How Do I Know If My Child Needs Treatment?
When my little girl was 7 years old, her favorite thing to do was to pretend to be Princess Peach from Super Mario Brothers™. We even bought a life-size Barbie™ princess dress that I hot glued a big blue gem onto and made alterations so that it looked exactly like Princess Peach.
Now she is a young adult with a driver’s license and navigating the always stressful changes that come with being halfway through high school in a not-so-small town like Flower Mound. Some days, I look at her and mourn the child she was before. The light that I always found in her face when she would look up at me and smile with her slightly crooked front teeth–it isn’t there anymore. I’m not sure where it went, what to do, or how to get her to talk to me again.
This is a story that we hear often at Bricolage Behavioral Health. Maybe you noticed your child has been acting differently lately. They’re not the cheerful, outgoing kid they used to be.
You’re left wondering: why?
Your teen could simply be stressed out. After all, we all remember what it’s like going through high school, and for most of us, it’s not the most pleasant experience. Taking the SAT’s, thinking about huge life decisions, like where you should go to college and what type of career to pursue. It can be overwhelming for a teenager (or anyone really) to process.
Maybe it is just stress, or maybe it’s something more severe. Maybe your teen is experiencing symptoms of depression or another mental illness.
Do you know that only about 50% of teens and youth received treatment for their mental illness in 2016? That means that out of the 7.7 million adolescents aged 6-17 that were diagnosed with a mental illness in the United States only 3.85 million ever received any type of care for their mental health struggles. That is 16% of the total number of teens and children in our country!
Is My Teen Depressed and Needing Help?
It can be difficult to know if your teen is going through something like depression. It is common for teens and young adults to pull away from their parents while they are facing additional stressors and are growing up.
If they’re stressed out with school or simply acting moody here and there, some of these symptoms may appear occasionally. However, if these symptoms are more frequent or seem to be lingering for extended periods of time (months, for example), then it may be time to intervene and consider treatment options.
Here are a few characteristics of depression in teens to watch out for:
- Experiencing deep sadness or hopelessness. Negative views of life and the world.
- Lack of energy or loss of pleasure or interest in activities that once excited your child.
- Turmoil, worry, irritability, and difficulty concentrating or remembering.
- Feeling worthless and guilty. Your child may have a change of self-esteem, thinking they look unattractive, aren’t intelligent, and lose confidence in themselves.
- Drastic changes in appetite or weight.
- Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping too much.
- Sluggishness. A depressed teen often talks, reacts, and moves more slowly than others.
- Avoiding and withdrawing from friends and family.
- In extreme cases, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
Depression in teens is an important concern to parents and teens alike. Depression often responds well to treatment. We listed the common symptoms above but it is important to remember that depression is truly characterized by more than two weeks of persistent sadness or the other major signs.
Risk factors for mental illness come in all shapes and sizes. For example, family history of mental illnesses, specifically mood or anxiety disorders, can increase the risk of mental health disorders in teens. This doesn’t mean that a family history is a guarantee that your child will develop a disorder nor does it mean that mental illness is only genetic. Other risk factors include history of trauma or extreme stress. Those with these past experiences may be quicker to perceive something happening around them as a threat or problem which can lead to an anxiety disorder or depressed outlook.
For teens specifically, now more than ever there are some specific risk factors unique to them. These include: parents divorce, bullying (cyber or at school), feeling like they don’t “fit-in”, are not “normal” or are cisgendered.
Other reasons certain teens are more at risk than others to face depression or other mental illnesses can be related to a variety of things. For example:
- Teen females develop depression twice as often as men.
- Abused and neglected teens are at risk.
- Adolescents who suffer from chronic illnesses or other physical conditions.
- Teens with a family history of depression or mental illness. Between 20 and 50 percent of teens suffering from depression have a family member with depression or some other mental disorder.
- Young people who have experienced trauma or disruptions at home, including divorce or deaths of parents.
- Teens with untreated mental or substance use problems.
If any of these apply to your child, it may be time to think about seeking care for your teen or child.
The Link Between Depression and Substance Use
So, now we realize that a large portion of children and teens experience mental illness but what does that have to do with addiction and how can it help you know if your child may be struggling with substance use?
If your teen is going through a serious bout of depression or struggling with other mental illnesses, this can increase the chance of them using drugs or alcohol.
It’s fairly common for teens to experiment with drugs or alcohol. If someone’s mental health is declining, and they’re not receiving treatment, they may not know how to cope in a healthy way.
The same can be said for children and teens, and it makes sense, right?
We can only use healthy coping mechanisms if we know how, and if a child or teen isn’t receiving some sort of therapy while struggling with a mental illness, they probably don’t know how to handle the stressors and emotions that may be overwhelming them.
If your teen is drinking occasionally or experimenting drugs, this might not be a huge concern to you. Most kids do this anyway, right? Some of us even think “it’s just a part of growing up”.
