Taking Risks Is More Common Among Depressed Teenage Boys

Sleeping throughout the day, eating less or more, and having little motivation are often associated with depression.

But did you know that risk-taking is also associated with troubled teens with depression, especially troubled boys?

This article covers the types of risky behaviors associated with depression and how you can help your teen with this mental illness.

Depression: More Than Just An Emotion

While most of us experience sadness and the occasional blues, depression runs deeper than that. Depression is a clinical mental health condition that affects the lives of those that have it.

Depression can also lead to various maladaptive thoughts, such as:

  • “Life is not worth living.”
  • “I am not good enough.”
  • “Things are hard and will never change.”

So, while most of us have had these thoughts, not all of us have these thoughts daily. So much so that these thoughts lead to different behavioral issues.

Depression in Teenage Boys: Where Substance Abuse Meets Aggression

The typical behavioral signs of depression include:

  • A change in sleep cycle
  • A change in eating habits
  • Decreased motivation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Isolation and withdrawal from others

However, depression can also manifest in risky behaviors. Here are some of the risky behaviors to keep an eye out for in your teenager, especially your teenage son.

Engaging in substance abuse.

It’s very common for those with depression to self-medicate through substances like alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Self-medication is a way of treating a condition without having to go to a doctor or through the correct methods.

Substances allow an individual to temporarily escape the situation or emotion that they’re feeling, and it’s one way that teenage boys avoid their emotions and thoughts. For teenagers who have a family history of substance abuse, substance abuse might more likely be seen as a solution.

Engaging in risky sexual behavior

Thoughts like, “life doesn’t matter” and “it’s all pointless anyway,” may lead teens to engage in behaviors that they wouldn’t have otherwise. Things like having unprotected sex and meeting strangers through different sources might help bring new emotions like temporary excitement, validation, and spontaneity. Again, this may be more true for teens who have been exposed to risky sexual behavior as a way of avoiding uncomfortable thoughts.

Becoming aggressive or shutting down

Both aggression and shutting down are “risky” in that they mask painful emotions like sadness and confusion. Rather than simply stating, “I don’t feel that way,” a teen might respond with anger to even the most simple question like “how are you today?”

In psychology, an individual who’s been pushed outside of their comfort zone tends to respond with a fight-or-flight response. So, if your teen is feeling overwhelmed all the time, it might not be surprising that they’re responding with aggression or hostility.

Engaging in Self-Harm or Suicide

Depending on various circumstances, things like substance-abuse and risky sexual behavior are forms of self-harm. Likewise, externalizing internal pain that they wish to release can take the forms of cutting, biting, and hitting themselves.

On a further extreme, suicide may be seen as “the” only option by teens with depression. As researchers have found, males are more likely to act out their suicidal impulses than females (although females are also increasing in number).

What to do if your teenage boy struggles with depression?

Depression is not a temporary emotion that will go away by itself. You need to seek professional and clinically-licensed help. In particular, we recommend a therapeutic boarding school like Liahona, where we target troubled boys with depression, anxiety, and other mental health and substance abuse issues.

Here are just 2 of the ways that we can help:

1. We can help your teen identify some of the root causes of their depression by engaging in different therapies, cultivating lifestyle factors that enhance well being, and getting the right medication. We do this because we recognize that depression is multifaceted and cannot be addressed simply with a pill, a specific form of therapy, or through lifestyle changes. It’s when your teenager’s well-being is considered holistically than real changes happen.

2. We address other factors that have resulted from depression, such as anger issues, substance abuse, and risky sexual behaviors. We recognize that these issues will need to be addressed in tandem with the underlying depression.

Liahona also offers other benefits for your troubled boy, including helping them with things like structure, meaning and purpose, physical health, and academics. We know and acknowledge that mental health, physical health, and other aspects of well-being are all intertwined.

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