Choosing the Right Teen Depression Treatment Program

Surveys show that depression remains underdiagnosed among teenagers alone as over 3.2 million experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017, compared to just about 2 million a decade earlier. While the data suggests that these episodes are more common in girls than boys, neither received as much treatment as they should, with only 45 percent of teenage girls and 33 percent of teenage boys getting help for their symptoms.

Major depressive disorder has been diagnosed in over 1.9 million children between the ages of 3 and 17, and depression and anxiety remain the two most diagnosed mental health disorders in the United States. Treatment for these disorders has come a long way, yet many remain confused about how to address depression at home and where to seek help. Teen depression can sometimes be mistaken for normal behavior, while in other cases, grief or typical sadness are mistaken for depression. Understanding how these conditions manifest and what sets them apart is important.

Understanding Teen Depression

Depressive disorders count as mood disorders caused or influenced by a wide variety of risk factors and potential co-occurring conditions. External and internal factors each play a significant role in mood regulation and motivation. They may contribute to the development of depression, from internal processes that affect how certain neurotransmitters are released and received to the long-term mental and neurological effects of chronic stress or sudden trauma. The defining characteristics of teen depression are a sudden loss of interest in old friends and hobbies, usually accompanied by a recurring or constant:

    • Sadness
    • Lack of energy
    • Lack of motivation
    • And physical symptoms (nagging aches, pains, and restlessness)

One of the hallmarks of teen depression is overwhelming irritability, more so than normal and more often than in adults. Teens who are depressed may suddenly become disinterested, but also more defiant and disrespectful, and unmanageably gloomy. Parents might expect a drop in academic performance, and while this is true for some cases, in other cases, the pressure to perform may fuel a teen’s depression. They may continue to perform well at school (physically and/or virtually) while feeling miserable.

Types of Teen Depression

Depressive disorders come in many shapes and sizes depending on the severity and origin of the depression and assorted symptoms. Teen depression can also be a symptom of other conditions, such as hypothyroidism or substance use disorder. These examples of secondary depression are not listed below. Furthermore, other rarer types of teen depression may also be diagnosed and are not listed.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Major depressive disorder (MDD), also referred to as major depression and clinical depression, is the most diagnosed type of teen depression. This is a mental health disorder diagnosed in cases where a person displays consistently low mood and other symptoms of depression without an apparent preexisting psychiatric or medical cause for longer than two weeks. Symptoms can range in severity from struggling to feel joy to regularly experiencing suicidal ideation.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD), also referred to as dysthymia, is a milder form of depression that lasts at least two years and can last a lifetime.

Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression, also referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is characterized by symptoms being tied to a season, usually the winter, but sometimes the warmer months. Seasonal depression comes and goes, and teen depression treatment is unique in that it might address issues such as lack of natural sunlight via UV light therapy. Sometimes, seasonal depression is tied to the stress that comes from a hectic seasonal job or the financial and social strain of the holidays.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic depression, is a mood disorder characterized by depression and/or mania symptoms. Different types of bipolar disorder exist depending on the severity of either depressive or manic symptoms. In some cases, mania can present itself without depression. While juxtaposed to depression, mania is not “happiness” – instead, it is a state of mental and sometimes physical hyperactivity that may be accompanied by dangerous thoughts, delusions, and insomnia. Social anxiety is also a commonly co-occurring issue.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is tied to a teen’s menstrual cycle, with symptoms commonly occurring during a teen’s late luteal phase and usually the last one to two weeks. PMDD is recurring and is sometimes characterized as a very severe variant of PMS.

If you or your loved one struggles with low thoughts, low motivation, mood swings, and other signs of depression, be sure to contact a medical professional.

Recognizing Teen Depression

Symptoms of teen depression differ from disorder to disorder. They may sometimes be difficult to recognize due to their similarities with common tropes of teenage behavior and their differences in adult depressive symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms of teenage depression include:

    • High irritability
    • Low self-esteem
    • Unexplained pain
    • Problems with concentration
    • Withdrawal from friends and social contact
    • Loss of appetite or starkly increased appetite
    • Loss of interest in old hobbies and no new ones
    • Frequently expressing feelings of worthlessness
    • Lethargy despite sleeping enough (cannot get out of bed)

Risk Factors for Teen Depression

Depression can occur for multiple reasons across the entire biopsychosocial spectrum. This means that one’s genetics, environment, personal experiences, and thresholds for trauma all play a role in how, when, and whether depressive symptoms develop. Some risk factors include:

