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Most Common Co-occurring Disorders In Teens

Most Common Co-occurring Disorders In Teens

Psychology Today explains “Co-occurring disorder refers to having a co-existing mental illness and substance use disorder.” Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, substance use disorder is a “complex condition in which there is uncontrolled use of substance despite harmful consequence.” Habitually abusing drugs and/ or alcohol will affect the way one’s brain functions, as one’s body becomes increasingly accustomed to functioning with the presence of the substance in its system, which can be dangerous to the developing brain of a teenager. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) assert that nearly half of the people “who have a mental [health] disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa.” When a teen is diagnosed with substance use disorder and another co morbid mental health illness it is referred to as a dual diagnosis.

Co-occurring Disorders

Adolescence is a time when a young person learns about his or her true self through experimentation, pushing boundaries, and by being faced with enduring unavoidable experiences. Due to the highly volatile and emotional nature of teenagers, it can be difficult to distinguish between typical teenage behavior and an indication that something may be awry. The most common co-occurring teenage problems include: 

  • Conduct disorder (CD): The Child Mind Institute explains “Conduct disorder is a severe condition characterized by hostile and sometimes physically violent behavior and a disregard for others.”
  • Attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as an inability to control impulsive behaviors, difficulty focusing and/ or paying attention, and/ or being overly active.
  • Mood disorders: The Mayo Clinic asserts that mood disorders, “in children are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills or regulation of emotions. These problems are distressing to children and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations.”
  • Trauma-related disorders and symptoms

Mental illness can present in a variety of ways. Every teen is different, and those struggling with co-occurring disorders will likely exhibit its associated symptoms in a nuanced and unique manner. Although mental illness can develop at any age, studies have shown that it is not uncommon for dormant mental illnesses to surface and/ or for new mental illness to emerge during one’s adolescence and into one’s young adulthood.

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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