Teen drug use and depression sometimes go hand-in-hand. Some individuals may turn to drugs in order to “self-medicate” feelings of depression. Drugs often provide a powerful feeling of euphoria, well-being or razor-sharp focus. Unfortunately, once these temporary effects wear off, the depression symptoms are often felt more strongly than ever. This leads to a vicious cycle of psychological (and possibly physical) drug dependence as a person attempts to diminish or self-manage feelings of depression.
But teens generally abuse the substances that are easiest for them to get, and for many teens it’s easier to drink their parent’s alcohol than to experiment with drugs. Alcohol numbs the feelings of depression for a short while, providing temporary relief. However, alcohol is a depressant, and its use is never a healthy or long-term solution for depression. In fact, it is illegal for minors to possess or drink alcohol, and Texas drinking and driving laws crack down on its use via sobriety checkpoints.
Very few kids make it through their school years without passing through some period of feeling sad and blue. But clinical, also known as major, depression is more than childhood or adolescent angst. It is more than feeling down because a friendship has ended or family difficulties have arisen.
During adolescence hormones flood rapidly developing bodies, with teenagers struggling to manage new emotions and experiences. Parents, too, may be taken aback by their teens’ new appearance and what seems like extreme swings in mood. Over half of teens experience depressed mood, and between eight and 10 percent with symptoms meeting criteria for clinical depression. If left untreated, depression can have a widespread effect on a teen’s development, impacting cognitive and social growth, as well as relationships and academic achievement. In addition, depression in adolescence is a reliable predictor for recurring symptoms that can appear in adulthood.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention somewhere between 5-10 percent of adolescents in this country struggle with depression, and around 25 percent experience anxiety as a mental health concern. Some causes behind these conditions are not easily remedied, but a recent review of studies shows that at least one risk factor could be reduced.
Often, the sooner someone speaks up about something that is bothering him or her, the better. Thoughts don’t have time to brew, become distorted, and get out of control. The same is true for fighting the power that a mental illness can have over the mind. The sooner the mental illness is diagnosed and treated, the better.
While many of us may talk about feeling depressed, what we often mean is that we are not as ‘up’ as usual. True depression is a lot more than feeling a little bit blue. When depression strikes teens it can affect nearly everything in their lives: how they are able to perform at school; parent/child relations; straining existing friendships and making it tough to forge all-important adolescent friendships.
Recovery time for mental illness depends on social factors, genetics, concurrent disorders and the type of treatment a patient is undergoing. The Treatment of Adolescents with Depression Study, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, stresses that adolescents with major depression should have long-term treatment in order to fully recover.
Adolescent boys are learning how to be men. They receive many clues as to how this should look from television, movies, books, friends and, hopefully, from their dads. One clear message boys get is that men need to be strong. Adolescent boys struggling with depression are particularly hesitant to confront their problem because for many it represents a failure to live up to the expectation of manhood. This can make detecting depression in a teenage boy a bit of game of hide and seek.
A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry in September 2013 shows that children at “double-risk” for depression experience positive results from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT.) The study followed 316 teenagers with a history of depressive symptoms, who also have at least one parent with current or past depression. The results of the study show that those teenagers who underwent a series of group CBT sessions known as cognitive behavioral prevention (CBP) were less likely to experience depressive symptoms or depressive episodes later on.