    • Substance use
    • Genetic factors
    • Chronic stressors
    • Traumatic experiences
    • Poor familial relationships
    • Victimization online or at school
    • Loss of a loved one or close friend
    • Socioeconomic circumstances (poverty)
    • Negative norms (violence, drug use among peers, competitiveness, and bullying)

Some types of depression are primarily tied to hormones, while others are largely neurological, tied to changes in the brain after trauma, or tied to recurring stressors. Sometimes, it is a little bit of everything. This can make identifying crucial risk factors difficult, which is why finding the right treatment can take time. Employing as many protective factors as possible is also important. Protective factors may lower the risk and help play a role in teen depression treatment. They include:

    • Nutrition
    • Physical activity
    • Familial relationships
    • Developing healthy coping skills
    • Positive norms (cooperative and nurturing environment)
    • Healthier social connections (friendships) and interactions
    • Access to better mental healthcare and healthcare resources

When, Where, and How to Seek Teen Depression Treatment

Treatments for teen addiction center around a combination of talk therapy and pharmacology. The most common and effective medical treatment for depression is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), although alternative antidepressants may be prescribed when multiple SSRIs fail. Some types of depression can only be treated by addressing the underlying condition.

In contrast, others cannot be successfully treated without addressing the co-occurring condition. Alternatives to antidepressants may also play a role in depression treatment, now and in the future. These include off-label treatments such as ketamine, and non-pharmacological options such as transcranial magnetic stimulation.

In nearly all cases of teen depression treatment, long-term CBT-based talk therapy is a central part of the plan and process. Teens with co-occurring disorders may be better treated through residential programs that help immerse them in a healing environment along with other teens. It may take time before you can find the right approach for your teen, which is why helping them create a strong support network is also important.

Anxiety Depression Holidays

Helping Your Teen Navigate Holiday Depression and Anxiety

While we usually consider the holiday season a time for joy and cheer, that feeling is not universal. Among people with mental health issues, over half (64 percent) report that the holiday season negatively impacts their condition, with 40 percent reporting that they feel somewhat worse and nearly a quarter (24 percent) reporting feeling much worse. One respondent in a survey for the National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that the “holiday season beams a spotlight on everything difficult about living with depression.”

While millions of Americans are doing their best to find the right time and space to spend with their family, the looming threat and ongoing destruction caused by COVID-19 further weighs on people’s hearts, raising anxieties about seeing friends and loved ones, and reopening fresh wounds caused by the loss of family members. There’s also seasonal/holiday depression, which affects up to 20 percent of people with major depressive disorder (MDD) and worsens depression during the winter months.

If you feel that your family, and especially your teen, are taking things quite hard during this year’s holiday season, then know that you are not alone. Millions of Americans are in mourning this year. The financial impact of a pandemic only further heightens anxieties around finances and finding work, not to mention the pain of missing family during one of the most important social occasions of the year. Understanding how the holidays might affect your teen and make them feel can help you identify the best way to help them.

Understanding the Highs and Lows of Holiday Depression

Seasonal/holiday depression, also referred to as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a mental health condition that affects about 3 percent of the general population. Between 10 and 20 percent of people are affected by MDD, and nearly 25 percent of people are affected by bipolar disorder. Seasonal/holiday depression is a mood disorder characterized by symptoms of depression, especially during the winter months, usually tied to a combination of factors including:

    • Everyday holiday stressors around family.
    • The pressure to be social.
    • Financial stress.
    • Drastically lowered levels of daylight, which can affect the brain and induce a negative mood.

Only about 10 percent of people with seasonal/holiday depression experience symptoms during the spring and summer months, rather than the fall and winter months. Seasonal/holiday depression should not be confused with the winter blues, a separate phenomenon involving a mild dip in mood during the holidays. People with seasonal/holiday depression experience more severe symptoms, including:

    • A marked decrease in self-esteem.
    • Noticeable signs of hypersomnia (excessive sleep).
    • Intense cravings.
    • Rapid weight gain.

While the causes are not entirely laid out, research indicates that the holiday season’s stressors may be exacerbated in some people by disrupted body clocks (circadian rhythm issues) and a lack of sunlight leading to lower production and release of important mood controlling neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin.

If your teen’s mood dips severely over the holidays, then know that their low mood and irritability might not just be in response to recent events but also the winter months’ general effect. Certain protective factors and condition-specific treatments (like light therapy, utilizing artificial UV light) may help them cope better. Unlike the winter blues, seasonal/holiday depression must be diagnosed and treated by a professional.

An Especially Difficult Year

Regardless of whether your teen’s mood is significantly impacted by holiday stressors and a different day-and-night cycle, no one would argue against the fact that this year is filled with extraordinary circumstances. We could all stand to have a little more support during this challenging year.

