Self-Medicating for Depression in Teens
Teens who suffer from depression are more likely to also abuse drugs and alcohol. Many do so to self-medicate for their depression, but this only makes the condition worse. It is important to help our teens develop positive ways to handle their depression, and get professional help if necessary.
Symptoms of Depression
A teen with depressive symptoms will show increased moodiness, will want to spend more time alone in their room, will have a difficult time relating to friends and adults, and will show a carelessness for normal activities. Parents should be aware of their teen’s behavior and feelings, and be ready to seek help if necessary. A parent who dismisses warnings as normal teenage behavior may be putting their teen at risk.
Dangers of Drug Abuse
Depressed teens are twice as likely to use illicit drugs as other teens. They use these substances to self-medicate, in an attempt to feel better. But drug abuse can actually make depression worse. Marijuana, a common drug for self-medicating teens, can lead to more serious mental disorders, including anxiety, schizophrenia, and suicide.
There are healthy ways for teens to safely self-medicate for depression at home, without drugs. Eating healthy foods helps stabilize the body and mind. Exercising regularly can improve mood and release positive endorphins. Finding a good friend or adult to confide in can take some of the pressure off. Getting a good night’s sleep can work wonders.
Sometimes, however, self remedies don’t work. A teen that is truly suffering with depression should be taken to get professional help. A doctor might prescribe medication, or psychotherapy, or most likely a combination of both. During treatment, parents should be aware of the treatment regimen, encourage their teen to keep counseling and doctor appointments, and to properly take their medication. It is ok in these instances for parents to step in and be a little more involved, and kind of hold their teen’s hand through the process. Parents must at this time fill the role of rock and defender for their child, while they work to overcome depression. Parents should be responsible for getting their teen help for depression. The teen years can be overwhelming and confusing, and having a stable adult care for them and get them through this time can be a life-saver.
For teens, depression symptoms may get better with treatment, or disappear completely. For other teens, this may be only the beginning of a lifetime of depression. Either way, the most effective thing to do is seek help so symptoms don’t worsen, and so teens don’t desperately turn to substance abuse to manage.
Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment
Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.