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Feelings Mental Health Self-Care Wellness

Adopting Positive Thoughts for a Healthy Mind

The power of positive thinking and positive thoughts is more than a mere joke. The way we approach life and our mindset during any given set of circumstances can contribute to positive outcomes. They also play a great role in our perception of life. In other words, convincing yourself of a positive interpretation of your current day-to-day circumstances can both help you be happier and lead to better, more positive outcomes.

Is it any different from lying to yourself? Yes, it is. Positive thoughts are not about trying to make up a different reality from the one you currently occupy, but rather, they are meant to help spurn us towards investing in constructive coping skills, becoming more adept at dealing with our surroundings, and building a greater level of resilience against stressors.

Positive thoughts are not about dissociating from certain struggles or the negative aspects of life but about regaining control over the things we can change, eliminating negative thoughts that contribute to maladaptive coping, and building a healthy support network for tough times.

Positive and Negative Thinking

Not all thoughts are necessarily positive or negative. Making a statement in your head about needing to remind yourself to grab some orange juice in the near future does not fit into the dichotomy of “good” and “bad” thoughts. Neither is it healthy to try and categorize every thought you have.

In most cases, positive and negative thoughts are more about learning to identify with the signs and symptoms of a low mood, or poor emotional state, and turning them around through self-care, support, and affirmations.

A pattern of negative thoughts may hint at a depressive episode or may be more common in people with a history of depression and other mental health issues. Meanwhile, positive thoughts can have a positive impact on these mental health issues and remain a central tenet in the practice of cognitive behavioral therapy, the most common type of talk therapy for addressing conditions like major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder GAD.

Some common forms of negative thinking include:

  • Focusing entirely on negative outcomes and aspects of your life.
  • Blaming yourself for every bad outcome.
  • Spiraling thoughts (losing control of your thoughts, ruminating on negative thoughts).
  • Automatically anticipating the worst.
  • Constantly telling yourself you “should” do something, then blaming yourself when you don’t.
  • Maintaining impossible standards, effectively setting yourself up for failure.
  • Seeing everything as good or bad (and often more bad than good).

On the other hand, some common forms of positive thinking include:

  • Taking time for self-reflection and thoughts of gratitude.
  • Re-evaluating the last few weeks to identify good things or things you’re proud of.
  • Engaging in humor often, laughing more, seeking out comedies in life.
  • healthier lifestyle – better sleep, good food, regular exercise, frequent water breaks.
  • A more positive inner circle of friends and family, working to eliminate toxic relationships.
  • Frequently uttering affirmations or personal mantras.

Some of these “thoughts” constitute as behaviors, but it’s often a very cyclical relationship – positive thoughts help foster positive actions towards yourself, whereas negative thoughts lead to negative spirals.

Some affirmations work better for certain people than others. You might not be the type to stand in front of a mirror and psych yourself up with niceties. Perhaps you’re more the type to find a quiet corner, ball your fists, and recite a positive, life-affirming mantra. Or perhaps you do your best positive thinking while on a jog or a walk through the woods.

Associating certain behaviors with positive thoughts and vice versa can help you work towards converting your negative thoughts into healthier, self-affirming positive ones. It’s a long process, but it starts with just a single simple step in the right direction.

The Physical Benefits of Positive Thoughts

The benefits of more positive thinking extend beyond improving mood and mental states. Your mental and physical well-being is intertwined, and a positive mindset can contribute to better overall physical health. Studies show a strong correlation between a positive mindset and:

  • Greater longevity
  • Lowered rates of anxiety and depression
  • Higher pain threshold and lower reported levels of pain
  • Greater resistance to physical illness
  • Reduced cancer death risk
  • Reduced heart disease death risk
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • And more.

How can a positive mindset reduce the risk of death from something like cancer? Or reduce pain? Well, it’s complicated. We have to make it clear that promoting “mind-over-matter” thought is neither ethical nor scientifically accurate – you cannot will yourself out of a heart attack.

However, positive thinking can negate or reduce negative thinking, which can exacerbate worse health outcomes at the hand of many of these illnesses. Similarly, low mood and depression can actively inhibit your pain resistance, causing unexplained pains and raising your sensitivity to the slightest discomfort.

Furthermore, a positive mindset correlates with a healthier lifestyle and lower risk of death, as well as greater longevity. Positive thinking also contributes to better coping skills against daily stressors, reducing the impact of both chronic stress and acute stress on the mind and body alike.

