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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Depressed Teenagers: Problem, Risks, Signs and Solutions


Is your child sad or appear to have no affect at all? Is your child preoccupied with the topic of death or other morbid topics? Has your son or daughter expressed suicidal thoughts or ideas? Are they extremely moody or irritable beyond the normal hormonal twists and turns of childhood? Has there been a drastic change in your child’s eating or sleeping patterns? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may be suffering from a common but devastating mental health disorder, called depression.

The Problem:

Depression occurs in 8 percent of all adolescent lives. Research indicates that children, in general, are becoming depressed earlier in live. The implications of this is that the earlier the onset of the illness the longer and more chronic the problem. Studies suggest that depression often persists, recurs, and continues into adulthood, and indicates that depression in youth may also predict more severe illness in adult life. Depression in young people often co-occurs with other mental disorders, most commonly anxiety, disruptive behavior, or substance abuse disorders, and with physical illnesses, such as diabetes.

The Risks:

Teenagers often turn to substances to “self-medicate” the feelings of depression. They reject prescribed medications because of the way it makes them feel and because of the negative social implications of being labeled as depressed. Drinking alcohol and using other substances may make teenagers feel better for a short period of time but the need to continually use these substances to feel “high” creates dependence and poses a serious health risk. Depression in adolescence is also associated with an increased risk of suicidal behavior. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10 to 24-year-olds and as much as 7 percent of all depressed teens will make a suicide attempt.

The Signs:

Signs that frequently accompany depression in adolescence include: ·
Frequent vague, non-specific physical complaints such as headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches or tiredness ·
Frequent absences from school or poor school performance ·
Talk of or efforts to run away from home · Outbursts of shouting, complaining, unexplained irritability, or crying ·
Being bored ·
Lack of interest in playing with friends ·
Alcohol or substance abuse ·
Social isolation, poor communication ·
Fear of death ·
Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure ·
Increased irritability, anger, or hostility ·
Reckless behavior ·
Difficulty with relationships

Parents often witness these warning signs but fail to act on them. Why? Because some teens hide the symptoms from their parents or parents chalk it up to a stage or moodiness. Many teenagers go through a time of dark looking/acting behavior with all black clothing and bizarre hair arrangements. This can throw a parent off of the trail of depression by the bewilderment of teen actions and behaviors. In addition, many teens react aggressively when confronted about possible depression by their parents causing mom and dad to back off.

The Solutions:

When dealing with teen depression, it is always better to “be safe than sorry.” Coping with an adolescent’s anger is much easier to deal with then handling his or her successful suicide or overdose. When parents notice first notice the signs of depression, it is important to sit down with their teen and ask them, gently but firmly, if they are feeling depressed or suicidal. Contrary to popular belief, asking a child if he or she has had any thoughts of hurting or killing themselves does not cause them to act on that subject. If the teen rejects the idea that they are depressed and continues to show warning signs, it will be necessary to seek professional help.

If the child acknowledges that he or she is depressed, immediately contact your physician and seek the assistance of a mental health professional that works with children and adolescents. In addition, parents can help their teen by confronting self-defeating behaviors and thoughts by pointing out their positive attributes and value. Parents may need to prompt their teen to eat, sleep, exercise, and perform basic hygiene tasks on a daily basis. Doing these daily routines can dramatically help improve mood. Try to direct the teen to hang out with positive peers. Steer them away from other depressed adolescents. Explore underlying feelings of anger, hurt, and loss. Even the smallest loss of a friend or pet can intensify feelings of sadness. Allow the teen to talk, draw, or journal about their feelings without judgment. And for suicidal teens, make a “no-harm” contract for 24 to 48 hours at a time when they will not hurt themselves.

With proper care and treatment, depression can be alleviated and suicidal behaviors prevented. Parents and teen may even find a new, deeper relationship developing between them as they work through the dark feelings of depression.


National Institute of Mental Health Web Site. “Children and Depression: A Fact Sheet for Physicians.” (2001) http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/depchildresfact.cfm

New Definition of Autism May Exclude Many, Study Suggests

The definition is now being reassessed by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the first major revision in 17 years. The D.S.M., as the manual is known, is the standard reference for mental disorders, driving research, treatment and insurance decisions. Most experts expect that the new manual will narrow the criteria for autism; the question is how sharply.

The results of the new analysis are preliminary, but they offer the most drastic estimate of how tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis. For years, many experts have privately contended that the vagueness of the current criteria for autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome was contributing to the increase in the rate of diagnoses — which has ballooned to one child in 100, according to some estimates.