While some of us might be keen to see it end and are eagerly looking forward to celebrating the coming of a new year and new opportunities, others reflect on the past 12 months’ events with sorrow and pain. Your teen might be reminded of a close friend or relative’s death whenever they feel the “holiday spirit,” or they think your stress from months and months of anxiety and back-to-back bad news, and it is wearing on them as well.

It takes time to recover from loss and pain, in any shape or form. But if the holidays serve up a final stinger rather than a soothing balsam, acting together could help you and your teen find some peace and make the best of things. Here are a few tips for seeking emotional stability and overcoming low moods during these next few months.

Establishing and Maintaining a Healthy Routine

The holidays can feel massively disrupting for many, especially for teens who rely on a steady routine to keep their feet on the ground and manage feelings of anxiety or loneliness. Maintaining a healthy routine even throughout the holidays might feel like it is not doing a special occasion any justice, but it may help your teen feel stable. Elements of a healthy routine might include:

    • An hour or two of exercise.
    • Limited screen time.
    • Working on a project individually or together (like fixing up an old car, learning to cook new meals, finishing a book, or practicing an instrument).
    • Continuing to work or study (or find an equivalent activity).

Having Things to Look Forward To

For many teens who are feeling down during the holidays, these next few weeks might serve mainly as a reminder of what could have been or of the sorrowful events that had come to pass in weeks prior. Having something to look forward to can help serve as a reminder to move on or focus and be grateful for future opportunities. The next date with a friend, a new graduation day, the first day of a new life at school, or even just the new year and what it might bring. Holding onto the hope of something better is essential.

Making a Difference Over the Holidays

The holidays aren’t just a time for gift-receiving – they’re also a time for gift-giving, and sometimes, that gift doesn’t need to be a new phone or a fancy necklace. If your teen is feeling down, helping those in need during the winter months (and during a pandemic) can help them reap the benefits of kindness and gratitude. There are many ways to help, from donating unwanted old clothes to volunteering at kitchens and handing out supplies. See what is being organized in your local neighborhood and pitch in with your teen any way you can.

Warning Signs and Getting Help

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to help your teen is getting them the help they need. Suppose your teen has been making frequent references to self-harm and suicide, has changed drastically in terms of personality and interests, has become entirely recluse and intensely irritable, and is generally unresponsive to all attempts to help reincorporate them into family life. In that case, it might be best to call a professional and ask for help. Convincing your teen to come to see a specialist might be difficult, but they may also be waiting for you to take notice and offer serious help as their thoughts and behavior spiral towards depression.


What Is Situational Depression? What Parents Should Know

Situational depression is another term for a type of adjustment disorder wherein a person develops short-term depressive symptoms, usually in response to overwhelming stress. Adjustment disorders are characterized by behaviors and symptoms that require treatment in response to stressors within everyday human experience and are not necessarily exceptional or “traumatic,” such as a breakup, divorcing parents, struggling at school, or losing a loved one due to natural causes.

What is and is not traumatic remains relative. Still, the main distinction between something like an adjustment disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, is the magnitude and intensity of the causal experience(s). Situational depression, and by extension, other adjustment disorders are especially relevant now. Research shows us that anxiety and depression symptoms are still climbing among teens, and we’ve seen a spike in mental health concerns this year.

A recent poll shows that teens most often cited thoughts about the future, increasing loneliness, concerns about the world, and the inability to hang out with friends as primary causes of anxiety and depressive thinking. Between the ongoing pandemic and continued political polarization, the world has become a scarier place for many teens.

Understanding the difference between mood disorders, like major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, and adjustment disorders, like situational depression, is essential. These conditions progress differently, may be treated differently, and have different and distinct causes.

Situational Depression Is Not a “Mood Disorder”

Mood disorders are a family of psychiatric conditions related to mood regulation, closely tied to symptoms of depression (exceptionally low mood) and mania (exceptionally high mood). Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common mood disorder and is also known as clinical depression.

When someone is diagnosed with MDD, they struggle with the condition that affects how their brain regulates their mood in the long-term. The causes behind this kind of depression can include external factors such as childhood trauma – which can leave a lasting impact on the brain, and internal factors such as a hereditary predisposition towards poor mood regulation.

Environmental factors and stressors can exacerbate or improve symptoms. Still, someone diagnosed with major depressive disorder is not just going through a rough patch or feeling blue solely due to extraneous circumstances.

The same goes for most other mood disorders, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (linked to neurological and endocrinological causes) and bipolar disorder. While an adjustment disorder is more severe than just “feeling low” for a short time, it is not usually a long-term disorder like most mood disorders.