The Importance of a Support Network

Affirmative thinking can help you negate negative thoughts and reinforce healthier behaviors. But positive thinking alone won’t always be enough. It’s important to have a number of people you can rely on to help lift your spirits or be there for you when times are tough.

A strong support network is not just central for mental health recovery or treatment. We all need people we can rely on, whether they’re friends, family, or a bit of both.

Seeking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Positive thinking can go a long way towards helping you improve your mental and physical health. But it is no substitute for guided therapy or the help of a mental health professional. If you feel you need help and don’t know where to look, seek the services of a therapist.

Therapists are trained to utilize talk therapy methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help patients identify self-destructive habits and thought patterns and replace them over time.

professional therapist can help you adjust your coping skills, pick up better habits, and develop a better toolkit for long-term mental health.

Improve Your Mental Health at Visions Treatment Centers

Are you or someone you know looking to improve their mental health? Then visit us online at Visions Treatment Centers. You may also contact us directly through our online form or get in touch with us by phone.

Categories
Addiction Alcohol Heroin Marijuana Opiates Prescription Drugs Substance Abuse Synthetic Drugs

10 Places Your Teen Can Hide Drugs

If you believe that your teen has been using drugs as of late, chances are that they have some with them at home. Where teens hide drugs are not always immediately obvious – you might not find a quarter ounce of weed stuffed away in a sock at the bottom of the drawer or in the pocket of their least favorite jacket – but there are only so many places you can hide drugs around a house.

While your teen might be more inventive than most, these tend to be the most common places your teen can hide drugs from snooping siblings and parents alike.

1. Scent-proofed Stashes

Not all drugs have a strong scent. Trained dogs can sniff out drugs like cocaine even amid a pile of dirty laundry, but the human nose is not that advanced. That being said, some popular drugs, like marijuana, in particular, have a very strong and distinctive scent. This narrows down a teen’s options.

The first, yet probably most obvious thing to do, is to bury the stash. The problem with doing so is that it’s pretty easy to tell when a hole has been freshly dug, and they’d have to signpost it somehow to avoid losing their weed. It’s still worth checking the backyard, though.

Other scent-proofed possibilities include large jars of coffee (coffee is a natural deodorant and has its own scent), empty roll-on deodorant sticks, inside an unused bag of pet food, or a permanent marker with a strong scent.

2. Video Game Consoles

Some consoles are a bit more infamous than others for providing great hiding opportunities. One disadvantage is that consoles are just like computers but optimized for space and performance. This means they can get quite hot, which isn’t ideal for some drugs. Checking your teen’s console might be tricky, as it can be fairly easy to damage.

There are plenty of tutorials online for removing the front panel of a video game console, whether it’s a Playstation, an Xbox, or an older Wii U. Portable consoles like the Switch or PS Vita are much more difficult to use as potential drug stashes, due to their compact nature. Old, unused, or broken consoles can be retrofitted into potential drug stashes, however, by removing key components. On a similar note, your teen’s PC tower might be another place to look.

3. The Backyard

We’ve mentioned burying drugs, but that isn’t the only option. A backyard is a place full of potential (and great) hiding spots. Hollow garden gnomes? Hollow spaces inside flowerpots? Under a slab in the rock garden? In the tool shed, hidden behind the fertilizer? The possibilities are endless – which makes the backyard one of the better hiding spots, provided it’s large enough to make searching difficult.

4. Personal Hygiene Products

Teens expect a little privacy from their parents, at least when it comes to what they use to get ready for the day. However, old and used containers or empty makeup kits make for a good hiding spot.

5. Their Car

It’s obvious but effective. Don’t just check on the floor or in the glovebox – drugs can be taped under the seat or dashboard or stashed under the hood.

6. Toilet Tank

The toilet tank is an all-time favorite. Simple, marginally gross, and easy to access.

7. Air Vents

Most modern homes no longer have these, but older homes and apartments do. Air vents are a pretty convenient place to stash anything that’s relatively small and doesn’t have a significant odor or can be placed in an odor-safe container. That means you likely won’t find weed in an air vent your teen has access to, but you might find – depending on the size of the vent and the space provided – alcohol, certain prescription pills, or cocaine.

An alternative yet similar hiding space is an unused air conditioning unit. Most older air conditioning units have an easily removable front panel and a little bit of space for hiding things.