Although this is true in some cases, teens who use these substances while struggling with mental illness are more likely to continue using, and may possibly become addicted to the substance. This can lead to substance use disorder and it is a commonly occurring disorder when it is alongside mental illness. In the field of teen addiction treatment and addiction treatment in general, this is known as a co-occurring disorder.
Any combination of mental health disorder and substance use disorder may leave a child, teen, or adult facing a dual diagnosis, such as alcoholism and depression, anorexia and cocaine dependence, post-traumatic stress disorder and heroin addiction, prescription drug dependence and anxiety, and more.
Everyone is different and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that everyone will also have different experiences with mental illness and addiction. As we said above, a lot of us will start our experiences with mental illness or drugs and alcohol during childhood and adolescence. This can lead to a heightened chance of developing an addiction.
Sometimes this is because someone experimenting with drugs with their friends or trying out alcohol may end up feeling like it is helping them deal with or handle additional stress or emotions. This is known as self-medication and even teens do it sometimes. The need to self-medicate could come from past trauma, stress, mental illness or a physical injury.
It’s clear that the combination of deteriorating mental health and experimenting with drugs can be the start of a lifelong journey of substance use for adolescents. But how can you intervene and help your child not go down this path?
Other families in the Flower Mound and Dallas area are experiencing the same issues you are. It’s important to know that you aren’t alone and there are treatment options available for your child.
What Does Teen Addiction Look Like?
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), substance dependence is a single disorder that is measured on a spectrum from mild to severe. The type of addiction–or substance use disorder (SUD)–is categorized according to the substance of choice. Note that your teen’s “addiction” to soda or coffee is not really an addiction. In fact in the DSM-5 it explicitly excludes caffeine, which cannot be the subject of a SUD diagnosis.
The criteria that are used to diagnose a substance dependency for almost all substance use disorders are very similar and in some cases the same, according to the DSM-5. There are 11 symptoms that can signify a substance use disorder. When it comes to diagnosis with a mild drug abuse disorder, the child, teen or adult must have a few of these symptoms.
Symptoms for teens, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) include a pattern of substance use that ends up leading to:
- An inability to manage obligations (like showing up late to work or school, repeatedly missing school, etc.)
- Using substances in physically dangerous situations
- Ongoing interpersonal issues (like fighting, arguing or losing connections)
- Tolerance for the substance
- Withdrawal symptoms when without the substance
- Taking more of a medicine than is intended (single use session or in a certain period of time)
- An inability to stop using the substance or to cut down on use
- Spending a large amount of time seeking substances, being high or drunk, or recovering
- Avoiding family activities, social events, or former hobbies due to substance use
- Continued use of substances despite the realization that the behavior is causing problems
- Cravings for the substance
Can My Child Benefit From Teen Treatment and Recovery?
Realizing that your teen may have an issue with both substance use and struggling with their mental health, it is natural that your next step would be to find treatment options.
It can be tough to decide on the appropriate treatment plan for your child that will focus on both mental health and addiction. Maybe the thought of your teen going to an addiction treatment center is too extreme, but this could be the perfect option for them.
Going to an addiction treatment center, like Bricolage Behavioral Health, can ensure they’re receiving dual diagnosis treatment, which means both their substance use and mental health are being treated.
But, what if having your child stay at an addiction treatment center for 24 hours a day for about 30 days still seems a bit extreme? How will they catch up on their schoolwork if they’re going for that long? This is a valid concern many parents have when deciding on the best treatment option for their child.
Outpatient therapy offered at an addiction treatment center can be the best option for a child who is still in school and doesn’t want to miss out on their daily routines. They can attend therapy sessions and other forms of treatment, while staying at home and not being absent from school.
Health and Drug Rehab Options Offered at a Treatment Center
A few examples of the type of treatment your child might go through at an addiction treatment center are:
- Cognitive and Dialectical Behavioral Therapies: This is where your child will learn healthy ways of coping with stress and their depression and/or anxiety. Your teen can also understand their mental health diagnosis more clearly and identify harmful thoughts that can lead to substance use. Behavioral therapies are important because they can decrease the chance of your child having a major substance use problem later in life.
- Group Therapy: Having your child talk to other teens who are in a similar situation can help them feel less isolated and alone. Although the thought of sharing their personal story of addiction and mental illness may sound intimidating to your teens, it could also provide them with more support.
Ultimately, the treatment plan your child will have will be up to the experienced staff at an addiction treatment center. They can discover the best plan of action for your teen get back on the right track.
Inpatient and Outpatient Bricolage Behavioral Health Is Here for the Teens of Flower Mound
Our staff at Bricolage Behavioral Health understand how heartbreaking it can be to watch your child suffer in any way. We’re here to help you and your family get your child’s life back on track by assigning an experienced and caring psychiatrist that will focus on mental health and substance use.
Situated on Long Prairie Road, near Firewheel Drive and the Montessori Rainbow School, and close to one of Flower Mound’s broad residential areas, we are conveniently located.
Seek professional help for your teen before it spirals out of control. Bricolage will make sure your child is in the right hands. Call Bricolage Behavioral Health for a mental health assessment for your child or teen today: 469-968-5700