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Teen Depression

underage drinking and depression

Underage Drinking and Depression Go Hand in Hand

Underage Drinking and Depression Go Hand in Hand 2560 1707 srtc_admin

Substance use in teens, particularly alcohol use, is increasingly common as factors such as peer pressure, environmental influences, a desire for independence, and trying to cope with emotional issues push teens toward drinking. A 2017 youth risk behavior survey found that among high school students 30% drank some amount of alcohol, 14% binge drank, 6% drove after they had been drinking, and 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking.

While in some cases, drinking can be seen as just a sign of teenage experimentation, research has shown that drinking in teens can be indicative of underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or bi-polar disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 in 10 substance abusers were also found to have a mental disorder. Due to the frequency of these co-occurring disorders, learning about the link between depression and substance abuse and its consequences can help you learn how to best support your daughter who is struggling with these issues.

The link between drinking and substance use and depression in teens

For all people, but particularly for teens with still-developing brains, substance use and depression is a dangerous combination. When teens are struggling with emotional problems, such as depression, they often turn to drinking or drugs as a means of self-medication to alleviate the negative feelings they are experiencing. Teens will most frequently turn to alcohol because it is the easiest to obtain and is more socially acceptable. Even though it’s illegal for them to purchase alcohol, they are often able to get it from older friends, siblings, or even their parent’s liquor cabinets.

Some teens who are struggling with mental health disorders are more likely to drink or use drugs because it can make them feel more comfortable in social situations and inside their own heads. Because drinking is normalized, teens can be more comfortable with this sort of medicating rather than taking prescribed medicines like anti-depressants. Other teens drink or use substances in an effort to cheer themselves up or dull the irritability they feel from depression. If they are offered what seems like an escape from the depressive symptoms and negative thoughts they are experiencing, it can seem like an effective coping mechanism.

In the short term, using substances such as alcohol will appear to alleviate the unwanted negative mental health symptoms of depression and anxiety because they affect the same brain regions that the mental health disorders do. However, in the long run, teens end up feeling even worse than they did when they are not using the substances and this can lead to dangerous outcomes such as suicide, substance abuse or addiction. This is a particular risk for adolescents, who are more likely to develop a serious substance disorder at a much faster rate than adults. For those teens who already have an underlying mental health disorder, the rate of developing an addiction can happen even faster than in other kids. This is so prevalent that at least half of all teens diagnosed with a mental health disorder will end up having a substance abuse disorder as well if they are not treated.

There are many factors that may contribute to a risk of developing these co-occurring disorders. One of the leading factors researchers cite is genetics, as they have found specific gene combinations that are associated with vulnerability to developing both depression and substance abuse. Another leading factor is gender differences. Women are at a higher risk for developing co-occurring disorders, and studies have shown that females who abuse alcohol are 4 times more likely to develop clinical depression. The inverse has also been found to be true, that women are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs as a result of a depressive episode.

Diagnosing these co-occurring disorders can be difficult as many of the signs and symptoms of both disorders are closely related. However, if the standard signs of depression such as a loss of interest and aggravation occurred before the substance use started, the person was likely suffering from depression first. If the symptoms appeared after the initial use of alcohol or drugs, the depression could be a result of the substance use. Check for these symptoms if you worry your daughter could be experiencing these disorders simultaneously:

– Anxiety
– Tiredness or changes in sleeping patterns
– Feelings or expression of guilt
– Changes to eating patterns or appetite
– Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
– Non-specified aches or pains that have no obvious cause
– Deep feelings of sadness or weepiness
– Being irritated or triggered easily
– Self-destructive actions or thoughts

In addition to exacerbating depression episodes and symptoms, developing these co-occurring disorders can have severely negative impacts on teens in other ways.

The challenges that drinking and depression can create for teens

Because the brain is still developing during adolescence, particularly the parts that control decision-making and impulse control, teens have an enhanced vulnerability for not only developing substance disorders and mental health disorders as teenagers but later on in life as well. Early drug use is a strong risk factor for developing substance abuse problems as an adult and it can also be a risk factor for developing other mental illnesses in adulthood. One study found that experiencing a mental health disorder as a teenager can be the catalyst for drug abuse in adulthood, and they suggested that earlier diagnosis of mental health disorders can help reduce this comorbidity. 