8. Cookie and Candy Tins

Altoids have been making a comeback – not so much for the candy itself but for the nostalgic and aesthetic factor of the tin. In addition to cash, teens might also use Altoid tins to stash other valuables. The same goes for cookie tins, old candy tins, etc. 

9. Behind Posters

If the drug is in a powder form or can be easily flattened (such as a small plastic bag with a few pills), another good place to hide it would be behind a poster taped against the wall.

10. Inside Books

It’s not done very often, but people do still hollow out cavities in books they aren’t really a fan of and use that as a discrete hiding spot.

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

Even if your teen does not typically apply their full faculties to daily tasks and schoolwork, never underestimate a teenager’s capacity for innovation and inventiveness when it comes down to it.

Going Through Great Lengths to Hide Drugs

Teens understand that drugs are dangerous and that they shouldn’t use them frivolously. But oftentimes, they don’t care. Whether it’s because most teens have an immortality complex or because the long-term consequences of drug use are known, but simply don’t register in their minds, teens can and will go through great lengths to hide drugs or their drug use, especially if they live in an area where it’s both harder to get drugs, and where punishment for drug possession is greater.

What if You Don’t Find Anything?

If you don’t find your teen’s drug stash or think they might not be keeping any drugs at hand, after all, that does not necessarily mean they aren’t taking anything. If you catch your teen being high regularly without having any drugs at home, it can only mean one thing: they’re getting and using drugs while out with friends or acquaintances.

Suspicious Behavior Doesn’t Equal a Drug Problem

Last but not least, not all suspicious teen behavior is indicative of a drug problem. If you don’t have any conclusive proof that your teen is regularly using drugs, then their behavior could be explained in other ways. Irritability, pulling away from family, anxious or paranoid behavior, and memory problems can be caused by other conditions, including stress- or trauma-related anxiety. If your teen doesn’t want to talk about their problems and habits, consider speaking with a mental health professional about potential intervention tactics.

For more information, please contact Visions Treatment Centers. If your teen is struggling with substance abuse, reach out to us to learn more about residential treatment program options and much more.

Categories
Family Recovery Sober Lifestyle

Teen Recovery: 7 Support Tips

The earliest few months after beginning the recovery process – from detox and rehab to therapy – might be the most important. One thing both parents and recovering teens need to know is that there is no real “end” to the recovery process. If you’ve struggled with a substance abuse disorder, some part of you will always need to dedicate itself to leading a life free of drugs and their effect. That’s not easy to do without help, which brings us to support for teen recovery.

Robust Support for Teen Recovery

Whether it’s family or friends, or both, we all need support systems. Teens recovering from a substance use disorder need more robust support systems than most. Doing your part to help your best friend or your child recover from addiction involves more than looking out for any signs of relapse or keeping in touch with their therapist and doctor. It means being involved in the recovery process, helping them find new meaning in life, helping them reclaim their self-confidence and their identity, helping them figure out who they want to be, and keeping them accountable throughout the process.

Tips for Teen Recovery

As part of the process, here are seven support tips for teen recovery.

1. Get Informed

First and foremost, keep on learning. Find reputable sources to discover more about how addiction works, and what we know about treating it.

There are countless different online resources for learning about addiction, mental health conditions, and addiction treatment, but not all of them are useful. Learning to differentiate between junk sources and good science is an important part of the process. A good tip would be to take an online class on reading and dissecting research papers, and diving through journals that focus on mental health treatment and addiction.

Another option is to speak directly to the professionals your teen is working with. They might be able to point you towards current, up-to-date books and resources for learning more about addiction as we know it.

Understanding how addiction works can help bring you a step closer to your loved one. Many people find themselves in a position where their relative or friend begins to struggle with drug use, and while most are sympathetic about it, some can’t help but feel judgmental. Understanding how addiction truly works can help you develop a greater feeling of empathy for your friend or loved one, and it can help inform, fuel, and guide your support.

2. Get Involved

Some therapists and doctors will encourage the participation of family members and friends in the recovery process, not only as a source of support and as the foundation for a long-standing support network, but as participants in family therapy or group therapy sessions, for example.

Getting involved also means working in tandem with your friend or loved one to help them find therapy groups in their area, providing your number as an emergency contact if the urge to use or any sign of relapse comes up, and more.

