Because teenage depression is one of the factors that can lead to early substance abuse, it is important to learn how to recognize the symptoms of this condition before other issues arise. Teen depression can be difficult to discern, since the teen years are often a time of emotional upheaval for even those that are not suffering from a mental disorder. In addition, the symptoms of depression in teens may look somewhat different than the signs of depression in adults. It is important to know what to look for and determine whether the signs you see are within the realm of “normal” teenage angst or symptoms of a bigger problem.
While there is no way to definitively predict which teens might develop a substance abuse disorder, there are a number of risk factors that considerably increase the likelihood an abuse problem will occur. By understanding these risk factors, parents and others involved in a child’s life can employ effective protective actions to minimize the risk. Below are a few of the common factors that raise the chances substance abuse could become a problem by the time a child becomes a teenager.
The number of college students seeking help for mental illness is on the rise, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. As campuses scramble to provide sufficient services for these students, some students are seeing increases in tuition rates to cover the cost. Despite the spending increases, many schools are still lacking the number of support staff needed based on the size of the campus to handle the students in need. More concerning is the fact that one-third of all schools do not have a psychiatrist on staff at all.
Adolescents experience a lot of stress, more than we may even realize. Stress can come from the natural ups and downs at school because of academic pressure, or via social circles, or from an overwrought family system. For some kids, one thing leads to another, and they find themselves trying to process all of that at the same time. How often are these kids who are struggling in this way, boxed into the at-risk nomenclature? Naming the problem and doing something about it are very different things. Further, if we tell these kids they are at-risk, it evokes a negative connotation. These kids are, in reality, under-served and often ignored.
DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting, albeit powerful psychedelic drug in the tryptamine family. Additionally, the use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), an older class of anti-depressant drugs, has been found to increase the effects of DMT. This chemical structure of DMT has the same or similar chemical structure as the natural neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin found in the brain. Our bodies actually produce DMT, but science hasn’t determined its purpose thus far. It is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan and produced by the same enzyme INMT during the body’s normal metabolism. Some researches have postulated that brain’s production of DMT may be related to the organic cause of some mental illness.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this piece about comedic legend Robin Williams. He was someone that literally touched lives across generations. His comedic value was priceless, and he continued to break barriers throughout his career. Robin Williams also suffered deeply from substance abuse and mental illness, both of which were a common thread through his all-too-short life.
Do you suffer from a fear of happiness?
Now, that may seem like an odd question but it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes, we fear happiness because we don’t think we deserve it, or because we chalk it up to being something for those “other people”—the ones who “have it all” or so we think. A fear of happiness may also be a residual effect of systemic trauma and abuse, which subversively sends us messages to say we don’t deserve happiness. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for someone to feel unworthy of love, joy, serenity, wellness, and safety when they enter recovery. It takes a community of consistent support, via clinicians, peers, and family to be able to transform the attachment to misery.
New trauma and despair is front and center in the US as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting unveiled the deaths of 20 children and 6 adults. The death of children is always shocking. The innocence and futures lost are rapidly exonerated from our grasp, leaving us breathless and frozen in grief. Families will begin to face the emptiness of their loss and the depth of their grief as the days continue. Additionally, the survivors, both children and adults, will potentially suffer from PTSD as a result of seeing and surviving such horrors. There will be deep sadness, depression, and self-doubt. There will be mental-health issues that need to be tended to, whether we like it or not. Remember, grief is a staged process with no specific order or end date.
Sometimes, teen angst is obvious. It’s shows up as truancy, poor grades, and sullen or surly attitudes. But sometimes, it’s subtle, and easily missed by parents desperate to feel their child is doing all right. After reading this remarkable article by Dr. Madeline Levine, I was reminded about the elusive nature of teen angst and the parental actions taken to limit pain, sadness, fear, and frankly, some of the pertinent life experiences which are part and parcel to learning about the human condition. Dr. Levine noted how common this is amongst those more privileged when she states, “It would be a stretch to diagnose these kids as emotionally ill. They don’t have the frazzled, disheveled look of kids who know they are in serious trouble.” In these cases, it takes time to really unravel the problem because the outsides are masked so skillfully. Levine notes this as well, “After a few sessions, sometimes more, the extent of distress among these teenagers becomes apparent. Scratch the surface, and many of them are, in fact, depressed, anxious and angry.” She also notes the fact that it’s the kids requesting help, not always the parents recognizing there might be a problem.