Most cases of situational depression are no longer than six months. Whereas the onset of a mood disorder may be stressful, a mood disorder’s causes are more complex than any single stressor. On the other hand, adjustment disorders can be linked back to an identifiable causal event or experience.

Can You Have Situational Depression and a Mood Disorder?

A teen might first be diagnosed with situational depression because their symptoms began after a coincidental stressful event, but further sessions and therapy may show it to be a mood disorder or different condition instead if the typical treatment program doesn’t help reduce symptoms, or if other criteria are met.

Most of the time, situational depression can be addressed with a swift therapeutic response, essentially helping a teen cope with the stressors around them, address their behavior and thinking, and help family members better understand their teen’s behavior and provide support.

This does not mean that situational depression is somehow less important or severe than a mood disorder like MDD. A teen with situational depression can still develop suicidal tendencies, consider self-harm, or become increasingly antagonistic towards friends and family.

The distinction is essential to help separate treatment courses for teens with an underlying mood disorder and teens struggling with an adjustment disorder and give parents a better understanding of why teens may respond differently to stressors and why some teens may be depressed for a few months while others struggle with depression for years.

Situational Depression Is Short-Term But Serious

The symptoms of situational depression, or “adjustment disorder with depressive symptoms,” are like those of other depressive disorders. They include:

    • Low mood or sadness
    • Lack of motivation
    • Losing interest in old hobbies/not developing new ones
    • Withdrawing from opportunities for social interaction
    • Feelings of hopelessness
    • Constant fatigue and restlessness
    • Inexplicable pains and aches (especially headaches and stomach aches)
    • Sudden changes in appetite and weight
    • Signs of substance use
    • Self-harm
    • Frequently talking about suicide

It is important never to rely on self-diagnosis when it comes to any medical or psychiatric condition. Be sure to get a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional if you suspect you or a loved one are struggling with a form of depression, regardless of what kind of depression it might be.

Therapy, Support, and Empathy

Situational depression is treated primarily through therapy. Teens discuss their fears and worries, thoughts and feelings, and learn to separate depressive symptoms from other, more rational thinking. While situational depression is rooted in a stressful cause, depressive thoughts are inherently irrational. They can cause someone to feel hopeless even in something hopeful or feel alone, even when surrounded by family.

Therapists can help teens develop coping tools to identify and combat depressive thoughts and slowly spend more time with therapeutic activities and coping mechanisms (such as exercise, creative endeavors, or spending time with friends) while avoiding things that may help reduce mood. Teen group therapy and family therapy can help teens respond better to a group dynamic. They learn more about situational depression and other adjustment disorders and useful coping tools with loved ones.

Family and friends play a significant role in helping teens cope with their symptoms by offering support and empathy. Empathic responses can include assisting a teen in talking themselves out of a depressive episode, showing love and understanding for their perceived suffering rather than minimizing it, not belittling them for their mood, and more. Family therapy can also help heal ruptures and address family communication issues that might contribute to a teen’s depression.

Medication and Treatment Options

Antidepressant medication may still help teens with situational depression by addressing potential underlying or accompanying symptoms. On their own, adjustment disorders are not caused by brain changes, so medication usually will not affect them. Therapy remains key to a swift treatment for situational depression. However, in teens with other conditions, antidepressants may help address lower than normal levels of necessary brain chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine by affecting how the brain adjusts its endogenous neurotransmitter levels.


Parent’s Guide to a Month-Long Observance of Teen Depression

Teen depression can be a very overwhelming illness. The negative thoughts associated with depression range from self-deprecating feelings to thoughts of suicide and self-harm, and parents can often feel hopeless in the face of a disease that doesn’t respond to rational thought or reason.

These feelings are neither your fault nor your teens and learning to overcome them takes a great deal of time and dedicated treatment. If your teen has been diagnosed with a form of depression, be prepared for the road ahead. Depressive conditions require long-term support and treatment and understanding depression can go a long way towards providing that support.

Understanding Teen Depression

Depression is a feeling of severe hopelessness. It is more persistent than normal sadness, can occur for no discernable reason, and is characterized by recurring negative thoughts. Depression is the primary characteristic of several different mood disorders, which often have a complex biopsychosocial origin.

This means depression can occur for reasons that are biological, psychological, and social. Factors such as victimization at school, family trauma, genetics, endocrine health, and substance use play a significant role in the development and severity of a depressive condition. The most common is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), although there are others, such as:

A teen’s depression may have multiple different causes, each contributing in some way, and each playing a potential role in their treatment. Teens affected by PMDD or SAD would have a different treatment course than MDD, for example. Where sadness is a normal emotion, depression is chiefly characterized by its anormal persistence.

