Social Media, Mental Health & Your Teen

Statistics show that in 2015, approximately 3 million teens had at least one depressive episode that year, and at least 2 million experienced depression that affected their ability to function in their normal day.

While this number represents a little more than 7% of all American teens, what these statistics do not show is even more alarming than what they do show. The data demonstrates chronic under-reporting in cases and symptoms of teenage anxiety and depression because suffering teens simply do not seek help.

The nature of mental illness, substance use disorders, and behavioral issues in teens is that they are deliberately secretive.

Teenage minds crave stimulation, and their emotional reactions to that stimulation are larger-than-life and impossible to ignore.

A teenager’s nearly insatiable craving for stimulation has met its match in digital and social media; online worlds that never stop, never slow. There is no downtime from this digital machine: teens are bombarded by stimulus they can’t, or won’t, or don’t know how to step away from.

This generation of teenagers is defined by insecurity: terrorism, school shootings, economic instability, environmental collapse, and uncertainty about their ability to enter (or afford) post-secondary education and find a suitable career.

In this unrelenting online world, life is as real as it gets, and teens are inundated with information they have the intellectual ability to absorb but lack the emotional capacity to process.

The result is a generation of teens who feel utterly overwhelmed. And overwrought teens are hiding in plain sight.

These teens are the first generation to have smartphones and tablets within easy reach from birth, because we’re the first generation of parents to put them there.

Parents and teens alike are glued to their devices, and both generations are mirroring behaviors of being disconnected from those around them, instead immersed in the world happening within the small screen in their hand.

Technology means the workday never really ends for some parents. Our behavior, as adults with important or high-stress jobs, tells kids that what’s happening on our device is important. Teens are mirroring that behavior, certain that what’s happening in their digital worlds is equally vital. It often comes down to a failure to set and hold boundaries around the use of tech at home.

Parents may be heavily involved at school and with activities, they may supervise homework and watch TV with their kids as their own parents were told to do in the 1980s, they may even try to monitor their teens social profiles and feeds—but they’re not seeing their teenagers struggling and suffering, because teens are keeping it to themselves.

There is no clear line between online and offline worlds for today’s teens. There is a deep investment of emotion in the online world, a world that feels real, and insofar as it has a measurable impact on a teen’s life and emotional health, is real.

Technology isn’t the bad guy here, and the answer isn’t to take away your teen’s iPhone. While they’re inundated and overexposed, they are simultaneously connected with others who can relate, and share insight, compassion and support.

Overwhelmed, overstimulated teens who are suffering from anxiety and depression either feel everything all at once or they feel nothing at all.

We’re seeing a growing trend among our patients of adolescents who are not only struggle with substance use disorders, but mental health and behavioral issues that show up as process disorders like problematic gaming, social media addiction, and self-harm.

Treatment for overwhelmed, overstimulated teens is similar to treatment for addiction.

At Family First Adolescent Services, our teen-centric approach means we address the underlying psychological issues that precipitate depression, anxiety, substance abuse and process disorders in a way that taps into a teens sense of creativity, identity, vitality, and community.

Because the anxiety and depression teens are experiencing has a direct correlation to a disconnection between mind and body, we have integrated the NeuroAffective Relational Model of treatment into our program.

NARM addresses trauma directly by helping to establish a healthy connection between body and mind. It explores an adolescent’s emotional connection and functional organization, their identity and sense of self, puts the focus on the present, and teaches them how to regulate their nervous system.

An effective approach to derailing a cycle of self-harm is to help teens put the demands of their life and their response to it in perspective. NARM can help a teen understand his or her emotions and the appropriate context for expressing them, and can help teens create healthy connections with their parents, peers, and other important people.

Teens find relief through new coping strategies that channel their intense energy and emotions into creative or active pursuits, activities that elevate feelings of positivity and optimism and hope.

Your clinical team at Family First doesn’t have a band-aid for you: we have tools and strategies for long-term coping. Mental health issues are lifelong issues, so we help teenagers and their parents learn healthy and sustainable ways of coping and expressing themselves.

We can help you and your family find a path to recovery that lasts a lifetime.

Call us today to learn more about our program for teens (561) 328-7370.

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