There are many additional consequences and challenges associated with early drinking and substance use beyond developing or worsening depression. Underage drinking is commonly linked to increased risky sexual behavior and also increased vulnerability to coerced sex. Teens who drink are more likely to have sex before the age of 16, to have sex while drinking, and to engage in unsafe sex practices after drinking.

Substance use in teens also puts them at risk for engaging in other types of risky behavior and victimization. Instances of risky behavior include theft, driving while intoxicated, running away from home, getting arrested, skipping school, trying to hurt themselves, getting into physical altercations, and vandalizing property.

Alcohol use in teens is also related to physical and academic issues as well. Heavy alcohol consumption in adolescents can delay puberty, slow bone growth, and ultimately result in weaker bones in adulthood. Teens using substances can struggle academically as alcohol damages areas of the brain that are responsible for learning and memory, verbal skills, and visual-spatial cognition. These deficits are also associated with a high drop-out rate, more missed classes, and lower overall grade point averages.

With all of the possible negative consequences of suffering from comorbid conditions of substance use and depression, it’s essential to get teens the help they need right away to prevent lifelong impacts.

How to get treatment for your teen suffering from depression and substance use

Treating the dual diagnosis of addiction and depression can vary from the more traditional route of treating the addiction first and then the depression, to more progressive methods that treat both conditions simultaneously to reduce the risk of relapse in either condition.

For teens especially, it’s important to find treatment that focuses on treating both disorders concurrently to avoid either disorder falling between the cracks. Additionally, teens that have been diagnosed with co-occurring disorders aren’t typically successful in traditional addiction treatment programs like the 12 step recovery model, as the stress they suffer during these programs can be counterproductive to recovery.

Health professionals that aim to treat both conditions at the same time will often use cognitive behavioral therapy in tandem with medication to manage withdrawal symptoms from substances and help manage depressive symptoms. Programs that have been found to be particularly successful for teens are ones that build positive social connections. This can include recovery groups that are designed for teens to play an important role in emotional support and skill-building that helps teens cope with the negative feelings associated with mental illness and substance addiction.

If your teen is experiencing the co-occurring disorders of depression and substance abuse, Solstice RTC can help provide her the care she needs to be successful on her healing journey.

Solstice RTC can help 

Solstice RTC is one of the leading residential treatment centers for adolescents ages 14-17, and we specialize in helping young women on their journey towards healing by utilizing a unique blend of therapeutic techniques based on traditional and holistic treatment methods. We strive to empower teenage women with the ability to believe in themselves and provide the tools and motivation required to instill these beliefs for life.

We treat teen students experiencing a variety of challenges related to past trauma, loss, mood disorders, and addictive behaviors. Your child will be supported by a passionate team of therapeutic experts who have specific training and experience working with trauma, loss, and addiction. For over a decade we have been a proven leader in successfully treating adolescent women struggling with a variety of challenges. For more information on how Solstice RTC could help, please call (866) 278-3345. 

severe depression in teens

Getting Treatment for Depression in Teen Girls

Getting Treatment for Depression in Teen Girls 2560 1707 srtc_admin

While depression can occur in both genders during adolescence, teen girls and assigned female at birth are more than twice as likely to develop depression than their male counterparts. If your child is experiencing depression, it can negatively affect how they thinks, feels, and behaves, and it’s crucial to seek treatment to get their back to feeling like herself.

What depression treatment can look like and where to start

The first step in seeking treatment is getting a depression diagnosis from a mental health professional. If a doctor suspects your teen may be experiencing depression, they will typically do a physical exam, run labs, and perform a psychological evaluation to determine a diagnosis and identify related complications. During this assessment, the doctor may also offer specifiers to clarify which type of depression your child is experiencing, such as anxious distress, melancholic distress, or atypical depression features.

Once a diagnosis has been made, there are many different treatment options that could be recommended based on the severity and type of your child’s depression. One of the most common treatment options for teens with depression is to put them on medication. Medication like Prozac and Lexapro can help to mitigate your daughter’s depressive symptoms, but you’ll want to discuss the possible side effects and pros/cons with your child and their doctor.

If you decide on the medication route, it can take some time and trial and error to find the right medicine and dosage, so encourage your teen not to give up if it’s not helping right away. You also want to make sure you are monitoring your teen’s use of their medications. In order for these medications to work as they are intended, they need to be consistently taken with the correct dosages at the correct times.