The psychiatrists’ association is wrestling with one of the most agonizing questions in mental health — where to draw the line between unusual and abnormal — and its decisions are sure to be wrenching for some families. At a time when school budgets for special education are stretched, the new diagnosis could herald more pitched battles. Tens of thousands of people receive state-backed services to help offset the disorders’ disabling effects, which include sometimes severe learning and social problems, and the diagnosis is in many ways central to their lives. Close networks of parents have bonded over common experiences with children; and the children, too, may grow to find a sense of their own identity in their struggle with the disorder.

The proposed changes would probably exclude people with a diagnosis who were higher functioning. “I’m very concerned about the change in diagnosis, because I wonder if my daughter would even qualify,” said Mary Meyer of Ramsey, N.J. A diagnosis of Asperger syndrome was crucial to helping her daughter, who is 37, gain access to services that have helped tremendously. “She’s on disability, which is partly based on the Asperger’s; and I’m hoping to get her into supportive housing, which also depends on her diagnosis.”

The new analysis, presented Thursday at a meeting of the Icelandic Medical Association, opens a debate about just how many people the proposed diagnosis would affect.

The changes would narrow the diagnosis so much that it could effectively end the autism surge, said Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine and an author of the new analysis of the proposal. “We would nip it in the bud.”

Experts working for the Psychiatric Association on the manual’s new definition — a group from which Dr. Volkmar resigned early on — strongly disagree about the proposed changes’ impact. “I don’t know how they’re getting those numbers,” Catherine Lord, a member of the task force working on the diagnosis, said about Dr. Volkmar’s report.

Previous projections have concluded that far fewer people would be excluded under the change, said Dr. Lord, director of the Institute for Brain Development, a joint project of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Columbia University Medical Center and the New York Center for Autism.

Disagreement about the effect of the new definition will almost certainly increase scrutiny of the finer points of the psychiatric association’s changes to the manual. The revisions are about 90 percent complete and will be final by December, according to Dr. David J. Kupfer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and chairman of the task force making the revisions.

At least a million children and adults have a diagnosis of autism or a related disorder, like Asperger syndrome or “pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified,” also known as P.D.D.-N.O.S. People with Asperger’s or P.D.D.-N.O.S. endure some of the same social struggles as those with autism but do not meet the definition for the full-blown version. The proposed change would consolidate all three diagnoses under one category, autism spectrum disorder, eliminating Asperger syndrome and P.D.D.-N.O.S. from the manual. Under the current criteria, a person can qualify for the diagnosis by exhibiting 6 or more of 12 behaviors; under the proposed definition, the person would have to exhibit 3 deficits in social interaction and communication and at least 2 repetitive behaviors, a much narrower menu.

Dr. Kupfer said the changes were an attempt to clarify these variations and put them under one name. Some advocates have been concerned about the proposed changes.

“Our fear is that we are going to take a big step backward,” said Lori Shery, president of the Asperger Syndrome Education Network. “If clinicians say, ‘These kids don’t fit the criteria for an autism spectrum diagnosis,’ they are not going to get the supports and services they need, and they’re going to experience failure.”

Amy Harmon contributed reporting.


Ron Huxley’s Reply: The DSM 5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual) is one of those necessary evils. We need it for mental health professionals to communicate with one another and for qualifications for reimbursement through insurance companies or treatment services. We hate it because it labels people and can stigmatize them for life. How have you loved or hate your child’s diagnosis? Share with us by clicking the reply link.

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Childhood Aggression Predicts Health Care Use Later in Life


Ron Huxley Responds: This repost from Brain Blogger outlines how children who are chronically aggressive at children has increased risks of health issues later in life. The most obvious reason for this is that angry children turn out to be angry adults, which has serious social and health costs. The 15-year longitudinal study revealed that aggressive lifestyles led to increase drug use, alcohol dependency, injuries and overall poor health. Anger takes a toll on our lives!

The blog states: “Young children can be physically aggressive, owing to a combination of instinct, temperament, cultural and social influences, and (sometimes) not getting what they want. But, by the time most kids reach preschool age, they have learned to control their aggression with coping skills and relational techniques. However, children who do not learn to regulate aggressive behavior are at risk for physical and mental health issues, as well as serious patterns of aggression and violence, as adults.”

