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Addiction ADHD Adolescence Anxiety Bipolar Disorder Depression Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Personality Disorder Recovery Social Anxiety Stress

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Mental illness is a frequent partner of substance abuse and addiction, although the cause-and-effect between the two isn’t always clear. However, the issue is a prevalent one that needs to be considered anytime treatment is sought for substance abuse, because diagnosing both correctly is a key component to a healthy recovery process. There are a number of different types of mental illnesses that are often seen in combination with substance abuse and addiction.

Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses associated with substance abuse. In some cases, substances may be used to mask the symptoms of depression. Other times, substance abuse may bring on the depression symptoms or make them worse. Symptoms of depression might include:

  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or guilt
  • Loss of interest in or ability to enjoy activities
  • Diminished energy levels and fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Changes to sleep or appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are also a frequent problem for those struggling with substance abuse. There are different types of anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety and panic attacks. Substances may be used to lessen the symptoms at first, which often only serves to make the symptoms more intense over time. Symptoms of these conditions might include:

  • Feelings of restlessness or nervousness
  • Excessive and ongoing worry and tension
  • Irritability and fearfulness
  • Sweaty palms, racing heart, shortness of breath
  • Headaches, dizziness or nausea

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a disorder often diagnosed in adolescents and frequently associated with substance abuse. This disorder is characterized by three basic components:

  • Hyperactivity – difficulty sitting still, excessive talking, always seems to be “on the go”
  • Inattention – disorganization, lack of focus, forgetfulness, distraction
  • Impulsivity – impatience, blurting out answers, guessing instead of solving problems

Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental disorder characterized by extreme swings of mood and energy levels. During the manic phase, the individual exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Excessive irritability
  • Bursts of energy, requiring little sleep
  • Distracted easily
  • Engage in impulsive, high-risk behaviors

Manic phases are typically followed by depressed states, which may include the following symptoms:

  • Extended periods of sadness or hopelessness
  • Low energy, excessive fatigue
  • Significant changes to appetite and sleep patterns
  • Thoughts and ideations of suicide

When mental illness accompanies a substance abuse disorder, it is imperative to address both disorders simultaneously to give the patient the best odds for a successful recovery. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we are experienced in treating both of these conditions at the same time, a situation known as dual diagnosis. Our team of healthcare professionals is equipped to work through both disorders and give our patients the best odds of successful sobriety and improved mental health. To learn more about dual diagnosis or our treatment programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

Categories
Addiction Anxiety Depression Mental Health Social Anxiety Stress

More College Students Struggle with Mental Illness


The number of college students seeking help for mental illness is on the rise, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. As campuses scramble to provide sufficient services for these students, some students are seeing increases in tuition rates to cover the cost. Despite the spending increases, many schools are still lacking the number of support staff needed based on the size of the campus to handle the students in need. More concerning is the fact that one-third of all schools do not have a psychiatrist on staff at all.

Reports of mental illness on college campuses has been increasing over the last two decades. “The American Freshman” 2014 survey by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that in 1994, nine percent of college students were taking a prescription drug for a mental illness. By 2014, that number had increased to 26 percent. Nearly 10 percent of freshmen in 2014 said they felt depressed “frequently,” compared to 6.1 percent in 2009.

Type of Mental Illnesses

The two most common types of mental illnesses seen among college students are anxiety and depression. According to a 2013 report from the American Psychological Association, 41.6 percent of students seeking support for their mental disorder had symptoms of anxiety, while 36.4 percent reported symptoms of depression. Relationship issues, which are commonly associated with the college years, made up 35.8 percent of concerns.

A 2011 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey found that nearly 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed they were unable to function.” Of that number, 6.6 percent admitted to seriously contemplating suicide at least once during the past year. The American Psychiatric Association found that half of all college students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety during the same time frame.

Mental Illness and Addiction

Addressing mental illness on college campuses is a significant concern, considering many students dealing with mental disorders may also struggle with substance abuse or addiction. According to the Center for College Health and Safety, 20 percent of students that use drugs or alcohol are also likely to experience depression at the same time. Students that use substances are also four times more likely to have a diagnosis of a disruptive behavior disorder. The statistics suggest that addressing mental illness could also have a positive impact on substance use on some campuses.

Substance abuse and addiction are serious problems that are often accompanied by mental illness. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we specialize in treating the combination of addiction and mental illness, known as a co-occurring disorder. We can help individuals address both of these issues simultaneously to improve their odds of sobriety and a higher quality of life overall. To learn more about our programs, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Communication Mental Health Parenting School Social Anxiety Stress

Time to Stop the Bullies

It hurts to be bullied. It hurts the spirit and the body, the confidence and self-worth. No one should have to live in that kind of fear or circumstance. So what are we going to do about it?

With the advent of the internet, bullying’s primary setting isn’t merely in schools and playgrounds anymore: it also thrives in the technological halls of the cyber world. It’s pervasive. There are two types of bullies:  popular, well-connected with social power, overly concerned about maintaining that popularity, and liking to be in charge. The second type tends to be the kid who is more isolated from their peers, easily pressured, has low self-esteem, is less involved in school and doesn’t easily identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Those at risk of being bullied are kids who are perceived as separate or different from the norms or social mores of our culture. They are often seen as weak, they tend to be anxious or depressed, they are less popular, and are often viewed as annoying or provocative. As a result, these kids are more susceptible to falling prey to bullying behaviors, behaviors which aren’t always as black and white as we once thought. Here are some examples:

Physical bullying:

  • Hitting/kicking/ pinching
  • Spitting
  • Pushing/Tripping
  • Intentionally breaking someone’s things;
  • Making mean or rude hand gestures.

