When addiction is accompanied by a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self harm, etc., it’s called a co-occuring disorder. These are common at all ages, but are particularly evident within young adults ages 12 to 22. Today’s guest blogger shares insight. MWM
Side note: Join us for the second-annual From Statistics to Solutions conference on May 11, 2017, in Minneapolis, to develop solutions for co-occurring disorders and substance use among young adults.
Often times addiction comes with other pre-existing, or co-occurring disorders. These issues can exist alongside addiction, exacerbating the substance abuse, or even sometimes lead to its onset. Many times those suffering from these co-occurring disorders are unaware of their existence, and many times they are unaware that the substance abuse that follows is actually a form of self-medicating. They know that when they smoke pot, drink, use prescription pills or other illicit substances they experience a decrease in anxiety or depression, but they do not understand on a conscious level what this truly means. They only see the results and do not see the fact that their substance abuse is merely masking a larger issue that has probably gone undiagnosed for years.
Unfortunately, all of this usually comes to a head during the formative teenage years, due to the fact that the brain is still developing, and due to the mounting pressures of teenage life. Many American youth fall into the temptation of drug abuse during this time period and it is often a direct result of some underlying mental health concern.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 in 10 people who suffer from addiction also suffer from a mental health disorder. Among teens this number is a little lower, but about 50% of all teens who have a substance abuse disorder also suffer from a mental health concern. This means that 1 in 2 teens who are abusing drugs may be doing so as a way to deal with such issues as depression, anxiety, or any other number of co-occurring disorders.
Luckily, our understanding and our ability to treatment teenage drug abuse and co-occurring disorders has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. We now understand that in order to deal with substance abuse issues in teens that suffer from a co-occurring disorder, we have to first get them free from drugs and other mind and mood altering substances, and then within the treatment protocol for their drug treatment, we also deal with the underlying issues that may have furthered their drug abuse.
So let’s take a look at some of the co-occurring disorders that commonly appear alongside teenage and young adult drug abuse. It is important to note that if you or your teen appears to be suffering from any of the below and a substance abuse problem, professional help should be sought in order to help stave off further issues down the road.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders with Addiction
According to studies approximately 20% of teenagers will experience depression before the age of 18. Besides this the World Health Organization states that depression is one of the leading causes of disability throughout the world. Among teens, depression can cause a number of different issues, but one of the most common co-occurring disorders to arise out of depression is substance abuse. Many teens who suffer from depression and who have not as of yet sought treatment are more apt to drink or use drugs as a means to cope with their depression.
Having an anxiety disorder is more than just having the occasional feeling of stress. It is more than just losing sleep before an important event, but rather it is something that can rule over a person’s life. People who have an anxiety disorder will experience an elevated level of stress or anxiety a majority of the time, sometimes even causing them debilitating social issues or panic attacks that can mimic heart attacks. Some people who suffer from anxiety disorders will turn to drugs such as pot or opioids in order to quell their anxiousness, but without dealing with the underlying issue it will always resurface over time.
- Eating Disorders
Unfortunately many times eating disorders and addiction go hand in hand. Sometimes the eating disorder will predate the addiction, and the addiction is developed either as a means to help with the eating disorder, i.e. weight loss pills or other stimulants, or the addiction can be unrelated to the eating disorder. It is important if you are having an issue with an eating disorder to seek out professional help sooner rather than later, because it can cause a number of health complications and in some cases even result in death.
In a sense addiction is a form of self-harm, although many addicts would not initially view it that way. The reason I say this is because a person who abuses drugs to the point that it is detrimental to their health and life is inflicting an inordinate amount of harm on themselves. For other teens though, self-harm may take on the form of cutting or burning themselves as a way to deal with anxiety, depression, or other confusing emotions. Often times teens that suffer from self-harm will also suffer from substance abuse, as the two both act as a way to cope with life.
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders
Teens or young adults who are suffering from addiction and some other co-occurring disorder may feel a tremendous amount of shame about their illnesses, to the point where they will not want to discuss them with anyone. They may want to hide the fact that they are abusing drug and depressed, yet neither of these things are anything to be ashamed of.
Many times in our society we place such a negative connotation of drug abuse and mental health issues that people will just pretend that everything is okay at the expense of their own happiness and wellbeing. With that said, if you believe you have an issue with substance abuse or some other mental health concern, reach out for help; even if it is frightening, and even if you think people may judge you for it. Don’t suffer alone and remember that there are millions of people around the world who feel and have felt exactly like you do right now. Give yourself a chance to get better and ask for help.
About Today’s Guest Blogger:
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.