Children have to learn social skills. They will hit, bite, or knock other children down as a very primal solution to who “gets to play the toy” or any other challenging social situation. Parents have the responsibility to model appropriate social behavior and teach children common social skills.

Homes with lots of stress and conflict can make teaching children how to get along with others as they look for a release valve for their anxiety. This can turn inward or outward depending on the temperament of the child. The solution to this, while not always simple, is to have healthier marriages and improve family communication.

How have you managed anger in children? What tips can you share on teaching social skills?

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New Kindle eBook: "101 Parenting Tools"

We are excited to announce our latest ebook formatted for the Amazon Kindle: 


Click here to get it hot off the electronic press!


Parents need the right tools for the job. Get 101 Parenting Tools from family therapist Ron Huxley and his popular ParentingToolbox.com website. This 53 page ebook gives an A-Z guide on how manage the toughest parenting problems. In addition, each tool lists the age of the child and parenting style (balance of love and limits) it is best suited for…get it and start taking back control of your home today!

Teenage Drug Use: Preventing and Treating

Teenage drug use is a severe problem in our society. It is a big concern for parents with very few clear directions on how to parents should prevent it from occurring in the first place. This is due to the fact that it is a subject that is considered “taboo” in our society leading to parents avoiding talking about the risks and dangers. It should be no surprise, then, that over-indulgent parents tend to have children with the highest drug abuse problems.

The problem of teenage drug abuse is huge.  According to the US Center for Disease Control, approximately 75% of teenagers have tried alcohol, 35% of teens have used marijuana at least once and almost 20% of teens currently use it regularly. Reports from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health state those 5.2 million youths ages 12 and older used non-medical pain killers within the month prior to being surveyed.  It is reported that drug use has affected the lives of nearly 40 percent of all teenagers in America. This would include health problems, driving under the influence, highway crashes, arrests, impaired school and job performance. The drugs that teenagers most often use range from Alcohol, LSD, Marijuana, and tobacco products, to name just a few. 

Signs that your teenager might be using drugs include: loss of interest in family activities, sudden increase or decrease in appetite, disrespect for family rules, disappearance of valuable items or money, lying about activities, verbally or physically abusive interactions between the teen and the rest of the family, secretive behaviors, and/or excuses for bad behavior. Other warning signs include missing prescription drugs, finding cigarette rolling papers, pipes, small glass vials, plastic baggies or remnants of drugs, use of incense or room deodorant to hide smoke or chemical odors, and using breath mints or mouth wash to cover up the smell of alcohol.

If your child has any of these signs, it is important to address those concerns directly. Don’t be in denial or fear your child’s anger at your questions or concerns about drug use. Better a little negative reaction from your teen then allowing a problem to move from use to abuse and long-term addiction or death. Permissiveness is as big a factor as peer pressure when it comes to why teenagers use drugs or alcohol.

As much as teenagers attempt to reject being like their parents, they do view their actions as role models. The positive side of this is that parents who handle the problem with directness and empathy will have a better chance at treating the teenager’s drug use and maintaining a healthy relationship. The negative side is that parents who abuse drugs and alcohol themselves cannot preach what they do not practice. Additionally, parents who react in an overly hostile manner toward their children will reinforce the very problem they are trying to stop.

Protective factors that will help parents prevent or treat drug use include learning better family communication skills, appropriate discipline styles, firm and consistent rule enforcement, and other positive family management approaches. Research confirms the benefits of talking to children about drugs, monitoring their activities, getting to know their friends, understanding their problems and concerns, and being involved in their school activities.

If you are a parent that is looking for teenage drug treatment and teenage rehab centers there are many options available.

Refer to sites like http://www.rehabs.com to see if there is one near where you live.

You can look into detoxification, residential rehabilitation, an intensive outpatient program, or an aftercare/continuing care program.

For the successful fruition of the drug treatment program the role played by the family is very vital. Drug addiction is a problem that affects not only the individual but also the family members. The family should act as a support system for the recovering patients. For these teenagers to be able to stay clean and free of drugs they need the involvement and support of their family.

An addicted teenager must be given timely and proper help from a professional source to take care of their condition. For proper treatment a correct diagnosis of the condition is very vital at the beginning. During the recovery process at a teenage drug treatment center a patient goes through a treatment procedure that suits them and their requirements. Drug abuse has several physical and emotional challenges which must be dealt with in a highly professional and caring manner.

Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids | Video on TED.com

Ron Huxley Reacts: This little girl has some very big thoughts that parents need to hear…

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