Feelings of sadness can occur at any time and at any age. According to Psych Central, roughly 10 to 15 percent of children and teenagers are depressed at any particular time.
Although it is not uncommon for individuals at any age to develop mild to severe forms of depression, it is important to seek professional treatment when it persists. For some teenagers, moderate to severe depression can contribute to the temptation to abuse drugs.
Facts About Depression in Teenagers
The National Institute on Mental Health explains that roughly 11 percent of adolescents under 18 years old develop a depressive disorder. Although girls can have a slightly higher risk when compared to boys, depression does occur in both males and females.
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, depression does not always exhibit the same signs and symptoms that are commonly attributed to the disorder in adults. As a result, it may be overlooked as a phase that teenagers are going through.
The signs of depression in adolescents may include:
- Seeming grouchy or moody on a regular basis
- Refusing to go to school or acting sick to avoid school
- Complaining about not feeling well without obvious physical symptoms
- Voicing worries that a parent or loved one may pass away or be hurt
- Behaving inappropriately at school
Although some older teenagers may show signs that are similar to adults or may talk about feelings of sadness or worry, the symptoms of depression may not be obvious at first. Parents and teachers should pay particular attention when a teenager seems to get moody or easily upset for an extended period of time, since it may be a sign of depression.
Depression and Substance Abuse
When a teenager is exhibiting signs of depression, it can be time to seek professional treatment. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that individuals who are diagnosed with major depressive disorders are two to three times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol when compared to the general population.
According to Science Daily, teens may abuse drugs in an attempt to reduce feelings of anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse can compound depressive disorders and make the symptoms of the problem worse over time.
Psych Central reports that teenagers who self-medicate depression with marijuana once a month or more are three times more likely to develop suicidal thoughts. The impact of other drugs can depend on the amount that it is abused and the particular substance, but many substances can make feelings of sadness, worry or other negative emotions worse.
Along with the risks associated with compounding an existing depressive disorder, Science Daily states that substance abuse can actually cause depression or other mental health disorders. Depending on the substance, the exact impact on a teenager’s brain and development can vary.
Preventing Substance Abuse
When a teenager or a child is showing signs of depression, it is important to seek treatment early. According to Duke University, treating depression and depressive disorders before substance abuse starts can actually reduce the risk of addiction and substance abuse in the future.
A study that evaluated the results of treatment for depression in adolescents suggests that only about 10 percent of teenagers who are treated for depressive disorders will abuse drugs in the future, explains Duke University. Of the adolescents in the study, 90 percent of those who responded to treatment for depression did not abuse drugs or alcohol in the future.
By treating depression early, it is possible to prevent teenagers from using drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. Psych Central states that depression is a treatable disorder when it is properly diagnosed. Since teenagers can turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to alleviate the negative emotions and symptoms that are associated with depressive disorders, it is particularly important for a medical professional to diagnose the problem and ensure that treatment is provided.
Risks of Untreated Depression
Teenagers who are not treated for depression can face unexpected risks. Although substance abuse is a common risk, it is not the only potential problem that can arise when depression is not treated.
The risks of untreated depression may include:
- Substance abuse that escalates to addiction
- Suicidal thoughts
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Risk-taking behaviors, particularly after abusing some substances
- Attempted suicide
- Greater risk of developing more severe forms of depression, anxiety or mental health disorders
Depression can contribute to the development of several problems. When it is not treated, it may get worse over time. Some forms of depression will persist for years and may make it harder to avoid substance abuse. In the worst-case scenario, teenagers may attempt to commit suicide or may develop a severe addiction to drugs or alcohol. Attempts to self-medicate can also result in an overdose or severe physical health concerns.
The use of drugs to help alleviate feelings of depression does not only apply to adults. Teenagers can develop depressive disorders and may attempt to alleviate symptoms by taking marijuana, drinking alcohol or abusing other drugs. Even though substance abuse is a risk that can develop when a teenager is depressed, treating the depressive disorder early can reduce the risk of addiction and encourage healthier behaviors. When a teenager is showing symptoms of depression, it may be time to seek professional assistance.
To learn more about teen depression and drug use, give us a call at 877-466-0620. We can provide support if your teen is struggling.