To be diagnosed with a form of depression, a teen would have to display symptoms for at least two weeks, although the condition itself can last much longer. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, with signs such as low mood and loss of interest in hobbies and social activity, to self-harm and suicidal ideation. There are many theories for why and how depression develops in the brain.

Pharmacological treatment involves selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants that increases the availability of a chemical in the brain related to positive mood. Psychiatric therapies for depression center around identifying, isolating, and combatting individual negative thoughts that a teen can associate with depression, effectively learning to recognize the disorder and how it operates in the mind.

Teen depression treatment can take weeks, months, or more. It is often recurring, and may flare up in times of severe stress, or for no reason. Certain protective factors can help minimize recurrence and prevent depression in those who are more likely to experience it (due to heritability).

Is My Teen Depressed?

It can be difficult to separate sadness from depression, especially from an outside perspective. Much as we would like to, we cannot always understand what our children are thinking. However, there are still signs and symptoms that should never go ignored, and patterns that may suggest something more serious than passing misery.

    • Frequently joking about suicide
    • Wishing one were dead
    • Losing interest in all hobbies (without gaining new interests)
    • Severe change in weight and appetite
    • Signs of self-harm
    • Unexplained pains, especially headaches and stomach issues
    • Substance use and/or abuse
    • Persistent irritability
    • Expressing feelings of worthlessness
    • Constant fatigue
    • Trouble concentrating

Depressive symptoms in teens should always be taken seriously. Teens are teens, and some of the issues and concerns they feel strongly about may feel relatively silly to any adult. Furthermore, the nature of a depressive condition is such that it can occur without any obvious trigger, or absent of any rational cause.

There is no talking your teen out of depression or lecturing them to feel better. When depression strikes, the sadness becomes all-encompassing, and offering support – being there, listening, comforting them, and convincing them they are not alone or worthless – becomes critical.

Are Antidepressants Enough?

Antidepressants are a first-line treatment against depression, but they are rarely the only answer. Treatment for depression may require a multimodal approach, one that combines social activity and support with individual physical and mental health approaches, including exercise and therapy.

Teens who are depressed need to be reminded that they are not alone, and that their friends and family are always standing by them. They need encouragement to seek out social interaction, even in times like this, whether with close friends through the internet or alongside proper COVID precautions.

Individual therapy may combine different approaches or rely on certain types of therapy to isolate and disprove negative thinking. Teens who are depressed will often think to themselves that they have nothing to show for in life, and that everyone around them would be better off if they were dead.

Disproving these thoughts and being reminded of the good things in life can help edge a teen out of a depressive episode. Coping mechanisms that promote good emotions, from creating something (writing, playing music, drawing) to exercise can play a critical role in avoiding depressive symptoms. Different types of depression may require different treatment approaches.

Teens with PMDD may have to coordinate with a doctor to pick out medication to help combat their symptoms without adversely affecting puberty or their menstrual cycles. SAD may be treated through a combination of pharmacology and light therapy (mimicking sunlight). When depression is codependent on drug use, treatment would have to address both issues concurrently.

Every teen’s depression and their treatment may look a little differently. But a key feature in each of their stories is the importance of family and friends. While therapists and specialists help dictate treatment, it is ultimately those who are closest to a teen who do the most to help them survive and overcome their diagnosis.

How Can I Support My Teen?

There are different things parents can do to help support their teen. These include:

    • Showing interest and support their hobbies and likes. Teens with depression may not always been depressed, and when they are not, they may spend their time trying to do something that makes them happy. Show interest and encourage them to pursue that thing.
    • Encouraging them to engage with the family and get things done together. Spend more time together as a family and try to emphasize that your teen will always have a place at home.
    • Providing balanced and nutritious meals. Nutrition may play a significant role in both the onset and management of depression and may help regulate mood alongside treatment.
    • Identifying your teen’s symptoms and talk to them about getting help. If your teen hasn’t been diagnosed, but you’re worried about their behavior, encouraging them to talk about their thoughts and feelings and potentially seek help with you is an important first step towards helping them figure out what’s going on in their mind.
Adolescence Bullying Depression Mental Health

Depression and Bullying

Everyone goes through trying times, and it’s only natural for us to say we feel depressed because of money, relationship or family issues. The problem with depression comes when we’re feeling sad, isolated and hopeless all of the time. Depression is a mental health condition that we see if over 60% percent of our population, and it’s not simply adults that are affected by this but children and teens are the most affected by depression.

