Teens with Co-Occurring Disorders

Essentially, a co-occurring disorder is when someone has a substance abuse problem in addition to a mental health illness. Most teenagers already feel pressured to try drugs or alcohol, and this pressure can be intensified if they also suffer from a mental health disorder.Because of this, parents of teenagers worry about drastic changes in their child’s behavior. If you are concerned about your child’s well-being, here are the answers to some of the most common questions about teens with co-occurring disorders.

Are Co-Occurring Disorders Common in Teens?

According to the most recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 13 percent of children under the age of 18 have a mental health disorder. Additionally, almost 9 percent of adolescents, between the ages of 12 and 17, have a drug or alcohol abuse disorder. It has been suggested that more than half of American teens with a substance abuse problem also have a diagnosable mental health illness, which could result in a co-occurring disorder.

Some of the most frequently diagnosed co-occurring disorders in teens are depression and substance abuse, and anxiety disorders with substance abuse. While these versions of co-occurring disorders are common, there are several combinations of this disorder, which could put your teen’s mental and physical health at great risk.

How Can I Tell if My Teen Has a Co-Occurring Disorder?

One of the ways you can tell if your teen has a co-occurring disorder is to monitor their actions and emotions. Unfortunately, identifying a co-occurring disorder can be trickier than dealing solely with substance abuse or a mental health issue.

With substance abuse, teens most often exhibit certain actions, such as: a decline in effort at school, abnormal hygiene, eating or sleeping habits, and a disinterest in continuing current relationships.

Mental health disorders can be more difficult to identify, as the teen could feel reluctant to outwardly share their emotions. If your teen exhibits extreme apathy, drastic changes in their sleeping patterns or an overall loss of energy, they could be clinically depressed.

If you notice that your teen displays these actions or emotions, and you suspect that they are also involved with substance abuse, they could be candidates for a co-occurring disorder diagnosis.

What Can I Do to Help?

By bringing your teen to a team of experienced professionals, they will be able to help determine what your teen may be going through. If your teen does, in fact, have a mental health illness and a substance abuse problem, the proper mental health treatment and substance abuse rehab could help bring them back to a more normal lifestyle. Unfortunately, treating co-occurring disorders can be difficult, so not many institutes offer treatment for this type of disorder.

But here at South Coast Counseling, our professional counselors have the experience and the tools to help those with co-occurring disorders. If you feel like your teen is suffering from a co-occurring disorder, contact us to get them the help they need.

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