3. Help Your Teen Set Goals

Goal setting can help teens recontextualize recovery as a journey of self-improvement and reflection, rather than a penance or a short-term treatment process. Recovering from addiction usually entails finding new meaning in life through activities, hobbies, and interests that are far removed from the context of drug use, or the lifestyle that contributed to a teen’s drug habits in the past. It means turning a new leaf and dedicating your time towards something valuable to yourself, incentivizing sobriety, and making your old habits less and less attractive with each passing day.

Encourage simple goals at first. They could be physically oriented, career-based, or school-based. It could be something like improving their grades across the board with the help of a tutor, or getting back in shape enough to compete in their favorite sports. As time passes, bigger, greater goals are needed – like getting accepted into a specific college, making varsity, or compiling and finishing a first professional artist’s portfolio.

Short- and long-term goals help teens positively develop coping skills and reorient themselves in the same basic fashion as an addictive drug – yet instead of the positive reinforcement of a substance, their reinforcement is coming in the form of self-satisfaction and achievement, no matter how small.

4. Teach Them New Skills

Learning new things is exciting and a great way to develop new interests, create new hobbies, meet new people, and find brand new passions. It can also be a way for a family member or close friend to bond with their loved one after a potential falling out.

Many relationships don’t survive addiction or are harmed by it. It can erode friendships and even break family ties. Finding ways to spend more time together can provide opportunities for healing.

5. Improve Your Health Together

It’s no wonder that addiction takes a toll on the mind and the body. Some of the side effects of long-term drug use can include drastic weight gain or weight loss, malnutrition, long-term neurological effects (including neuropathy), and organ damage.

In addition to medical attention, both diet and exercise play an important part in potentially reversing many of the lasting effects of drug abuse. However, forcing a teen to figure out their own health is daunting, especially after rehab. They need to be eased into independence and self-sufficiency and will rely on support for some time. That means leading by example and working together to reach health goals through a cleaner diet and regular exercise.

6. Support Their Dream

Regular goal setting and healthier living are core tenets of sustainable sobriety, but if your teen has something they’re specifically very passionate about – something that they feel they can dedicate themselves to, wholly – do your best to support that dream.

7. Don’t Expect the World of Them

This doesn’t mean you should give up any hope of long-term recovery, but it’s important to note that addiction can be a severe illness, and it can take a long time – and multiple relapses – before your teen friend or loved one manages to overcome their drug use indefinitely, and lead a healthier, fulfilling life.

Until then, there may be times when you’re hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by their lack of progress or by their regression into negative and destructive habits. Learn to create boundaries to protect yourself and prioritize your own mental health when you’re feeling down.

Understand that relapses and frustrating moments can happen and that you should not set your expectations too high when starting out. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Starting the Recovery Journey at Visions

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, reach out to us to get the help you need and deserve.

Don’t wait. Start your recovery journey today at Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Communication Family Mental Health Parenting Transparency

Mental Health Literacy: A Convo Guide for Parents

Finding ways to help their child is every parent’s top priority – but mental health topics can be difficult conversation starters. How do you approach a teen’s recent behavior without shutting them down? How can you safely lead the conversation in the direction of help and understanding without seeming overbearing, condescending, or controlling? In what ways can an understanding of mental health literacy assist parents lead such conversations?

Picking the Right Time

The first step, in every case, is to pick the right time. Teens are naturally emotional, regardless of temperament or personality. There’s a lot going on during adolescence, and it can be difficult to unpack it all. Picking the right time to address your worries can help defuse a potentially difficult situation. That means waiting for a good day, avoiding ambushes, and maybe finding an opportunity to talk to your teen in private (in their room, while doing chores together at home, on the ride back from school, etc.).

Once you’ve found the right time, it’s important to pick the right conversation opener. Fumbling your opportunity to discuss your concerns can keep your kid on guard for the rest of the week or longer. No matter how conflicted you might feel, remember to focus on what’s important: your goal is to help your teen, not judge them.

Starting the Conversation

To start things off, research goes a long way. Learning about mental health issues on your own time, understanding mental health literacy, and speaking with mental health professionals can give you a better understanding of what your teen might be going through, and differentiate between regular teenage problems and the signs of a more serious mental health issue.

Approach the Topic Naturally and with Observations

If you feel that your teen is going through something they need help with, approaching the topic naturally is important. Begin with observations. Obviously, you’ve noticed something. Bring up what you’ve noticed, and why it concerns you. Then, listen.

