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Teen Depression and Drug Abuse

Depression is more than a deep sadness — it is a diagnosable mental illness that affects millions of teenagers every year. Especially when coupled with substance addiction, depression can devastate your child’s life.

Mother comforting her depressed daughter

What Is Teen Depression?

Depression is one of the most common teen mental disorders. In fact, about 13% of adolescents have suffered a major depressive episode within the past year.

While it’s normal to feel down from time to time — especially during the emotional turmoil of adolescence — depression reaches beyond typical teenage mood swings, and persists for at least two weeks. People with this mental illness often feel empty, isolated and despondent, as if life is a hopeless cause. Activities that once brought them joy — such as sports or time with friends — can feel tiresome.

Depressive episodes can strike anyone, but adolescents with any of the following risk factors develop depression more frequently than their peers:

  • Family history of depression
  • Challenging home environment
  • Low self-esteem due to academic struggles or bullying
  • Chronic health issues, such as diabetes, obesity or cancer
  • History of trauma from divorce, parental absence or the death of a loved one

Watch for these signs of depression in your teen:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Frequent crying
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of interest in hobbies
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • New use of alcohol or drugs

If your teen develops depression, the illness can linger indefinitely unless treated. An extended depressive episode opens the door to all sorts of secondary problems, including teen addiction.

How Depression and Addiction Interact

Depressed teen sitting on the floorWhen depression persists for months on end, chemical changes take hold deep inside the brain and impact your child’s ability to make good decisions. Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse determined that teens living with depression tend to act on impulse rather than thinking through the consequences. This kind of rash decision-making can lead to drug and alcohol use, as teens with depression cannot adequately weigh the risks of substance abuse. Consequently, there is a very high percentage of people who suffer from the comorbid disorders depression and addiction.

Despite the fact that alcohol and drugs may provide temporary numbness from reality, they ultimately exacerbate the pain of depression. Teens with a substance abuse disorder exhibit more severe symptoms of depression than teens who do not drink or do drugs. It seems that drug and alcohol abuse causes even further damage to an already impaired brain.

For example, when alcohol is abused to manage the pain of depression, it slows down mental abilities and functioning. This inappropriate self-medicating tactic can invite depression in some teens. Once addiction takes hold and your teen realizes that they’ve lost control of their substance use behaviors, they may grow even more depressed. So they turn back to the drugs to numb their pain. Thus, a cycle of addiction and depression is born.

Does Your Child Need Rehab for Depression and Addiction?

Sad teenager sitting and thinking.

Your teen likely needs professional support to break the cycle of depression and drug abuse. You may wonder how therapy helps in the treatment of depression. Medication (including antidepressants like Zoloft and Prozac) often prove helpful, but our philosophy at Next Generation Village delves much deeper. We aim to reach the heart of your child’s problems and heal their suffering from the inside out.

We provide expert co-occurring disorder treatment at our sunny, lakeside Florida rehab center. Our combination of evidence-based and traditional therapies has proven effective for teens who struggle with co-occurring mental illness and addiction. Parents often seek residential treatment centers for co-occurring disorders since both illnesses can be profoundly destructive in their own right. However, every teen is unique, and only a qualified mental health professional can determine the level of therapy that is needed.

At Next Generation Village, our team of addiction specialists can help evaluate your child through an addiction assessment, and guide you towards the right therapy option. Our confidential support is always free and without obligation. Your teenager needs you now more than ever — begin their journey back to health today by getting in touch with us.

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