Teen Depression & Addiction: What are the Warning Signs?

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We’re all adults, and by now, we’ve already experienced all kinds of life situations. We’ve lived through the highs and lows of friendships and relationships, moved to brand new towns with completely new people, experienced peer pressure, and have lost loved ones. With that being said, we’ve gone through emotions ranging from joy, happiness and excitement, to anxiousness, stress and even depression.

To us, the signs of depression are usually pretty obvious. We notice ourselves feeling dissatisfied, unmotivated, fatigue and… off. We’ve likely experienced depression before, so we can easily recognize these signs and address the problem by seeking support before our feelings become destructive to our wellbeing.

But depression in teens often looks very different from how it looks in adults. As parents and guardians, we often dismiss the warning signs in our teens, thinking that our kids are just being moody or having that typical teenage attitude. Unfortunately, overlooking depression could actually make it more difficult for our teens, who may not understand what’s going on or why they aren’t feeling like themselves.

What are the signs of teen depression?

Addressing concerns about our teens’ odd behavior can be nerve wrecking, unpredictable and even scary. We often have no idea what’s really bothering them and we wonder if it’s better to instead, give them space. After all, space is what they need… right?

Before you make that assumption, let’s look at some of the most common signs of teen depression.

Signs of teen depression:

  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of family members and friends
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • A drop in school attendance
  • Falling grades
  • Defiant behaviors

Now that we understand a little more about teen depression, we can move on to the next concern, teen addiction.

What does depression have anything to do with addiction?

Recreational use can seem like typical behavior for teens in social situations, like hanging out at a party or with a group of friends. But the risk of addiction becomes more of a concern when our kids begin using substances to help themselves feel more socially comfortable and accepted, and to temporarily escape their feelings.

In other words, there’s a link between depression and addiction.

Why are teens more susceptible to addiction?

Let’s take a scientific look at this. The teenage brain is actually more susceptible to addiction because it’s still developing. In fact, development of the brain isn’t complete until a person reaches around the age of 25! This is why learning and retaining new information is easier when we’re younger. As scary as it sounds, addiction is a form of learning because it plays into the reward system in our brain. So, repeated exposure to a substance continues to light up the teen’s reward system, while the part of their brain responsible for judgment and decision making hasn’t fully formed yet!

Next, we can examine the common signs of substance use in teens.

Signs of teen substance abuse:

  • Unexplained weight change
  • Altered sleeping habits or being awake at unusual times
  • Unusual hyperactivity or extreme fatigue
  • Changes in friends and social activities
  • Secretive behaviors
  • Moodiness or irritability

If the signs of depression or substance abuse seem familiar in your teen, it’s probably to reach out for help.

How can we help our teens with depression and addiction?

As parents, we want our kids to consider us as approachable and easy to talk to, but unfortunately, that’s not always the reality. For teens, having a comfortable place and a professional therapist to talk to without judgement can help our teens feel accepted as they are, and allow them to determine their own goals. By sitting down and talking with a psychotherapist, teens can receive the tools needed to manage their depression and temptations to use substances.

What can we expect from therapy?

Rachel Clary, a therapist experienced with helping teens suffering from depression and addiction, provides patients with an environment that is open, compassionate and focused on the individual’s unique strengths. She passionately develops trustful relationship with her clients, saying, “Witnessing individual transformations has continually impressed me.”

Rachel helps teens by understanding what actually motivates them to use, and the expectations they have for using a substance. After identifying these factors, she determines what function the substance use is performing in their lives. Rachel can then allow them to develop their already existing strengths in order to work toward self discovery, improved decision making and emotional wellness.

Helping our teens through difficult times is easier said than done, but with therapy, they can be lead through a true healing process that helps them achieve the mental wellness and emotional freedom that they deserve.

To schedule an appointment at Partners in Health and Wellbeing call (302) 655-2627 or request an appointment online. You can also learn more about our therapists and services by visiting our website here.