Addiction and Mental Health: A Bi-Directional Relationship in Teens


Addiction and Mental Health: A Bi-Directional Relationship in Teens

Many teens experience ups and downs in their daily life. Some of these ups and downs are normal. However, for some teens, it is due to challenges with addiction and mental health. In teens, mental health and addiction often go hand in hand. Struggling with addiction can impact mental health, and a teen’s mental health plays a role in their risk of addiction. Fortunately, a treatment center that addresses mental health, such as Sustain Recovery, can help. When teens learn to care for their mental health needs, they are less likely to struggle with addiction – both as teens and into adulthood.

Addiction and Mental Health

A teen’s mental health and risk of addiction are closely linked. While not all teens struggling with addiction have mental health challenges, many of them do. Both share common risk factors, including genetics and environmental factors like stress or trauma. The relationship between addiction and mental health challenges is not one way. Rather, it is bi-directional. Each impacts the other and increases the severity when they occur as co-occurring disorders.

Mental Health Challenges Can Lead to Addiction

When a teen is struggling with their mental health, their symptoms are unique to them. They may experience symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, or difficulty sleeping. While these symptoms are mild for some, many teens struggle with severe difficulties that interrupt their everyday life. As a result, many teens self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Over time, this use of drugs or alcohol to control mental health symptoms will lead to addiction.

Teens who are struggling with their mental health commonly have changes in their brains, which leads to their presenting symptoms. For some, these changes include alterations to the reward centers of the brain. As a result, teens with mental health challenges are more likely to develop an addiction due to the increased sensitivity to the reward that is a result of drugs and alcohol.

Impact of Addiction on Teen’s Mental Health

Likewise, using drugs or alcohol causes changes in the brain. The sensations a teen gets from using drugs and alcohol are due to how the chemicals interact with the brain. This includes the release of dopamine, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter. Due to the sensation, teens are likely to return to their substance of choice to feel good again.

However, over time, a teen’s brain gets accustomed to the dopamine that results from drug or alcohol use. This is called dependence. Dependence can cause many things, including alterations to the structures in the brain itself.

These changes in the brain impact a teen’s likelihood of addiction as an adult. However, they can also impact their mental health. In adulthood, many mental health disorders are more common in those who struggled with substance abuse and addiction in adolescence.

Healing From Addiction and Mental Health

Addiction and mental health are two challenges that many teens face. They interact with each other and tend to exaggerate the symptoms of the other. Addiction makes mental health symptoms worse, and mental health challenges make addiction more difficult to heal from. However, by addressing the root causes and building lasting skills, teens have an opportunity to heal from addiction and mental health challenges.

Addressing the Root Causes

In treatment for addiction and mental health challenges, it is important to address the root causes. For some teens, the root causes may include trauma, specific mental health disorders, or other factors.

Knowing the root causes of such challenges is not always easy. When a teen is working to heal from addiction and mental health difficulties, it is often hard to tell what came first. However, by learning about a teen’s story and background, staff at treatment facilities like Sustain Recovery help uncover the root causes of a teen’s challenges.

Building Lasting Skills

Healing from addiction and mental health challenges is not an easy task. It is not a simple solution like taking a pill every day. Building lasting skills is vital for teens to heal, and it helps them to be able to manage challenges as adolescents and adults.

There are many skills required for a teen to heal from addiction and mental health challenges. Some of these skills are internal, while others are external. Internal skills like being aware of emotions, thoughts, and needs are important. However, external skills like drawing boundaries, effective communication, and practicing life skills are also vital.

These skills play a role in a teen’s ability to heal. Additionally, they give teens a foundation for them to grow and move forward in their lives, enabling them to manage mental health symptoms and maintain their sobriety after treatment. Without sustained utilization of these skills, teens will go back to old patterns. However, with these skills, they can develop a new way to live their lives.

When a teen struggles with mental health, they are more likely to have difficulties with addiction. Additionally, substance use or abuse can make their mental health symptoms worse. Helping teens to heal from both addiction and mental health challenges is crucial. At Sustain Recovery, we offer treatment that is individualized and supports teens to heal from both mental health challenges and addiction. Our program offers multiple levels of care in order for teens to get the type of treatment that is most effective for them. If you are interested in learning more about our programs for mental health and addiction treatment for teens, please give us a call at (949) 407-9052.