb the pain. On the other hand, the chemical changes the brain goes through in response to substance use can make a teen more vulnerable to depression, so the conditions have a synergistic effect.

How to Help Your Depressed Teen

If you suspect your child is struggling with depression, seek treatment as soon as possible. Keep in mind, however, that some teens may be resistant to the idea of therapy or other treatment, especially if they think others will find out about it. Framing the conversation in a positive way can help facilitate the process, so you teen can get on the way to developing a healthy self-image.

Be Empathetic, but Don’t Problem Solve

When your children are little, it’s second nature to swoop in and solve their problems. Trying to do this with a depressed teen, on the other hand, may backfire. Many parents fail to realize that in trying to be supportive, they can come off as critical. Instead of saying, “What’s wrong with you?” try saying, “you seem like you have been having a hard time lately. Is that true?” Ask how you can help, but don’t try to offer solutions for them.

Accentuate the Positive Things

You might feel disappointed that your child dropped out of honor society or stopped hanging out with a certain friend, but don’t point it out. Instead, make a point to accentuate the positive things your teen is still doing, whether it’s holding down a part time job or juggling an academically rigorous course load. Focusing on the achievements, no matter how small, will help build teen self-esteem.

Seeking Treatment for Teen Drug or Alcohol Dependency

When your family is dealing with a teen drug addiction, further intervention may be necessary. Tailored treatment for teens is essential because their brains are still developing and substance use affects them differently. Here are some general tips for parents of children suffering from drug abuse:

  • Accept that you cannot “parent” a substance use disorder out of your child.
  • Set boundaries to ensure you are providing support without enabling the behavior.
  • Work with your child to find a treatment process that you both can agree with.

Alcohol and drug dependence can have a serious effect on your teen, both physically and emotionally. The sooner you recognize the issue in your child and take steps to intervene, the better their future prospects will be. Remember that teen depression and substance abuse are often related and can co-occur. In fact, teens are more vulnerable to depression when using drugs or alcohol because their brains are still developing.

If your teen is struggling with depression or a suspected substance use disorder, Bright Future Recovery can help. Learn more about our adolescent drug intervention services.

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