Tag Archives: Addiction

Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent

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The first time Faith-Ann Bishop cut herself, she was in eighth grade. It was two am, and as her parents slept, , she sat on the edge of the tub at her home in Bangor, Maine, with a metal clip from a pen in her hand. Then she sliced into the soft skin near her ribs. There was blood – and a sense of deep relief. “It makes the world very quiet for a few seconds,” she states. “For a while i didn’t want to stop, because it was my only coping mechanism. I hadn’t learned any other way.”

Adolescents today have a reputation for being more fragile, less resilient and more over-whelmed than their parents were when they were growing up. A closer look paints a far more heartbreaking portrait of why young people are suffering. It’s a phenomenon that cuts across all demographics – suburban, urban and rural. Also those who are college bound and those who aren’t.

Adolescents today have become the post 9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity. They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps even more importantly, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.

Self-harm, which some experts say is on the rise, is perhaps the most disturbing symptom of a broader psychological problem – a spectrum of anger, worry, apprehension that plagues 21st century teens.teen-pills

“We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all,” says Faith-Ann. “We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.”

“If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self – Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, but so can school stress. Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drives of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to, or don’t know how to,” she states.

It’s hard for many of us adults to understand how much of teenagers’ emotional life is lived within the small screen on their phones. But according to a report done by CNN in conjunction with researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Texas at Dallas who examined the social-media use of more than 200 13-year-olds, they found that “there is no firm line between their real and online worlds.”

Phoebe Gariepy, a 17-year-old in Arundel, Maine, describes following on Instagram a girl from L.A. whom she had never met because she liked the photos this girl posted. Then the girl stopped posting. Phoebe later heard that the girl had been kidnapped and was found on the side of the road, dead. “I started bawling, and I didn’t even know this girl,” said Phoebe. “I felt really extremely connected to that situation even though it was in L.A.”

That hyperconnectedness now extends everywhere, engulfing even rural teens in a national thicket of Internet drama. Montana’s kids, for example, may be in a big, sparsely populated state, but they are not isolated anymore. A suicide might happen on the other side of the state and the kids often know about it before the adults do.

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Parents are also mimicking teen behavior. “Not in all cases, but in many cases the adults are learning to use their phones in the way that the teens do,” says Megan Moreno, head of social media and adolescent health research at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “They’re zoning out. They’re ignoring people. They’re answering calls during dinner rather than saying, ‘O.K., we have this technology. Here are the rules about when we use it’.”

In the CNN study, researchers found that even when parents try their best to monitor their children’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter feeds, they are likely unable to recognize the subtle slights and social exclusions that cause kids pain. Finding disturbing things in a child’s digital identity, or that they’re self-harming, can stun some parents.

For some parents who discover, as Faith-Ann’s parents Bret and Tammy Bishop did a few years ago, that their child has been severely depressed, anxiety-ridden or self-harming for years, it’s a shock laden with guilt.                                                                                          every-day

Self-harming is certainly not universal among kids with depression and anxiety, but it does appear to be the signature symptom of this generation’s mental health difficulties. It’s hard to know why self-harm has surfaced at this time, and it’s possible we’re just more aware of it now because we live in a world where we’re more aware of everything.

The Idea that self-harm is tied to how we see the human body tracks with what many teens are saying today. As Faith-Ann describes it, “A lot of value is put on our physical beauty now. All of our friends are Photoshopping their own photos. It’s hard to escape that need to be perfect.”

Fadi Haddad, a psychiatrist who helped start the child and adolescent psychiatric emergency department at Bellevue Hospital in New York City states that for parents who find out their children are depressed or hurting themselves, the best response is first to validate their feelings. Don’t get angry or talk about taking away their computer. “Say, ‘I’m sorry you’re in pain. I’m here for you.’” This straightforward acknowledgement of their struggles takes away any judgement, which is critical since mental-health issues are still heavily stigmatized. No adolescent wants to be seen as flawed or vulnerable, and for parents, the idea that their child has debilitating depression or anxiety or is self-harming can feel like a failure on their part.

dealing-with-depression-and-anxietyFor both generations, admitting that they need help can be daunting. Even once they get past that barrier, the cost and logistics of therapy can be overwhelming. Some of the treatment for self-harm are similar to those for addiction, particularly in the focus on identifying underlying psychological issue: what’s causing the anxiety and depression in the first place. And then teaching healthy ways to cope. Similarly, those who want to stop need a strong level of internal motivation as well as a strong support system.

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What Parents Should Do

If you are worried about a child and aren’t sure what to do, heed the advice of Fadi Haddad, a psychiatrist and the co-author of Helping Kids in Crisis.

  1. Talk about the real stuff: sometimes conversations between parents and teens can be all about achievements, schedules and choices. Go beyond that. Find out what keeps them up at night. Ask – “What’s the best part of your day?” Become attuned to their emotional world so that you understand what their dreams are, what they struggle with and how their life is going.
  2. Pay attention, but don’t smother them: give teens space to grow and separate from you. Also watch for changes in their behavior. Are they giving up activities the used to enjoy? Are they staying up all hours of the night or has their appetite waned. Are they withdrawn, lethargic or do they get angry at nothing. If you are worried, say so. Show interest in their internal life without judgement.
  3. Resist getting angry: when parents find out a teen has been hiding something or is having behavior issues, the response is often anger or punishment. Instead, find out what is going on. If a child is acting out, say: “It seems like you are having trouble. I’m here to help. Tell me what’s happening to you.”
  4. Don’t put off getting help: If you are worried about an adolescent, talk to a school counselor, therapist or doctor. It is better to get help early rather than when trouble has firmly taken hold.
  5. Treat the whole family: When a child is in a crisis, many times it’s not enough to just treat the child. You have to change the family dynamic. It’s possible that something about the home environment was causing stress for the child, so, be open to acknowledging that and getting family counseling if needed.