Some teens might feel relieved that their parents picked up on what’s going on. Others might be worried that they’re being judged or alienated from the rest of the family. It’s important to make sure your teen understands that your concern for them comes from a place of love and inclusion, and that they’re free to say what’s truly on their mind.

Don’t be Afraid to Say Something

If you’ve done prior research, don’t be afraid to bring it up. You don’t need to help confirm your teen’s self-diagnosis or make a judgment call of your own – diagnostic work is best left to experienced psychiatrists. But showing that you’ve moved on from concern to action might help your teen realize that you’re invested in helping them, and want to understand how they feel. It can be comforting to know that you’re open-minded and on their side.

Learning to Listen

There are important dos and don’ts to keep the conversation going once your teen is open to discussing how they feel with you. These include:

  • DO give your teen the time to finish their sentences, and don’t interrupt or stop them.
  • DO normalize how they feel, letting them know that you’ve read about many other teens feeling the same way and that there are ways to get help.
  • DO keep their information confidential – if your teen has only told you, don’t go on discussing it with other members of the family without first bringing it up with your teen, let alone a mental health professional (unless their situation and behavior are life-threatening).
  • DO acknowledge your own fear and anxieties in these situations. It doesn’t help to bottle your feelings up because you’re scared of affecting your teen.
  • DO continue to learn about what your teen is going through, even after they’ve started therapy (especially after they’ve started therapy!).
  • DON’T minimize how they feel or tell them that they “shouldn’t feel this way”, or that you “know exactly” how they feel without having previously been diagnosed with the same condition and the same circumstances.
  • DON’T feed excuses or blame other people. It’s always tempting to find something to blame, but no case of a mental disorder can be squarely blamed on a single factor. It’s almost always a convalescence of complex internal and external factors, melding together in an unfortunate way. Instead of directing your anger at something, use it to help your teen get better.
  • DON’T compare your teen to their siblings or ask them why they couldn’t have been more like your other kids.

Mental Health Literacy: Recognizing Mental Health Issues

Teen temperament can feel disjointed or confusing, so it’s important to separate “normal” teen behavior from potential red flags for a mental health issue. Some things to keep in mind include:

Is it Consistent?

Consistency is important. If your teen’s mood has been consistently low for several weeks now, chances are it’s more than just a rough patch for them. Conditions like depression can affect the way we perceive things around us, actively inhibiting the ability to feel joy or pleasure.

If your teen hasn’t talked about their favorite hobbies in weeks, hasn’t hung out with friends in a while, and generally hasn’t laughed or been in a good mood for a noticeable period, they may be going through more than just a period of grief.

Has Academic Performance Changed?

Academic performance may be a helpful metric but shouldn’t be the absolute focus here. How well your teen is retaining information and focusing on their studies can be affected by the onset and growth of a mental health issue, but there are dozens of other factors that can affect a teen’s grades without necessarily affecting their mental health.

Furthermore, while your teen’s grades might be important to you (and them!), focusing on them might make your teen feel that your priorities are misplaced (i.e., putting their grades above the way they feel).

Nervous vs. Anxious

Nervousness is one thing, especially if your teen has been rather skittish since early childhood. But anxiety symptoms are something else. If your teen seems constantly worried about the same things, is having trouble concentrating or focusing on anything, easily loses their cool, and struggles to perform under pressure – whether it’s during a driving lesson or a breakdown during school exams – they may be overly sensitive to their surrounding stressors, or worse.

Anxiety disorders are the most common kind of mental health issue worldwide, ranging from complex disorders like OCD to a generalized feeling of worry and dread that affects a person’s mood, personality, and behavior on a daily basis.

Susceptibility to Addictive Behavior and Long-Term Substance Abuse

Teens are smart, often smarter than we might give them credit for. But they still make mistakes, lack experience, and are usually more short-sighted than adults through no fault of their own. This is part of the reason why teens are more susceptible to addictive behavior, and why early onset of addiction usually predicts long-term or life-long substance abuse.

If you suspect that your teen is struggling due to an ongoing substance problem – whether it’s frequent drinking binges with friends or sharing prescription pills at school – keep an eye out for some of the more obvious signs, including hidden stashes, physical symptoms (bloodshot eyes, constantly tired, slurred speech, frequent hangovers), and mental symptoms (irritability, memory problems, altered behavior, becoming defensive).

