“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
1 Thessalonians 2:8
Severe illness. Divorce. Bullying at school. Domestic violence. Trauma refers to a scary, dangerous, violent, or life threatening event. Trauma can affect individuals of any age and can even result from indirect events, such as the witnessing of an immediate threat to a loved one… especially one that results in serious harm or injury. The most well-known of traumas is the type suffered by military personnel who see combat; Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD. Another, unfortunately, is that suffered by young people who survive a mass shooting.
Another term often used to describe a trauma event is ACE or Adverse Childhood Experience. Studies have shown that approximately 65% of children experience at least 1 adverse event during their childhood and that nearly 40% of children experience at least 2 or more ACEs. This study further has repeatedly found that the greater number of ACEs a child has been exposed to, the greater he/she is at risk for developing physical and mental health problems throughout their lifespan (e.g. heart and lung disease, alcoholism, risk for intimate partner violence, drug use, poor academic or work performance, depression, suicide). It is critical, then, that if your child should experience an ACE of some kind, that you seek treatment for him or her as quickly as possible.
Despite a recent decline in cigarette use among teens, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Teenagers turn to tobacco as a coping mechanism that can often lead to other risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol use. In a recent survey, nearly 90% of adult smokers claimed they smoked their first cigarette by the age of 18. At-risk teens often think they will never become addicted, despite the fact that three of four teen smokers will become adult smokers.
Why is it dangerous? In addition to inhaling smoke into their lungs, nicotine negatively affects a teenager’s brain development, and the craving levels are much more amplified. The earlier an individual begins to smoke, the easier it is to get addicted and more difficult it becomes to quit. And, while cigarette use has steadily decreased over the last decade, the use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed among teenagers since 2015. This has created a recent epidemic among adolescents, and the long term effects of e-cigarette are still unknown.
The rise of the internet and other forms of media have intensified the problem of sex addiction among teenagers. Many think this addiction is strictly an adult problem, but studies show this is a prevalent issue among teens, as well. Approximately one in eight individuals who visit a pornographic website is 7 to 17 years of age, and the average age of initial exposure to these sites is 11 years old. The effects of sex addiction can have lifelong consequences, emotional and physical, which inhibit daily life. It can easily lead to loss of control and negatively affect a teen’s social life and academic performance.
The possible shame a teen may feel can prevent them from seeking help, and sometimes parents perceive this behavior as being a typical aspect of adolescence. Parents should be mindful of changes in their teen’s behavior, such as extended periods in their room or hiding their internet searches. Teens usually refuse to discuss their history of addiction until seeking treatment, and while recovering they realize they are not alone in their struggles.
In recent years, our changing technological culture has resulted in a serious digital game addiction problem among teenagers. This type of cyber gaming can be carried out in game arcades, in front of the computer, or through gaming consoles connected to the television. This addiction is best described as an impulse control disorder involving an uncontrolled use of digital games. Your teenager may experience symptoms such as excessive game-play, a continuance in playing despite its negative effects, a loss of interest in other hobbies, and psychological deprivation when unable to play.
Since gaming is often deemed socially acceptable and addiction is commonly associated with drug and alcohol abuse, parents underestimate the potential for their teen to develop this addiction. Gaming stimulates the brain’s reward centers, which triggers the same high as someone with substance abuse issues may experience. A study in 2017 found that symptoms of problematic gaming behavior were directly related to certain physical, social, and psychological health outcomes. Teenagers who show unhealthy gaming behavior may also experience elevated health risks later in life. If your teen would rather engage in digital gaming than socialize with friends, exercise, or even eat, he or she may need treatment.
Opioid use is rapidly increasing in the United States, and opioid use among teenagers is one of the most lethal and devastating aspects of this epidemic. The thousands of teenagers struggling with this addiction are at a much greater risk of lifelong use and overdose, and studies show that the opioid crisis among teens is getting much worse. Opioid abuse rates among teens increased by 19 percent from 2014 to 2015, and 21,000 teens reportedly used heroin in 2015. Studies also found that a major factor of teen abuse is due to the easy accessibility through doctors, drug dealers, or the internet.
Another major factor is a teen’s previous history of mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders. Teenagers who face such challenges may escape their feelings by using opioids, but the dopamine’s effects on their brain are only temporary. Increased amounts are then required to achieve the same euphoria, which puts the teen at great risk for dependence or overdose. Warning signs of this addiction are sometimes subtle, which can often make it challenging for a parent to identify that their teen has a problem. Some more noticeable signs include getting in trouble with school or the law, finishing prescription medications prematurely, a decrease in academic performance, or withdrawing from family and friends. Treatment becomes more difficult as the addiction progresses, so early treatment is essential for teens who are struggling.
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