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Teen Girls and Co-occurring Disorders 

Mental illness and substance abuse commonly occurs at the same time. A teen may have substance abuse issues, but also may struggle with depression, anxiety, or multiple mental disorders at a time. 

About 2.8 million teens ages 12 and older engage in substance abuse in the United States, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). It is estimated that 60 to 75 percent of teens who engage in substance abuse also have at least one mental health disorder. 

Common Co-occurring Disorders

When drug and alcohol addiction is present, there are often mental disorders that either accompany the substance abuse or occur due to the substance abuse. 

Up to 60 percent of people who have mental illness in the United States also have a co-occurring disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The most common co-occurring disorders with substance abuse in teens include:

With about 1 in 4 children and adolescents in the United States experiencing at least one traumatic event before the age of 16, childhood trauma puts teens, especially girls, at an even higher risk for co-occurring disorders. 

What’s the Connection?

When teens experience significant trauma or they are already struggling with a mental disorder, they often turn to substance abuse to cope. Another important factor to consider is childhood trauma. Other factors may include:

  • Genetics 
  • Neurological or chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Lack of brain development since the brain doesn’t mature until 25

Childhood trauma affects each individual differently. Girls are more likely to experience sexual abuse. According to the Adverse Childhood Experience study by the Center for Disease Control, out of 17,000 adults surveyed, about 24.7 percent of women and 16 percent of men were sexually abused during adolescence. Girls also experience more emotional abuse and neglect than boys, while boys are slightly more likely to experience physical abuse.

In the ACE study, about 41 percent of women had at least two or more traumatic childhood experiences and 34.2 percent of males had at least two or more traumatic childhood experiences. 

Treatment for Teen Girls

Relapse rates are higher for teens with co-occurring disorders. Regarding effective treatment for co-occurring disorders, it’s important to identify why teens are abusing drugs and alcohol in the first place. 

At Teen Treatment Center, we use an integrative approach to treatment. We focus on the underlying issues of the substance abuse and simultaneously treat mental illness with a wide range of therapies. These effective integrative therapies include: 

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): CBT helps teens identify their maladaptive thoughts that contribute to their emotions, bad decisions and behavior. This approach reinforces positive behaviors so teens can develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT helps teens examine multiple ideas to identify the truth from a non-judgmental perspective. With mindfulness training, this approach helps teens identify which behaviors are effective or ineffective ways of coping. 
  • Family therapy: Often when a teen is struggling with substance abuse and mental health problems, it affects the entire family emotionally, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Family therapy explores family dynamics so each family member can heal and learn healthy coping mechanisms, emotional responses and behaviors. 

If your teen girl is struggling with a co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorder, our board-certified therapists have years of experience providing effective treatment. 

To find out how Teen Treatment Center can help your teen heal, call us today at (844) 319-5239, our admissions counselors are available to help answer any questions you may have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. 

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