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Feeling disconnected
  • Social withdrawal
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Loss of concentration
  • Agitation
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of interest

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Center, we see teens in addiction recovery that deal with depression as part of their daily lives. Depression gets worse when these kids suffer from bullying in school, which can sometimes lead to suicide. These kids move through life in a fog of sadness every single day; addiction for them is the only way they know how to get out of that. Our job is to remove that fog from their lives and show them there are so many beautiful things that can keep them happy, healthy and willing to explore all the world has to offer.

Pushed to the Edge Because of Bullying

Bullying isn’t something new, but it’s become increasingly worse as time passes with the availability of things like technology. Technology has created a web of bullying tactics that make the impact worse because of embarrassing videos or photos that circulate to thousands and live online for years. The web, social media and news stories bring awareness to the issue of bullying as well. People don’t realize how pranks that may seem small affect people that already have issues with depression.

Schools are a battlefield when it comes to being the most popular kid, the best dressed, or the coolest. Add this to issues at home that no kid wants to talk about at school, such as abuse, death or loss of a loved one, conflict, and we get a lethal combination of issues that can push someone over the edge. Many people that suffer from depression don’t know that it’s a chemical imbalance that’s made significantly worse when external factors blend with their own personal feelings. Early diagnosis of depression can help with managing depression; the child that has access to a counselor and already working to manage their condition are less likely to look to self-harm.

Don’t Let Bullying Continue—Be Better

We ask that bullying is taken seriously and that if you see or become an accomplice regarding bullying, please stand up for that person and say something. You never know what someone is dealing with internally, and it is our job as human beings to stop someone from hurting others unnecessarily. Whether it is children picking on each other or anyone treating someone rudely, we must rise as one and fight against this treatment and behavior. We would all hope that our children have someone there to lend a helping hand and stand up for them.

What can you do if you experience bullying?

If you’re the victim in a bullying situation, it’s important that you talk to someone about it. Teachers, counselors, friends and family are a great place to start. There are also hotlines you can call and speak to a counselor in just a few seconds. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Center, we have staff ready to offer advice over the phone at any time. You’re not alone in this and being afraid isn’t the answer. Often people don’t realize the negative effects they have on others lives, but we should never feel that it is our fault that they treat us this way.

Suicide Isn’t the Answer

Again, you are not alone in this. Others are experiencing the same things at school or home. At the end of the day, you have options to look to in these situations. Suicide is permanent, and it helps no one; suicide effects more than just the person who elects to end their life. Your friends, family and anyone else you care for will be burdened with more than you can imagine. Sharing your feelings with these people is the best option, they would much rather have had you sit with them and talk then to take these serious actions to end the problem.

Think about this for a moment—if every person that went through bullying said nothing and simply ended their life, there would be no one to stand up for what’s right and stop bullying. There would be no one to share their experience and feelings about bullying, and no one would understand that the things they do have consequences. Become an advocate and get involved. At Visions, we encourage our clients to go out there and have a voice.

If you suffer from depression and experience bullying, please call Visions Adolescent Treatment Center at (818) 889-3665 today and share your story with us.


Important Teen Depression Facts

The teen years are typically filled with a wide range of moods and behaviors. However, if your teen appears locked into negative feelings like sadness, anger or withdrawal from family and friends, a more serious problem may be the culprit. Depression is a widespread problem among teens, affecting as many as one in five adolescents. It is important for parents to learn to recognize symptoms of teen depression and seek out professional help their child may need.

Occurrence of Depression in Teens

The average onset of depression in teenagers occurs between 15 and 19. During the early stages of adolescence, depression strikes boys and girls at approximately the same rate. After puberty, the depression rate increases significantly for female teens. Nearly one-third of teens with depression will also develop a substance abuse disorder, often as an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression symptoms.

The large majority of teens with depression (as many as 80 percent) will not seek treatment for their illness. Untreated depression can lead to other problems, including bullying, substance abuse, academic failure and eating disorders. Of the adolescents that do receive some type of treatment, up to 70 percent will see improvement in their symptoms.

Symptoms of Teen Depression

Depression in teenagers may look slightly different than depression in adults. Some of the signs of teen depression might include:

    • Irritability or hostility
    • Sadness or feelings of hopelessness
    • Noticeable changes to eating habits
    • Sleep changes or disruptions
    • Weight fluctuations
    • Poor performance in school
    • Constant fatigue, loss of energy
    • Overly sensitive to criticism, low self-esteem
    • Withdrawal from family, friends and activities
    • Unexplained physical pain (often headaches or stomach aches)
    • Suicidal thoughts and ideations

Depression and Suicide

Depression can increase a teenager’s risk for suicide by as much as 12 times. Teens in this situation may begin to say things like, “I’d be better off dead,” or “I want to just disappear.” Other signs might include giving away valued possessions, writing about death or suicidal threats.