Another treatment option instead of, or in tandem with, medication is talk therapy or psychotherapy. These therapy sessions allow your child to talk through their depression and related mental health issues with a mental health professional. Talk therapy is recommended for those looking to learn about depression, how to make changes to unhealthy behaviors or thoughts, how to find better ways to cope, how to regain a sense of happiness and control, and how to ease depressive symptoms.

If medication and therapy haven’t had the positive outcomes you were hoping for, a residential treatment center could provide the all-encompassing and integrative care they needs. These programs, like Solstice RTC, provide a homelike environment that allows your child to focus on their healing journey in a comfortable, safe environment.

Solstice RTC Can Help

Solstice RTC is a leading residential treatment program for young girls and assigned female at birth ages 14-17 that has been specifically designed to help teens struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and relationships by utilizing a unique blend of therapeutic techniques based on traditional and holistic methods.

Your child will be supported by a passionate team of therapeutic experts who have specific training and experience in working with depression, trauma, loss, and addiction. Our goal is to provide them with a nurturing and welcoming environment that allows them the chance to heal from their past and become the best version of themselves. For more information about how Solstice RTC can help your child through their depression please call (866) 278-3345.

emotional struggles in teens

Working Through Emotional Struggles in Teens

Working Through Emotional Struggles in Teens 2560 1707 Solstice RTC

Our culture often portrays teens as moody, dramatic, and difficult to deal with, which can mask deeper emotional and mental struggles that go far beyond the dramatic teen trope. An increasing number of preteens and teens are suffering from a range of emotional and mental struggles such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, behavior problems, low self esteem, and difficulty coping.

A 2019 study discovered that this upward trend is significant with a 52% increase of depressive symptoms in teens from 2005 to 2017 and a 71% increase in those experiencing serious psychological distress from 2008 to 2017. This study also discovered that these trends have had a much larger impact on younger generations which can be in part explained by the increase of electronic communication and social media.

The increased likelihood of teens experiencing emotional struggles in adolescence can have significant long term impacts on their futures, with a 2016 study claiming that suffering from emotional problems in adolescence puts individuals at a higher risk for future joblessness. Adolescents who were highly distressed during their teens years were 26% more likely to be unemployed during early adulthood, irrespective of socio-economic background.

The risk of future success, along with myriad negative impacts on teens during adolescence, signals the importance of learning about common emotional issues in teens, what to look for, and how to help.

Common emotional struggles in teens

When looking at emotional struggles in teens, it’s important to account for gender differences. Before puberty, the prevalence of emotional disorders is about the same for boys and girls and assigned female at birth at about 3-5%, but by adolescence girls and assigned female at birth are twice as likely as boys to be diagnosed with a mood disorder. This disparity has been explained by researchers as differences in the way girls and assigned female at birth process emotional stimuli in the brain. Because girls and assigned female at birth mature faster in terms of emotional recognition, this sensitivity can make them more vulnerable to depression and anxiety during adolescence than their male counterparts.

Teen girls and assigned female at birth experiencing emotional issues and disorders are most likely to be diagnosed with internalized disorders such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. These disorders are expressed within the individuals and reflect troubled emotional states. While this is the umbrella term for emotional struggles, there are many subsequent struggles within the category of internalized disorders.

Anxiety is one of the most likely emotional struggles for adolescent girls and assigned female at birth to experience. It can manifest in many different forms that can cause a range of symptoms for young women. Generalized anxiety disorder refers to the excessive anxiety and worry about daily events or activities, and the intensity, duration, and frequency of this excessive worry is out of proportion to the actual likelihood or effect of the anticipated event. Individuals struggling with generalized anxiety will find it difficult to control their worries and thoughts and are unable to prevent these thoughts from interfering with attention on given tasks.

Another type of anxiety teen could face is social anxiety disorder. This type of anxiety is marked by excessive fear or worries about participating in social situations, causing them to avoid all social activity. Teens can also experience panic disorder, which results in repeated and unexpected panic attacks. These panic attacks are brought up by an intense surge of fear and result in cognitive and physical symptoms such as pounding heart, sweating, trembling or shaking, feelings of choking, nausea, and fear of losing control.

Two other types of common anxiety disorders in teens are obsessive compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. OCD in teens can present as contamination obsessions and cleaning compulsions, repeating symmetry ordering and counting compulsions, or forbidden or taboo thoughts. PTSD can develop following childhood trauma and can result in fear-based reexperiencing of the trauma, anhedonic mood states, negative cognitions, and dissociative symptoms.

