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Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), according to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is a “collection of growth, mental, and physical problems that may occur in a baby when a mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy.” It is the most severe condition within a group of conditions called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Alcohol disrupts typical development of an exposed fetus, particularly interfering with the brain and central nervous system. Cleveland Clinic explains that this occurs in any of the following ways:

  • Alcohol can kill cells in different parts of the fetus, causing abnormal physical development.
  • Alcohol interferes with the way nerve cells develop, how they travel to different parts of the brain, and their functioning.
  • Alcohol constricts blood vessels, which slows blood flow to the placenta (food supply while in the uterus). This causes a shortage of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.
  • Toxic byproducts are produced when the body processes alcohol. These can then concentrate in the fetus’s brain cells and cause damage.

Healthline highlights various symptoms that teenagers with fetal alcohol syndrome may experience and/ or develop over time, some of which include:

  • Delayed speech and language development.
  • Difficulty concentrating and short attention span.
  • Difficulty telling the difference between reality and fantasy.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Learning disabilities.
  • Low IQ.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills.
  • Poor school performance.
  • Poor short-term memory.
  • Low body weight.
  • Shorter-than-average height.
  • Microcephaly (i.e., smaller head size).
  • Facial feature abnormalities.
  • Decreased vision.
  • Hearing loss.

Fetal alcohol syndrome can have a significant impact on the mental health of affected teenagers. Research indicates that nearly 90% of those with FAS has at least one comorbid mental health condition, such as:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Attachment disorders
  • Substance use disorders

There is no cure for fetal alcohol syndrome, but with proper support, its symptoms can be managed. Addressing the mental health needs of teenagers with FAS requires a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach. This may include specialized therapy, educational support, and interventions that focus on building executive functioning skills and emotional regulation. Additionally, it is essential to provide a supportive and understanding environment for these teenagers to help them navigate the challenges they face and improve their mental health outcomes.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.

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’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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