How depression in teens can lead to addiction

8:18 AM, May 22, 2018

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is the most common mental health disorder for teenagers in the United States, but it can be hard to quantify what that really means. How common is depression? In 2016, the NIH found, "An estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode."

Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital points out, "For many, behavioral health issues emerge during adolescence and young adulthood, with symptoms often surfacing around this time." Parents and caregivers should know what to look out for as the teens in their lives attempt to navigate these difficult years.

One important step is to recognize when your teen is depressed. A major depressive episode is defined as two or more consecutive weeks in which someone has a depressed mood, loss of interest in normal amusements, and a change in at least four other aspects of the person's lifestyle, including disinterest in eating, lack of energy, trouble sleeping, problems with concentration, or thoughts of suicide or death.

Understanding the causes of depression

There is no one cause of depression in teens. Possible triggers include physical or sexual abuse, bereavement, serious illness, genetics, conflict with family members and substance abuse. On the flip side, feelings of depression may also contribute to some of these factors, which makes determining which came first difficult.

Substance abuse is one of the leading risk factors associated with depression. WebMD estimates, "Nearly 30 percent of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression."

The connection between depression and substance abuse

While depression itself can't cause substance abuse problems, it can lead to emotions and behaviors that teens struggle to control on their own. They may experience any of the following:

  • Sadness
  • Numbness
  • Isolation
  • Food disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Severe stress

Females may experience worse or more symptoms, as the NIH study found, "The prevalence of major depressive episode was higher among adolescent females (19.4 percent) compared to males (6.4 percent)."




Self-medication a contributing factor to substance abuse

Here to Help, a program sponsored by the Canadian Mental Health Association, pointed out that in an effort to control these emotions, teens may act out with "self-medicating" types of behaviors such as "binge drinking on the weekend, over-use of prescription drugs, consuming 'club drugs' at a rave, drinking more than five cups of coffee, and smoking cocaine."

Self-medication behaviors are meant to help dull the negative symptoms the teen is feeling due to physical, mental or emotional stressors.

Once a routine of self-medication is started, the teen is one small step away from descending into a cycle of substance abuse. While the initial effects of the drugs or behaviors may help the teenager deal with his or her symptoms of depression, the symptoms may actually worsen over time, as well as leading to withdrawal symptoms when the teen tries to quit.

Few teens seek proper treatment

The abysmal rate of treatments adolescents receive for major depressive episodes is one of the most concerning statistics revealed by the NIH study. Of those surveyed, over 60 percent received no treatment at all. About 19 percent saw a health care provider while another 19 percent saw a health care professional and received medical treatment.

While possible treatment plans for teens struggling with depression vary, Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital offers a program for adolescents ages 13 to 17 that includes specialized psychiatric care, behavior management, crisis stabilization, physical evaluations, pediatric consults, family counseling and medications.

How to get help

Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital recognizes the importance of educating individuals and their families in recognizing trigger behaviors and giving them the proper tools to be successful in their recovery process.

Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital values the community in which it serves and believes in helping to educate wherever possible. Together, we can grow and thrive and tackle these addictions one step at a time. BBHH understands that the road to recovery can be a long one, however, together, our community will not travel that path alone.

Bakersfield Behavioral Healthcare Hospital does not just provide chemical dependency treatment, it provides CARE.

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