A parent struggling with addiction may assume that their addiction does not affect anyone else. In reality, their addiction can affect their children, causing them to develop depression and other mental health disorders as a result of a parent’s addiction.
The prevalence of parental addiction
Mental disorders are more common in children without addiction in their lives than some may realize. In the U.S., 2.1 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 struggle with depression, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of the main factors in a child’s life that can lead to depression is the environment they grow up in.
Between one and two-thirds of child maltreatment cases were directly related to substance abuse among parents or caregivers, asserts the Child Welfare Information Gateway. While, 12 percent of children in the U.S. live with a parent who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Illicit drug abuse and alcoholism are also contributing factors toward a higher risk for involvement of child welfare services.
The impact of parental addiction on children
The risk for child neglect increases when an adult abuses drugs or alcohol. An adult’s addiction can impact the care of children in the following ways:
- Withdrawal from social settings, such as school or family
- Spending excess time away from children in favor of obtaining, abusing, or manufacturing drugs
- Being incapable of recognizing a child’s physical/verbal wants and needs
- Changes in emotions, such as anger, violent behavior or impulsivity
- Using money for a child’s needs, such as food, shelter and clothing, to purchase drugs or alcohol
- Being away from children due to incarceration
- Disruptions in a child’s environment, such as removal from a drug-favorable home
Each of these risks can push a child to develop a mental disorder or condition. In worse cases, a teen will resort to substance abuse in order to cope with a harsh lifestyle and unhealthy home environment. If a mother abused drugs or alcohol while pregnant, the mental and physical impairments to the child may include intellectual and developmental disorders, such as fetal alcohol syndrome.
As an adult, the parent needs to take responsibility and seek treatment as soon as possible for his or her sake, and the child’s sake as well.
Other possible risk factors for childhood depression
The severity of childhood depression due to neglect or child abuse is nonspecific. Researchers do not know what degree of addiction is most likely to result in the most severe cases of depression during childhood. However, children in these circumstances do have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health disorders. Children with a family history of depression or other mental health disorders may be genetically predisposed to the conditions, explains WebMD.
Poor physical health from malnutrition cam contribute to an imbalance in the body and brain. As a result, neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) may be incapable of functioning properly, causing depression to set in. With treatment, a child or teenager can beat their depression and lead a healthier life.
Treatment for childhood depression
The treatment options for children with depression include a combination of psychotherapy and medication. The treatment program needs to be tailored to the individual, as no single treatment method works for all individuals. If the parent’s addiction is a cause of the child’s condition, part of the treatment for the child’s condition may include addiction treatment for the parent. If a child is in clear danger of harm under the care of a parent who will not seek the proper treatment for an addiction, the child may be taken to stay with another relative or responsible party.
In some cases, an adult struggling with an addiction will not realize that his or her problem, affects loved ones. Children become the first victims of a parent’s addiction and are not the last. These children have an increased risk of substance abuse later in life, depression during childhood, and other mental health disorders.
By understanding how parental addiction contributes to this risk, caregivers can take action now to reduce its likelihood. Do not let the struggles of addiction become the struggles of your child. Seek help for an addiction or mental illness today.