Issues with Eating

Eating disorders also disproportionately affect adolescents and are some of the most dangerous mental health disorders we know of. Signs of an eating disorder include constant cycles of self-deprecation and shame, followed by binge eating, signs of binge eating such as wrappers and hidden stashes of food, frequent bathroom breaks between and during meals, diuretic or laxative drugs, and calluses on the index knuckle from induced vomiting.

When Is Professional Help Needed?

In general, the moment you no longer know how to help your teen is the moment you should consider approaching a mental health professional for help – even if it isn’t to schedule an appointment for your child or figure out an intervention. Mental health professionals also work to assist parents in understanding what might be going on in their teen’s lives, and helping them navigate their way around a conversation with their child.

If your teen approaches you about therapy, then they’ve thought it over and likely made the decision to seek help – with your assistance. Work with them to find a mental health professional they are comfortable with. First and foremost, their comfort is paramount. Trust is an important aspect of therapy, and teens will be unlikely to get the help they need if they cannot set up a strong bond with their therapist.

If your teen is struggling with a mental health issue, reach out to Visions Treatment Centers. Let’s start the conversation together.

Categories
Mental Health Recovery School Therapy

Teen Academic Support During Therapy

In both inpatient and outpatient cases, teens undergoing treatment for a psychiatric condition will face daily challenges and undergo a long-term transformation. Yet, in inpatient treatment cases, teens will often be asked to leave behind their friends, school, and family to spend time in a completely different setting, whether for just a few weeks or several months. And while this is happening, it’s natural to ponder about continuing academia or teen academic support during therapy.

This can be a reason for some teens to reconsider or worry about the implications of mental health treatment. Is it worth putting everything on hold to “get better”? And what if it doesn’t work?

Not Being Left Behind

Life is challenging as it is – juggling relationships, family, and school responsibilities can be daunting, and for many teens, seeking help might mean having to forego some of these responsibilities. Teens don’t want to be left behind, whether it’s academically or socially.

Assuaging these fears is important. And this is why academic support is crucial.

A New Setting Can be Overwhelming

Residential treatment centers usually entail taking a teen out of their usual environment and putting them in a completely new setting, with new peers, new therapists, and different faces. This can be overwhelming – but it’s not all new. Teens in residential therapy will still have school responsibilities, they will still have teachers, they will still have lessons and curriculums, and they will still have peers to talk to.

Consistency is Key

Having these elements stay consistent in a teen’s life, both within and outside the context of therapy, is important. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and even psychosis can thrive in chaos and confusion. Consistent schedules, ongoing responsibilities, and opportunities for self-improvement can help teens focus on the day-to-day task at hand, avoid rumination, and build up their self-esteem – while keeping them on an equal playing field with their friends and peers back in school.

Should Teens in School Go into Treatment?

This is a trick question – mental health treatment needs to be made available to everyone who needs it and wants it, and everyone who needs or wants it should be able to confidently seek help from a mental health professional and get a treatment plan tailored to their circumstances and symptoms.

Teens are no exception, and in fact, adolescence is one of the most important periods to tackle mental health issues, as it provides greater opportunities for therapists and mental health professionals to impart the importance of healthy coping skills, and help teens tackle their symptoms before they grow worse in adulthood or lead to co-dependent health issues later in life.

However, treatment for teens needs to take their circumstances into account just as much as it does for adults. Adults who cannot afford to leave work won’t be able to consider residential treatment as an option, for example.

Teen Residential Treatment and Therapeutic Day School

In the case of teen treatment, residential treatment can be made possible through a robust and accredited academic program that continues to instruct teens as per state- or school-specific curriculum, offering them the opportunity to keep up with their peers while seeking help for their symptoms.

It’s still work. Teens in treatment will be expected to show up to lessons, do homework, and prepare for exams – all while continuing to attend treatment sessions, both individually and in groups, and participating in group activities. Preparing for your SATs or college application deadlines while going to therapy for a dual diagnosis can be tough.

But a day school in a residential treatment facility sets itself apart from a regular day-to-day classroom in that teens in treatment can seek individualized tutoring and may be better able to learn within the setting of a residential treatment clinic versus a conventional classroom.

Synergizing Academic Achievement and Mental Health Treatment

Meanwhile, there is synergy between promoting academic achievement and the mental health treatment process. Just as doing better mentally can help you study, an individually tailored academic program can help you feel better mentally.

Some teens don’t respond well to the typical structure of a school day or haven’t managed to find a way to study that suits them, especially if they’re struggling with the symptoms of a neurobehavioral disorder like ADHD.

