Battling mental illness can make the teenage years especially trying, as conditions like depression impact your relationships, academic performance, and overall wellbeing. Depression causes severe symptoms that can make it hard to enjoy life fully. Unfortunately, that makes teen depression and substance abuse disorders strongly connected, as depression symptoms can cause teens to rely on drugs and alcohol to alleviate uncomfortable, complex, and intense negative emotions.
Teen Depression and Substance Abuse
Depression is a mental health disease that impacts your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Depression occurs when you experience symptoms for at least two consecutive weeks that affect your daily life.
Common symptoms of teen depression include:
- Major changes in appetite
- Crying spells
- Intense feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and/or loneliness
- Anger and irritability
- Engaging in self-harming behavior
- Suicidal thoughts or ideation
While there isn’t a known cause for depression, experiencing a significant life change, such as the death of a loved one, can cause symptoms to intensify or appear for the first time. Moodiness and complaining about physical ailments, such as pain or headaches, are also common signs of depression in teens.
Teen depression and substance abuse are also a common combination. Struggling with depression, especially without treatment, can make drug and alcohol use seem attractive, as psychoactive substances can temporarily relieve depression. Why teen depression and substance abuse are connected is because drugs and alcohol force your brain to release more neurotransmitters than it should.
Mental health conditions like depression are linked to abnormal levels of neurotransmitters, such as depleted serotonin and dopamine levels. That makes teen depression and substance abuse highly destructive, as addiction leads to severe neurotransmitter imbalances.
While everyone experiences sadness, struggling with depression creates intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loneliness that interferes with your daily life. Depression impacts up to 7% of adolescence and 16% of Americans annually, making it one of the most common mental health conditions in the country.
How Depression and Addiction are Treated
Because teen depression and substance abuse are relatively common, as many people struggling with addiction have a co-occurring mental health disorder, dual diagnosis treatment is an essential part of successful recovery. When you have a dual diagnosis, you need to address and manage symptoms of both conditions to recover fully. Worsening depression can intensify cravings and lead to a relapse, while relapsing can undermine your recovery from depression.
During recovery, it takes time for your brain and body to heal from addiction. When you have a co-occurring disorder, this means that early recovery may be more difficult. Withdrawal symptoms, which occur when you quit using after developing a physical dependency, are more severe when you have a dual diagnosis. It’s also common to need medication adjustments during dual diagnosis treatment. Medication changes can take several weeks to take effect, which can make substance abuse recovery more challenging.
Dual diagnosis programs provide you with immediate access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, which ensures that you address your mental health appropriately. Addiction creates changes to your brain chemistry, meaning that depression medications likely need to be changed during recovery.
Another critical way dual diagnosis programs promote recovery is by teaching you how to identify and change negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Cravings are unavoidable during recovery, meaning that learning how to utilize healthy coping strategies is necessary to reduce your risk of relapsing.
Reaching Out for Help Today
Untreated mental health conditions can create disabling symptoms, while substance abuse disorders can make it even more challenging to recover from conditions like depression. Teen depression and substance abuse disorders require treatment, as symptoms will continue to get worse until you get help. If your teen is struggling with a mental health disorder, substance abuse problem, or a co-occurring condition, contact us today at 866.300.5275 to find out more about our programs.