Verbal bullying:

  • Name calling: weirdo, freak, fag, idiot, ad infinitum.
  • Teasing
  • Threats to cause harm

Social bullying:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose;
  • Telling others not to be friends with someone;
  • Rumor spreading;
  • Public humiliation.

Cyber bullying:

  • Mean text messages or emails;
  • Rumors sent by email or posted on social media sites;
  • Fake profiles on sites like Facebook, Tumblr, et cetera.
  • Embarrassing photos or videos

Keep in mind, the most reported bullying happens on school grounds: in the hallways and on recess yards. It also occurs travelling to and from school. But nothing is really sacred. Cyber bullying is growing like wildfire as kids become increasingly savvy with technology.

It’s common for kids who are being bullied not to tell anyone because they may be afraid of the vengeful repercussions from the bullies themselves. Bullying is, in its very nature, a power structure built on dominance and fear-driven control. When someone is being terrorized by fearful tactics, it takes an incredible amount of courage to seek help. In the mind of the bullied, it’s a risk they are not always willing to take, so instead, the fear gets internalized, making its appearance in various ways:

  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Lost or damaged possessions;
  • Frequent headaches, stomachaches, feeling sick or faked illnesses;
  • Changes in eating habits: some may skip meals, some may binge. Some kids might come home hungry because their lunch was bullied away from them;
  • Sleep disturbances: insomnia or nightmares;
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, not wanting to go to school at all;
  • Loss of friends or avoidance of social situations;
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem;
  • Self-destructive behaviors: self-harming, running away, isolating, suicidal ideation.

Despite the fact that many schools have implemented anti-bullying policies, the administration doesn’t always carry them out in the most effective ways. I’ve experienced a principal in my son’s school who typically punishes the victim along with the bully, creating situation of victim-blaming, which encourages the bully and fundamentally creates shame in the bullied. In this particular case, a child ended up reverting inward and internalizing the fear, ultimately trying to handle it on his own. As a result, the persistent concern about being called a snitch or weak drove this child’s efforts toward self-directed management of the situation. Unfortunately, this is a perfect situation for the bully, and in many ways, this maintains the bully’s position of control. Not surprisingly, the bullying hasn’t stopped.

As parents, we need to find safe, productive ways to stop bullying behaviors. We can:

  • Work with the teacher to help raise awareness in the classroom. There are activities geared toward educating  kids
  • Make regular appearances at the school. Sometimes, the mere presence of a parent can stop bullying in its tracks.
  • Get up to speed on those social networking sites and explore safer ways to navigate technology
  • Find ways to present a unified front against bullying.
  • Establish an anti-bullying task force or committee. There’s power in numbers.
  • Help establish an environment of tolerance, acceptance of others, and respect.

This is also a great opportunity to take your kids to see Bully or go see it yourself if you can. It’s a limited engagement, but one you don’t want to miss. Time to take charge and stop bullying in its tracks.

For more information and for resources, check out:

Stopbullying.gov

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Challenge Day

Categories
Anxiety Mental Health Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety: It’s Not Just Shyness

Social anxiety/social phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by a significant fear

of social interactions and interactions with other people which bring about feelings of “self-consciousness, judgment, evaluation, and criticism”1 by those they interact with. In other words, “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations.”2  What social anxiety is NOT is simple shyness, but rather a more deeply internalized anxiety disorder. Recently, the National Institute of Health analyzed data gleaned from a study done by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A S), which surveyed more than 10,000 adolescents (ages 13-18). The survey involved a structured, diagnostic interview, assessing a “broad range of mental health disorders.” Those who met all eight “lifetime DSM-IV criteria for social phobia, including one or more social fears, were classified as having social phobia, regardless of shyness.”3

Results of this survey are interesting:

  • Overall, 43% of males and 51% of females rated themselves as shy, but only 12% of these youth met criteria for social phobia.
  • 5% of  youth who did not rate themselves as shy met social phobia criteria.
  • Prevalence of social phobia increased with age:
    • 6.3% of 13- 14-year-olds
    • 9.6% of 15- 16-year-olds
    • 10.4% of 17- 18-year-olds

Compared to shy adolescents, those with social phobia/social anxiety were more likely to suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or addiction. Also notable were definitive issues with school, work, family relationships, and social interactions. Additionally, the statistics show “only 23% of adolescents with social phobia sought professional treatment for anxiety, and just 12% received psychiatric medication.” More than anything, what these results challenge is the perceived perception that social anxiety/social phobia is the “‘medicalization’ of a normal human emotion.”

To outsiders, someone stricken with social anxiety may seem particularly shy, quiet, or reserved, but to the individual suffering, the internal pull of panic-ridden thoughts is often unbearable. What’s interesting, however, is that when alone, one suffering from social anxiety is usually okay. A key factor in the behavior being more than “just shyness” is when the mere thought or suggestion of any social interaction coming into play brings about the emergence of internal panic. Those that suffer may experience “significant emotional distress”4 in these types of situations:

  • Being introduced to other people
  • Being teased or criticized
  • Being the center of attention
  • Being watched while doing something
  • Meeting people in authority (“important people”)
  • Most social encounters, particularly with strangers
  • Making “small talk” at parties
  • Going around the room in a circle and having to say something

Our friends and family members suffering silently need our support. It’s time we gave this disorder the attention it deserves so those suffering can find some solace and relief. It’s one more thing that requires us to remove the stigma so healing can begin.

1, 3: National Survey Dispels Notion That Social Anxiety is the Same as Shyness

2: Social Anxiety Disorder – ADAA

4: Social Anxiety Fact Sheet