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5 Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders in Teens

smiling female therapist helping teenage girl by explaining 5 signs of co-occurring disorders in teens

A co-occurring or dual-diagnosis disorder in teens will negatively affect their emotional development, peer relationships, and education. How can you tell if your teen is struggling with multiple mental health illnesses? There are numerous signs of co-occurring disorders in teens that you should be familiar with if you notice they are struggling with their mental health and using drugs or alcohol to cope.

Imagine Boise is a full-service mental health facility for teens who have developed a co-occurring disorder of substance abuse and depression, anxiety, or other treatable disorders. Our treatment programs take into account each teen’s symptoms and personal experiences to create a personalized recovery program that includes medical support and behavioral therapies. Our outpatient programs allow teens to continue their education while receiving quality mental health care.

For more information about co-occurring disorders and how they can affect your teen, call 888.597.2807 today to schedule a consultation.

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

A co-occurring disorder is a condition where a person develops a substance use disorder that is caused by another disorder. Teens with depression or anxiety symptoms who don’t know how to process their emotions are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to cope.

To complicate things further, teens with a substance use disorder can develop a co-occurring disorder. Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of addiction, and if the abuse is allowed to continue, teens will soon develop a depressive or anxiety disorder.

Co-occurring disorders in teens are relatively common in the U.S. In 2019, 18.7%, or 4.5 million teens aged 12-17, struggled with a co-occurring disorder of substance abuse and another mental health disorder1. The complexities of dealing with dual disorders make the recovery process more complex as one disorder often hides the other.

Fortunately, teens can get help with their co-occurring disorders by enrolling in a treatment program that uses behavioral therapies and medication to treat all symptoms at the same time. The team at Imagine Boise has years of experience working with co-occurring disorders in teens between 12 and 17 years of age. Our therapists work hard to get to the underlying issues behind the disorders so they can develop a more effective recovery program and prevent their symptoms from worsening.

5 Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders in Teens

Recognizing the signs of co-occurring disorders is easy to do if you know what to look for. While some of these symptoms may be just the result of normal teenage angst, the combination of multiple symptoms can point to a more concerning problem.

Five signs of co-occurring disorders in teens to watch out for:

  1. Behavioral changes – Teens who struggle to understand their emotions and new feelings will express themselves in negative ways out of frustration or confusion. They don’t know how to express themselves and can begin to show signs of aggression, irritability, and depression. Self-isolation is a common sign of mental health despair.
  2. Changes in sleeping habits – Co-occurring disorders will affect your teen’s sleeping habits. Insomnia and hypersomnia, or sleeping too much, are symptoms of substance abuse and other disorders and can lead to fatigue and mental decline, which can affect their grades and physical health.
  3. Emotional distress – Teens can become easily overwhelmed by their emotions, which can be very stressful if they don’t know how to process them. Excessive worrying or being fearful can be very hard on teens and increases the risk of turning to drugs and alcohol for help. Watch for sudden changes in mood, bouts of unexplained crying, and increasing anger and frustration.
  4. Unexplained physical pain – Depression and other disorders can cause physical pain if left to linger. Stomach pain, muscle cramps, back pain, and joint pain are all symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.
  5. Substance abuse – One of the key signs of a co-occurring disorder is using drugs or alcohol to feel better. If teens don’t learn about the harm substance abuse can do to their physical and mental well-being now, they will have a more challenging time resisting addiction cravings later in life.

These are just a few of the possible co-occurring disorder signs that you can look for in your teen son or daughter. Other more obvious signs include finding unexplained alcohol bottles around the home, bloodshot or watery eyes, erratic behavior, and a musky odor if they smoke cannabis or other drugs.

Join Imagine Boise for Our Co-Occurring Disorder Programs for Teens

At Imagine Boise, we welcome Idaho teens aged 12-17 who have developed a co-occurring or dual-diagnosis disorder. Our experienced team is well aware of the signs of co-occurring disorders in teens and uses a number of beneficial therapies and treatments to improve their mental health, such as:

If you recognize any of these co-occurring disorder signs in your teen son or daughter, call 888.597.2807 today or reach out online to get them the support they need before causing severe harm.


1Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health”