Depression and the Internet

Depression is a disease that affects millions of people, including teenagers and young adults. If your teenager struggles with depression, the internet may play a significant role in how they approach treatment for their illness. Online friends, acquaintances, and information may play a big role in your teen’s reactions to therapy, how they handle treatment, and even whether they’re willing to seek help for their illness.

Entire subcultures exist on the internet, and the groups that your teen is involved in may have a role in their behavior. At first, it may seem like a great idea to allow your teenager to spend time online with other teenagers. After all, if they suffer from depression as well, they can share tips about how to cope, how to feel better, and what treatment options work well for them.

Sadly, this is often not the case. Depression, self-harm, and suicide are often glamorized online. Groups of teenagers often gather to discuss their recent feelings, how to avoid taking medication, and even the best methods of attempting suicide. The internet opens doors that previously remained closed, making it easy to talk about the unmentionable. Suicide and depression are made to appear trendy, and suffering from depression or self harming behavior gets teenagers into online groups. It can become difficult for teenagers and parents alike to discriminate between legitimate symptoms and attention seeking behavior on the internet.

Teens find commiseration for their suffering in online chat rooms and forums, and they are reluctant to turn away from these “friends”. Forcing them to do so may even trigger a more severe depressive episode. Your child’s online friends have just as much influence on him, if not more, than his real world friends. Taking them away can feel like the end of his world, so do so with caution.

Take the steps necessary to get treatment for your teen in the real world -therapy, counseling, and medication if necessary. Discuss your teen’s online behavior with their therapist, and ask them to make recommendations. If your teenager suffers from severe depression, it may be too risky to cut off their internet use cold turkey. Instead, show the therapist the sites that your teen is frequenting, and ask them to help you make recommendations.

Most importantly, take any signs or symptoms of depression seriously. If you feel that your teen is suffering from depressive symptoms, have them evaluated by a doctor or licensed therapist, and work with them to develop a treatment plan. Turning a depressed teenager lose on the internet could be a recipe for disaster, so work with your child’s mental health professional to initiate appropriate safeguards for internet usage in the home.

Have a great day!