Individualized Support and Education

Individualized support in the form of a day school at a residential treatment center can help teens balance studying with their mental health, improve their ability to cope with stressors while retaining information, and find alternative ways to prepare for tests and learn without the pressure and classroom setting of a normal school. Furthermore, day school programs help teens ensure that they aren’t left behind while in therapy and synergize treatment with a teen’s day-to-day academic responsibilities.

Helping teens improve their responses to stressors and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead are important parts of therapy. Some teens are too afraid to speak up about their depressive feelings or anxiety symptoms because they don’t want these things to jeopardize their chances at college, affect their relationships, or be a burden on their grades. But they are – if left untreated.

Teens with mental health issues have a much harder time retaining information and doing well at school – and these issues can continue to be exacerbated later in adulthood.

Furthermore, adolescence is a crucial chapter in the rest of a teen’s life – academic performance can have an impact on career options and college opportunities. Helping teens improve their grades through residential treatment serves as a major boon for the rest of their lives.

Choosing a Residential Treatment Clinic

Residential treatment centers differ in the modalities they offer and the facilities they have. Not all residential treatment clinics offer a day school and teen academic support programs for teens. When choosing a treatment clinic for yourself or your loved one, choose one with an accredited academic program and a reputation for helping teens continue their studies while in treatment.

A residential or inpatient treatment clinic is often just the first step in a longer journey. In many cases, mental health isn’t about curing a defect, but about learning to cope with one’s unique circumstances, and living a full and happy life in spite of the challenges one faces.

Teen Academic Support During Therapy at Visions Treatment Centers

If you or your teen is considering entering into residential treatment but worried about falling behind in academics, contact us today.

At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer Day School for teen academic support while receiving therapy. With a consistent schedule and custom-made curriculum plan, you or your teen will get the professional help they need while maintaining grades, social activities, and more.

Categories
Mental Health Trauma

7 Signs of Trauma in Teens (And how to cope)

Traumatic experiences can alter a person’s psyche dramatically, weighing on them both consciously and subconsciously, and changing their decision making, their thought processes, and their behavior. These changes can alter personalities and continue to affect a person even long after they’ve “made peace” with the past. And like adults, teens can also experience trauma or a trauma disorder too. But what are the signs of trauma in teens? How are these signs recognized? And how does one cope?

In teens especially, trauma can lead to emotional and psychological maladjustment, presenting difficulties in achieving independence in adulthood, communicating with others, retaining and understanding information, and engaging with people socially.

To understand why and how trauma can affect teens, we need to understand the effect trauma has on the brain, and why treatment can be difficult.

What is Teen Trauma?

Traumatic experiences are subjective, meaning an event that traumatizes one person might not necessarily traumatize the other, even if they were both present that day.

But nearly all traumatic experiences are characterized by their shock and horror – usually, events involving mass death, abuse, violence, cruelty, long-term neglect, or forces of nature. Trauma may be caused by an acute event or a period of horror.

When trauma occurs, the mind is affected in a way that isn’t typical of stressful situations. We are equipped to deal with stress, and we learn through both negative and positive reinforcement. But there’s a difference between “one of life’s lessons” and an event so impactful that it leaves an unwanted mark on our way of thinking for years to come. The latter is a traumatic event. Trauma is characterized by intrusive thoughts and emotions, changes in mood and cognition, jumbled or lost memories, and more.

Teens experience trauma similarly to adults, with a few key differences. The biggest is a greater tendency towards impulsive, risk-taking, self-destructive, and violent behaviors. Teens are more likely than adults to turn towards self-harm, dangerous sexual behavior, and drug use after a traumatic event.

Now, let’s look at some of the signs of trauma in teens and their effects.

Recognizing Signs of Trauma in Teens

Psychologically, trauma is understood as an open and unhealing wound in the mind. The mind may respond in a few different ways, which brings us to the telltale signs of post-traumatic stress. These include:

  • Hyperarousal/hypervigilance, such as overreacting emotionally and physically to certain stimuli, like unexpected touch or a loud noise.
  • Depersonalization/dissociation, such as remembering trauma as something that happened to someone else, or completely forgetting/burying the event.
  • Extreme avoidance of potential triggers.
  • Development of phobias, or extreme fears related to the event.
  • Unwanted or intrusive thoughts, including memories or flashbacks, panic attacks, and frightening thoughts.
  • Changes in mood and cognition, including memory problems, having a harder time retaining information, not enjoying things as much as before, being more depressed, feeling down more often for no discernable reason, and a more negative worldview.
  • Irritability and aggressive thoughts/behaviorespecially in teens.