If your teen shows any signs suicide may be imminent, do not wait to get help. While some teens may “attempt” suicide to gain attention, a disturbing number of those adolescents actually succeed. Suicide hotlines and mental health professionals trained to deal with suicidal teens can make the difference between life and death.

Seeking Teen Depression Treatment

Treatment for teen depression typically begins with talk therapy that provides teens a safe place to explore feelings and emotions. Therapy can also help teenagers work on difficult relationships with parents or peers, and help them change negative thinking patterns into positive thinking and behavior. In some cases, medication may also be recommended, but this approach nearly always works better when it is combined with some type of talk therapy.

If your depressed teen is also showing signs of substance abuse, it is important to address the substance abuse disorder simultaneously with the depression. At Visions Treatment Centers, our staff is trained to work with teens with a dual diagnosis – a combination of a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder. To learn more, contact us today.

Addiction Depression Mental Health Self-Harm Suicide

What Parents Need to Know About Cutting

Cutting is a form of self-injury or SI. Contrary to how it might seem to someone on the outside looking in, cutting is not a way to get attention. It is not a suicide attempt. Cutting is a sign that the person is in deep emotional pain and that pain must be addressed before the self-injuring behavior can stop. If you suspect your child is self-injuring, there are some basic facts about this behavior that you need to know.

What does Cutting Look Like?
Cutting can be done with any sharp object found around the house; razors, thumbtacks, scissors or even the edge of a soda can pop top. The cuts usually occur on the arms, but some teens also cut on the thighs or abdomen. Most cuts are straight lines, although some teens might also cut words into skin to reflect their deep feelings leading to their self-injury.

Common symptoms of cutting might include:

• Fresh cuts or scratches
• Scars along the arms or other areas
• Sharp objects in the trash or hidden in the teen’s bedroom
• Wearing long sleeves even on hot days
• Spending longer periods of time alone
• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
• Other disorders, such as an eating disorder or substance abuse
• Extreme mood shifts or out-of-control behavior

Hiding the Pain

Kids that cut may find some type of emotional relief from the behavior, but they also know it is not “right” or “normal” to others. They will make every effort to hide their cutting, wearing clothing that covers up the injuries and scars or lying about how the injuries occurred. Parents often feel

Cutting is a form of self-injury or SI. Contrary to how it might seem to someone on the outside looking in, cutting is not a way to get attention. It is not a suicide attempt. Cutting is a sign that the person is in deep emotional pain and that pain must be addressed before the self-injuring behavior can stop. If you suspect your child is self-injuring, there are some basic facts about this behavior that you need to know.

The Pain Principle
If cutting is not done to get attention, why do kids do it? In most cases, kids begin cutting because they are experiencing deep emotional pain – from an event like a death, previous abuse or intense stress or anxiety. The cutting actually relieves the emotional pain, almost like drugs or alcohol numb the senses.

Teens that cut are not looking to end their lives from this behavior. However, there are cases where the cutting goes deeper than the person intended, requiring stitches or even hospitalization. Kids that cut are also suffering deep emotional issues that could lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations in the future if the issues are not addressed.

Cutting is a serious problem that can become almost addictive over time. The behavior is often associated with food addictions or substance use disorders. If your teen is cutting, help is available. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers today at 866-889-3665 to learn more about cutting or get the help your child needs.

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Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental illness is a frequent partner of substance abuse and addiction, although the cause-and-effect between the two isn’t always clear. However, the issue is a prevalent one that needs to be considered anytime treatment is sought for substance abuse, because diagnosing both correctly is a key component to a healthy recovery process. There are a number of different types of mental illnesses that are often seen in combination with substance abuse and addiction.

