Teen Mental Health: What are Coexisting Disorders?

In teens, a coexisting disorder occurs when they are affected by both a mental disorder and a chemical dependency.
So, what does that mean for your family? 

A mental disorder can describe a number of different issues. Your daughter might suffer from mental health or mood disorder, like depression, anxiety, bipolar affective disorder, PTSD or trauma. She might also have a behavior disorder, like ADHD or ODD (oppositional defiance disorder.) A mental disorder may also refer to an eating disorder like anorexia, binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa.

Chemical dependency refers to substance abuse addiction. Your daughter may be struggling with cannabis use, alcohol use or use of any other type of drug, including prescription medications.

Diagnosing these disorders typically requires a professional. Symptoms between the two can overlap, and the two disorders can also exacerbate each other’s symptoms. The symptoms of one disorder can even hide the symptoms of the other, making a diagnosis, and treatment, even harder.

How Common are Coexisting Disorders?

Coexisting disorders are more common than you might think. According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), teenagers accounted for 310,100 community hospital stays in 2012. Of those, 28.1 percent, or more than one-fourth had either a mental disorder or substance abuse disorder. Among girls between the ages of 13 and 19, approximately 44.7 percent had coexisting disorders.

If you really dive into the research, this isn’t that surprising. The National Institute of Mental Health states that about 40 percent of individuals with a mood disorder also meet the criteria for having another disorder. Many of these disorders manifest early in life. According to their study, anxiety disorders usually develop about age six, behavioral disorders emerge by age 11, mood disorders appear by age 13 and substance abuse disorders begin to manifest around age 15.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A mental health professional can help diagnose your daughter’s symptoms can help you understand more about her behavior, mood and disorder. There are various options for treatment, but a therapeutic boarding school is one of the best for troubled teens.

This type of school provides treatment for both substance abuse disorders and mental health problems. At the same time, they work with your teen to help them get back on track academically so they can graduate high school.

Greenbrier Academy for Girls, for instance, offers a number of therapeutic options for teens with coexisting disorders, like addiction recovery, equine therapy, one-on-one counseling, group therapy, African drumming and Aspirations. The students work together in both group and Aspirations, with the help of staff and counselors, to understand the root of their problems and overcome it. We also make family a priority; you’ll be able to speak to your daughter and her therapist each week and work on communication and understanding her diagnosis and treatment for it. At the three weekly workshops a year, you’ll also have the opportunity to see the real changes your daughter is making during her stay at Greenbrier.

Is your daughter suffering from coexisting mental health and substance abuse disorders? Find the help she needs now at Greenbrier’s therapeutic boarding school.

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