Bullying can cause long-term trauma and victims often turn to substance abuse as a self soothing coping mechanism. Self medication and addiction can come in a variety of forms including abusing prescription drugs. Teens and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to bullying and social pressures. Adolescence is a critical developmental stage as one transitions into adulthood. At this age, we begin to distil our identities, personalities and what develop our interests.
The trauma bullying has on a teenagers can lead to major depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. Combine these factors and the connection between addiction and bullying becomes clear. Chronic anxiety and panic disorders can make a person withdrawn and they may develop trust issues. Vulnerable teens often find themselves giving into peer pressure in an effort just to to ‘belong’ and identify.
A troubled teen may engage in a number of self-destructive risky behaviours:
- Underage drinking
- Binge drinking
- Drug abuse
- Violence or getting into fights
- Risky sexual behaviour
- Eating disorders
What can you do as a parent to help your child?
As a parent, you may feel hopeless and unable to help your child cope with bullying. Unfortunately, many parents fail to recognise the changes in their teens behaviour. They may assume that it is part of ‘growing pains’ and not take the situation seriously enough until more drastic intervention is needed. Depression and anxiety can also present as rage or aggression but it is important to have an open relationship with your teen. Family therapy provides a safe, neutral environment where problem behaviours can be addressed.
If you suspect your teenager is taking drugs you may have to stage an intervention. Speak to an intervention councillor if you are unsure of how to handle the situation. If in-patient rehab is necessary, it is important to have the full cooperation of person suffering from substance abuse.