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Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders in Teens

female therapist talking with adolescent girl about the signs of co-occurring disorders in teens

In the United States, around 45% of teens who struggle with their mental health will develop a substance use disorder1. This combination of mental health issues is known as a dual diagnosis disorder or a co-occurring disorder. Recognizing the signs of co-occurring disorders in teens is easier when you understand this condition and how it can develop.

At Imagine Boise, we support teen boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 17 who have developed co-occurring disorders of substance abuse and depression or anxiety. Our therapists create a close bond with each patient so they feel comfortable opening up about confusing thoughts, feelings, or sexual desires. We use a combination of medical support and behavioral therapies to treat all aspects of the disorder through group and private therapy sessions.

To begin a conversation about co-occurring disorders in teens, fill out our online form or call 888.597.2807 today to speak with our knowledgeable team.

Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are more common than most people think. Our society’s relationship with drugs and alcohol has led to millions of teens and adults using them to feel better. What they don’t realize is that drugs and alcohol do not make things better. It is simply a poorly placed band-aid that worsens their condition and can lead to severe mental and physical health complications.

How do co-occurring disorders in teens develop? This can happen in one of two ways:

  • Your teen struggles with depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition without getting any help, and they turn to drugs or alcohol to feel better. This is especially true for teens whose parents have struggled with addiction in the past.
  • Your teen experiments with drugs or alcohol and begins abusing the substance on a regular basis. This can cause them to develop depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and permanent brain damage.

Treating co-occurring disorders in teens is possible through a combination of evidence-based therapies and holistic approaches to ease withdrawals, cravings, and other disruptive symptoms.

At Imagine Boise, our team is well aware of the signs of co-occurring disorders and can help you and your teen better understand how these disorders affect their behaviors and actions. We tailor each of our programs to your child’s unique disorder and work hard to uncover the root cause of the problem.

Signs of Co-Occurring Disorders in Teens

If you don’t know what to look for, spotting the signs of a co-occurring disorder can be challenging. Teens often don’t have the skills to communicate or understand their feelings, which makes it more difficult to tell the difference between normal teenage angst and a serious mental health issue.

If you suspect your teen son or daughter is struggling with multiple mental health disorders, here are some of the common signs of co-occurring disorders in teens:

  • School performance – One clear sign of this disorder is a sudden drop in grades, skipping classes, and avoiding homework.
  • Changes in behavior – Addiction and other mental health disorders have a direct effect on a person’s behaviors and will cause significant changes. Acting secretively, changes in their social circles, and withdrawing from family can indicate they are struggling with their mental health.
  • Uncommon mood swings – Mood swings are common in teens, but co-occurring disorders can cause more severe changes. Teens may experience sudden bouts of crying, become angry or violent for no reason, or generally have trouble controlling their behaviors.
  • A loss of interest in favorite activities – Depression can make teens feel less motivated and fatigued. They can lose interest in doing things that once made them happy because they don’t feel like anything they do can make them feel happy again.
  • Substance abuse – Teens who do not get help with their depressive or anxiety symptoms will most likely turn to drugs and alcohol before asking for help. If this happens, they can develop a severe addiction very quickly and can cause several mental and physical health complications.

These are just a few of the signs of co-occurring disorders in teens that indicate they need help from an experienced teen therapist. If they don’t receive help right away, they will have a harder time coping with their symptoms and are more likely to continue abusing drugs or alcohol.

Treat Co-Occurring Disorder in Teens in Idaho Today at Imagine Boise

Imagine Boise is a fully accredited mental health treatment facility for teens who are struggling with their mental health. We work hard to help your teen better understand their feelings and emotions and how to identify their individual triggers. Our co-occurring disorder program helps teens identify the underlying cause of their mental health issues and teaches them healthy coping skills for managing their symptoms.

If you recognize the signs of a co-occurring disorder in your child, you can help them by reaching out online or calling 888.597.2807 today to schedule a mental health consultation.


1Lifespan Health System – “Guide to Co-Occurring Disorders in Adolescents”