Beyond anxiety, another common type of emotional struggle in teen girls and assigned female at birth are mood disorders which include depression, bipolar disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Depression is one of the most common emotional issues teens can experience and is marked by low mood, feelings of hopelessness, a loss of interest in all activities, and increased irritation and aggression. To be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder by a medical professional, symptoms need to persist for a period of at least two weeks.

Bipolar disorder can also occur in teens, and is categorized by distinct periods of abnormally and persistently elevated and expansive moods or irritability and persistently increased activity or energy lasting at least 4 consecutive days. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder can occur in girls and assigned female at birth starting during puberty and is the recurrence of severe changes in affect including mood, irritability, dysphoria, and anxiety during the luteal phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Lastly, adolescent females and assigned female at birth are more likely than other groups to experience eating disorders and self injury or cutting. These disorders can be born out of low self-esteem and negative self-image and may not necessarily be a direct result of depression. These measures are often taken as a dysfunctional coping mechanism to alleviate emotional pain or numbness. If you worry your child could be experiencing any of these emotional conditions, there are many warning signs you can look for.

Warning signs your teens could be experiencing emotional struggles

While each individual emotional struggle teens experience has its own set of symptoms, there are common signs of emotional and mental illness you can be on the lookout for if you worry your teen may be struggling. Common warning signs include:

– Excessive worrying or fear
– Feeling extreme lows and sadness
– Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
– Extreme mood changes including feelings of euphoria and uncontrollable highs
– Prolonged feelings of anger or irritability
– Avoiding activities or hanging out with friends
– Struggling to understand and relate to others
– Changes in sleeping or eating patterns and habits
– Changes in attitudes around sexuality
– Difficulty perceiving reality which could include delusions or hallucinations
– Inability to look inside one’s feeling and perceive changes
– Use or abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs
– Physical pain or ailments without any obvious cause, which could include headaches, stomachaches, and ongoing aches/pains
– Thinking about or talking about self-harm or suicide
– Verbalizing fears about weight gain or concern about appearance.

If your child is exhibiting any of the mentioned symptoms, it’s important to start interventions right away. In addition to the symptoms experienced from the disorders themselves, there are also add-on effects that may cause lifelong issues, such as the study that identified potential employment deficits for those experiencing emotional issues.

Additionally, emotional issues can create negative impacts on academic and social functioning, which will not only put their beyond their peers but can exacerbate anxious and depressive symptoms. For these reasons, it’s essential to identify strategies to help your child through this tough period.

Strategies for helping your child through emotional issues

There are many things you can do as a parent to help your child work through emotional struggles, at the core of which is constantly communicating your love as teens decide how to feel about themselves largely by how their parents react to them. Try these strategies to help your child build strong emotional health:

Support building confidence and self-esteem: Help your child build up their confidence by praising their often and being specific about the praise. Tell their exactly what they does that makes you proud of their and how they contributes to the family system. Make this praise more about who they are and what they does than compliments related to their appearance.

Provide emotional support: Encourage your teens to talk with you about the various emotions they may be experiencing and provide a non-judgmental listening ear and soundboard for them so they feel understood and heard.

Provide a safe environment: Make sure your home is an environment where your child feels safe and loved. Maintain daily and weekly routines so they feel secure and confident about home being a safe space.

Teach resilience: Work with your child on how to make it through tough times. This can include teaching coping skills to manage stress and anxiety, and how to find learning opportunities in setbacks and failures.

Consider therapeutic interventions: There are many effective types of therapies known to benefit teens struggling with anxiety and depression such as cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma focused equine therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy.

If your child is struggling to work through emotional issues, Solstice RTC can provide their the safe and therapeutic space they needs to heal.

Solstice RTC can help your child through emotional struggles

Solstice RTC is one of the leading residential treatment centers for adolescents ages 14-17, and we specialize in helping teens on their journey towards healing by utilizing a unique blend of therapeutic techniques based on traditional and holistic treatment methods. We strive to empower teenage people with the ability to believe in themselves and provide the tools and motivation required to instill these beliefs for life.

We help teen students experiencing a variety of challenges related to past trauma, loss, attachment issues, depression and mood disorders, and low self-esteem. Our approach to change emphasizes student’s strengths within a therapeutic culture where acceptance, chance, and growth are supported and valued. Positive relationships characterized by emotional safety are at the crux of this process. For more information on how Solstice RTC could help, please call (866) 278-3345.