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What Is a Dual Diagnosis?

When a mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) co-exists, the medical and psych field refers to this as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. If a teenager has both, it requires a special set of skills and understanding to help them. Treatment for teens with ADHD, clinical depression, or anxiety often includes medication and behavioral therapy sessions to help them adjust to their new lives without substance use affecting their moods and behaviors. However, it's not always easy to find a facility that offers these different therapies under one roof. We hope this guide will help with your research. 

Mental Illness and Substance Abuse in Teens

Notably, SUDs and mental illnesses intertwine because of overlapping factors. These factors include genetic predispositions and environmental influences like stress or trauma. These factors also vary according to the mental health disorder or SUD. For example, if someone lives with severe emotional distress or fear, they may turn to alcohol to relieve the symptoms. However, the specific symptoms of a dual diagnosis can vary widely, even within a single disorder. That is why it's difficult to describe a standard list of symptoms. 

The following list might reflect the symptoms of co-occurring disorders:

  • Heightened irritability or anger
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Disorganized thinking or inability to focus
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • A lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Resistance to work or attend school
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Conduct disturbances such as an argument or fighting

Teens With Anxiety and SUD

It may seem counterintuitive, but it's common for individuals who experience high anxiety levels to use alcohol or drugs to reduce symptoms. Some studies noted their participants believed that alcohol and drugs could help them cope. The same study also discovered that pre-teens with acute anxiety could develop a SUD during their teenage years to handle anxiety. 

Parents with teens experiencing anxiety may notice their teen withdrawing from activities they usually enjoy to avoid a panic attack or heightened anxiety. For example, they might have panic attacks while at school, so they try to avoid school.  

Teen Depression And SUD

Similar to SUD, depression stems from a blend of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Because of the rapid changes in adolescence, teens struggle to cope as their relationships, bodies, and brains develop. Teens with depression can withdraw, which often leads to isolation and avoidance. 

Other signs of depression in teens include:

  • A persistent sense of emptiness
  • Feeling irritable or helpless
  • Fatigue or change of sleep patterns
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Changes in their weight or appetite

Teens with ADHD and SUD

Attention deficit disorder, or ADHD, is a neurobehavioral disorder that arises in children and teens. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), ADHD increases the risk of alcoholism and SUD in teens. Recent research has discovered that untreated ADHD may be the underlying cause of substance use.  

These NIDA-backed studies confirmed such a hypothesis. The studies reveal that teens who receive the right medical treatment for ADHD perform better in school, have more friends, and have a higher quality of life. Hence, they are less likely to experience depression. They are also less likely to self-medicate to treat underlying symptoms of ADHD. 

Additionally, prescribing stimulants reduce teens' impulsivity and protect them from risky activities, such as experimenting with drugs. A facility specializing in dual diagnosis is better suited to assist your teen to reach a balance between sobriety and their ADHD symptoms for a better quality of life. 

Early Intervention Matters

Mental illness and substance use disorders often develop during adolescence, and people who develop problems earlier typically have a greater risk for severe problems as adults. Evidence-based interventions can help reduce the impact of risk factors. Using such interventions will reduce these mental, emotional, and behavioral problems among youth in need.

Take action now. The first step in addressing your teen's addiction is to get them into a rehabilitation program or drug detox. Many types of rehab facilities, centers, and hospitals can help.

Our Treatment Program

Mental illness and substance abuse in teens can be very serious. But the right treatment will make all the difference. At Clearfork Academy, we offer comprehensive treatment to support parents and teenagers through the entire journey toward recovery. 

Teens in our programs take part in:

We realize that adolescents have unique needs when struggling with a dual diagnosis. Thus, our evidence-based therapies specialize in treating trauma, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. 

Drugs and alcohol can mask the symptoms of mental health disorders. However, when your teen stops using substances, the underlying mental health disorder often reveals itself. At Clearfork Academy, we understand that living with a co-occurring disorder is challenging. Treatment is not one-size-fits-all therefore, we will work with you to you explore all of your options for treatment that adheres to your teen's needs. Some treatment could entail medications or counseling to address co-occurring disorders. Our team of licensed clinicians is motivated to offer your teen a therapeutic experience that addresses both conditions simultaneously. Since we specialize in teen substance abuse treatment, our treatment modalities span from adventure therapy to CBT. We dedicate ourselves to helping teens affected by dual diagnosis overcome these challenges and return to living their best life. If you and your teen currently need help, act today. To find out more, reach out to Clearfork Academy by calling us at (817) 259-2597.

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