Look, I’m writing this because I’ve spent a lifetime depressed and anxious. According to several psychiatrists and psychologists, I was born depressed. Yes, depression is inherited. Especially if the birth mother had a stressful pregnancy.

So please, don’t take this blog lightly. Find out what’s going on and do what you can to help the child cope with what he/she is going through. And like Dr. Fadi Haddad has stated – “Be open to acknowledging that there is a problem and get help.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Will and Wisdom

Police Shootings, ISIS Terrorism, Addictions, And Domestic Violence: Psychologists Explain Why It All Happens

Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are increasing in our society. Many have described these incidents as senseless, but is it really?

Theories

 Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are increasing in our society. Many have described these incidents as senseless, but is it really? Psychologists Sean Seepersad, Ph.D., Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., and Amanda Taub, who holds the unusual title of Senior Sadness Correspondent, and human rights expert, approach various aspects of society in a quest to make sense of the senseless.

 Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are all symptoms and not the disease, according to these experts. Their separate conclusions weave a cohesive picture of a society breaking down because the building blocks of that society, namely people and relationships, are eroding.

 Fear, isolation, and a need for control seem to be the unholy trinity of all modern ills, based on the work of these experts.

 Reality

 Free will. According to Oxford Dictionaries, free will is defined as “The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.”

According to Theopedia: Probably the most common definition of free will is the “ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition, and specifically that these “free will” choices are not ultimately predestined by God.

 So the question we as Christians need to ask ourselves is: “Do human beings truly have a free will?”

 Were the incidents described above due to “a society breaking down because the building blocks of that society, namely people and relationships, are eroding.” Or were they because we as a human race exercised our free will to decide without wise counsel. We reacted instead of being proactive and making wise decisions as to how to handle the outcomes.

 So, the answer to the above question as to whether or not human beings truly have a free will is YES! If “free will” means that God gives humans the opportunity to make choices that genuinely affect their destiny, then yes, human beings do have a free will.

 The world’s current sinful state is directly linked to choices made by Adam and Eve. Both Adam and Eve had a choice to make: to take a bite out of the apple or not take a bite. We already know the answer to their dilemma, but even though we say that man is born to sin (Romans 5:18-19), free will does not mean that mankind can do anything he pleases.

Our choices are limited to what is in keeping with our nature. For example, a man may choose to walk across a bridge or not to walk across it; what he may not choose is to fly over the bridge—his nature prevents him from flying. In a similar way, a man cannot choose to make himself righteous—his (sin) nature prevents him from canceling his guilt (Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”). So, free will is limited by nature.

This limitation does not alleviate our accountability. The Bible is clear that we not only have the ability to choose, we also have the responsibility to choose wisely (Proverbs 12:26, Psalms 1:1-6). In the Old Testament, God chose a nation (Israel), but individuals within that nation still bore an obligation to choose obedience to God. And individuals outside of Israel were able to choose to believe and follow God as well (e.g., Ruth and Rahab).

 In the New Testament, sinners are commanded over and over to “repent” and “believe” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Acts 3:19; 1 John 3:23). Every call to repent is a call to choose. The command to believe assumes that the hearer can choose to obey the command.

 Jesus identified the problem of some unbelievers when He told them, “You refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40). Clearly, they could have come if they wanted to; their problem was they chose not to. “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7), and those who are outside of salvation are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20-21).

But how can man, limited by a sin nature, ever choose what is good? It is only through the grace and power of God that free will truly become “free” in the sense of being able to choose salvation (John 15:16). It is the Holy Spirit who works in and through a person’s will to regenerate that person (John 1:12-13) and give him/her a new nature “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Salvation is God’s work. At the same time, our motives, desires, and actions are voluntary, and we are rightly held responsible for them. But is all the pain and suffering in the world from the gift of free will worth it? Is free will the cause of evil? Some people think so and want to take away our freedoms. But, free will is not the issue. It never has been the issue. Jesus had free will and went about doing good (Acts 10:38). Jesus chose wisely, always thinking, saying, and doing the will of the Father (John 6:38).

 As stated above, the Bible is clear that we not only have the ability to choose, we also have the responsibility to choose wisely. Why would God allow men to have free will when their hearts and minds do evil unceasingly (Genesis 6:5)? Is free will really that important to God? Yes, it is. The entire Gospel is all about free will and wisdom, letting men discover the truth and then choose wisely or unwisely. As an unknown author wrote, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it does not come back, it was never meant to be.” “The Prodigal Son” is a parable that nicely personifies this quote (Luke 15:11-24).

From the beginning, God knew all the risks and vowed to never let go of His eternal purpose for men, which is to let them choose, whether wisely or unwisely. God knew the risks and declared “free will” would be every person’s right no matter what. (Deuteronomy 30:19).

God set all men free with the hope they would choose to return (1 Timothy 2:3-4). God knew the risks but drank the bitter cup of rejection knowing many would never return. He allowed men to have free will. He allowed them to go. But in doing so, He also gave them the Gospel, a path back to the Father should they chose to return, like the Prodigal Son (John 14:6).

 Did God make the right decision by giving men the gift of free will? Yes, absolutely! Again, “Salvation is God’s work. At the same time, our motives, desires, and actions are voluntary, and we are rightly held responsible for them.”

If you were to ask your children if we (as parents) made the right decision to bring them into a fallen world they would answer, “Yes, absolutely!” They would answer in the affirmative not because life has been easy or fun or grand. It hasn’t always been, not for any of them. They would answer “yes” because they know free will is a gift and wisdom a means to manage the troubles and struggles on the narrow pathway of life (Ephesians 5:15-16).