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses associated with substance abuse. In some cases, substances may be used to mask the symptoms of depression. Other times, substance abuse may bring on the depression symptoms or make them worse. Symptoms of depression might include:

  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or guilt
  • Loss of interest in or ability to enjoy activities
  • Diminished energy levels and fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Changes to sleep or appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Anxiety disorders are also a frequent problem for those struggling with substance abuse. There are different types of anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety and panic attacks. Substances may be used to lessen the symptoms at first, which often only serves to make the symptoms more intense over time. Symptoms of these conditions might include:

  • Feelings of restlessness or nervousness
  • Excessive and ongoing worry and tension
  • Irritability and fearfulness
  • Sweaty palms, racing heart, shortness of breath
  • Headaches, dizziness or nausea

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a disorder often diagnosed in adolescents and frequently associated with substance abuse. This disorder is characterized by three basic components:

  • Hyperactivity – difficulty sitting still, excessive talking, always seems to be “on the go”
  • Inattention – disorganization, lack of focus, forgetfulness, distraction
  • Impulsivity – impatience, blurting out answers, guessing instead of solving problems

Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental disorder characterized by extreme swings of mood and energy levels. During the manic phase, the individual exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Excessive irritability
  • Bursts of energy, requiring little sleep
  • Distracted easily
  • Engage in impulsive, high-risk behaviors

Manic phases are typically followed by depressed states, which may include the following symptoms:

  • Extended periods of sadness or hopelessness
  • Low energy, excessive fatigue
  • Significant changes to appetite and sleep patterns
  • Thoughts and ideations of suicide

When mental illness accompanies a substance abuse disorder, it is imperative to address both disorders simultaneously to give the patient the best odds for a successful recovery. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we are experienced in treating both of these conditions at the same time, a situation known as dual diagnosis. Our team of healthcare professionals is equipped to work through both disorders and give our patients the best odds of successful sobriety and improved mental health. To learn more about dual diagnosis or our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

Depression Mental Health

Symptoms of Teen Depression

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.

Emotional Symptoms

Emotional changes that might appear in a teenager that is suffering from depression might include:

  • Sadness and crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Unusual irritability, possibly with sudden flashes of anger or rage
  • Withdrawal from some people and activities
  • Greater sensitivity to criticism
  • Exaggerated self-blame or feelings of worthlessness
  • Suicide thoughts and ideations

When trying to discern between what is normal and what is not for your teen, consider the duration and severity of the symptoms. It is also helpful to distinguish between what is relative common for your teen and issues that are new or different from the norm.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of depression are often more prevalent in teenagers than adults. Some of the physical signs of the disorder might include:

  • Unexplained pains, such as frequent headaches or stomachaches
  • Persistent fatigue or loss of energy
  • Unusual increases or decreases in appetite
  • Significant weight fluctuations

Behavioral Changes

Your teen’s behavior may change as a result of depression as well. Some of those changes could include:

  • Poor academic performance in a teen that is typically a good student
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • Poor hygiene and less interest in appearance
  • Risky or self-destructive behavior
  • Talk about or effort to run away from home
  • Use of drugs or alcohol

If you begin to see any of these symptoms in your teen, it is important to get help sooner, rather than later. Teens that turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate are much more likely to develop a serious substance abuse problem. Even if depression is not the underlying cause of the symptoms, the issues leading to these changes need to be addressed before they become even more difficult to treat.

The professional team at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers is equipped to handle patients with a dual diagnosis like addiction and depression. Our programs are customized to the unique needs of each patient, with a goal of treating the addiction and helping patients adapt successfully to a new life of sobriety. To learn more about our programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

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Risk Factors for Substance Abuse for Teens

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.

Family history of substance abuse is one of the biggest risk factors for children develop a substance abuse disorder by the time they hit the teen years. Prenatal exposure to alcohol may also make a person more vulnerable to substance abuse later in life.

Children that are around substance use, either by parents, friends or members of their community, may regard drugs and alcohol as a normal part of life. They may not recognize the dangers of using these substances, which puts them at increased risk of addiction.

Children who are impulsive or aggressive in the early years of life may also be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Aggressive behavior could lead to anti-social tendencies, while impulsivity is an individual risk factor that involves the inability to set limits on one’s behavior.

Mental Health
The connection between a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness is very high. In some cases, the person may use substances to cope with the painful symptoms of the mental illness. Other times, regular substance use may trigger the symptoms of a mental disorder.

Family Life
Children with parents that abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to use the substances themselves. In addition, a home life that is stressful due to conflict or other difficult situations can also make a teen more likely to use substances as a way of dealing with the stress.

Social Life
Children that do not socialize well with their peers are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their loneliness. By the same token, teens who choose friends that use are more likely to use themselves as well.

Struggles in school, whether academically or socially, can also lead to substance abuse. The earlier the school problems begin, the more likely it is that substance abuse will become an obstacle over time.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we have seen teens turn to drugs and alcohol for a wide range of reasons. While prevention should always be the primary focus in keeping this age group safe and healthy, sometimes prevention efforts are simply not enough to keep a potential addiction at bay. The good news is there are also effective methods of treating substance abuse that help teens move away from their abusive behaviors and into a healthier, sober way of life. To learn more about our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.