1. Hyperarousal

Hyperarousal is one of the primary symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Hyperarousal can be recognized through constant overarching anxiety, always being “on edge”, being easily startled, bouts of insomnia, and an elevated fight-or-flight response.

2. Dissociation

Dissociation and its similar symptoms usually involve some sort of distortion in the perception of a traumatic event to avoid the pain associated with it, whether by forgetting it completely, only remembering vague memories, or associating it with someone else.

A teen who is dissociating from their trauma is still heavily affected by it, and may experience hyperarousal and hypervigilance, as well as strong anxiety symptoms.

3. Avoidance

Avoidance is a normal response to something awful, but avoidance symptoms in the context of trauma may go to extreme lengths, such as never stepping foot inside an elevator again, avoiding cars for years, or developing maladaptive coping mechanisms to avoid and forget, including binge drinking and other forms of drug use.

4. Phobias and Panic

Trauma can lead to the development of phobias and frequent unexplained panic attacks. These may include a phobia of crowds, a phobia of certain animals, or even a phobia of men.

In contrast to other fear or anxiety-based symptoms, phobias represent an overwhelming, constantly present fear, to the point the thought of the danger can cause panic even when the danger itself isn’t present.

5. Intrusive Thoughts

Unwanted and intrusive thoughts can range from flashbacks to violent or unwanted fantasies, morbid thoughts, and frequent unwanted thoughts or daydreaming about violence, violent circumstances, and so on. These thoughts are oppressive and difficult to overcome. They can fuel maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as drinking, as a way to block them out.  

6. Mood and Cognition

Signs of trauma can be recognized in a teen’s mood and way of thinking after a traumatic event. Trauma can leave a person feeling less enthusiastic about things they used to enjoy, even to the point of anhedonia, or joylessness.

It can also impact a person’s cognitive and creative abilities, slowing them down, affecting memory and critical thinking, and making them less sure of themselves.

7. Aggression, Risk-Taking, and Self-Harm

In teens, trauma will more often accentuate impulsive feelings and feelings of self-harm or shame, and resulting behavioral changes, such as more risk-taking, greater promiscuity, higher likelihood of frequent substance use, and self-destructive or self-harming behavior.

Coping With Teen Trauma

Stress disorders, or post-traumatic stress, as well as other anxiety disorders, may develop because of a traumatic experience. Teens can still function relatively well after trauma but may develop greater signs of mental instability the longer their trauma goes unaddressed.

This is especially true if they begin to seek maladaptive ways to cope with their post-traumatic stress, such as addictive substance use or self-harm.

Healthy coping mechanisms are one of the most important aspects of a good treatment plan for a trauma disorder, including creative endeavors, support groups, family or friend group therapy sessions, sports, and self-care. These coping skills help teens reduce stress levels, manage their stress after traumatic triggers, and help avoid or ignore intrusive thoughts.

Mental Health Treatment for Trauma

Mental health treatment remains the crux of any teen trauma treatment plan. Professional one-on-one or group therapy is the first line of treatment for trauma disorders, helping teens identify and overcome negative and unwanted thoughts associated with their trauma. Trauma-specific therapeutic interventions include:

  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
  • Cognitive processing therapy
  • Prolonged exposure therapy
  • Somatic therapy
  • And more.

Working with a therapist you can trust is important. Trauma disorders are disabling and difficult to overcome. The road ahead may be quite long. It’s important to establish a strong bond with your therapist of choice.

Trauma Disorder Treatment at Visions Treatment Centers

Is your teen struggling with trauma? Reach out to Visions Treatment Centers today. We can help.

Categories
Sober Lifestyle Wellness

6 Summer Sobriety Goals for Teens

With summer fast approaching, everyone is yearning to finish up with the last of their projects and enjoy a long-awaited and well-deserved summer break. But for kids with a history of substance use, summer also means new opportunities for relapse, and a host of social risks. Facing these properly means being prepared, and ready for what’s to come with a set of sobriety goals.

Each Day Counts

If you’re working towards long-term sobriety as a teen, each day counts. Substance use problems at a young age are even more dangerous than they are in adulthood, and given all the other challenges and pressures facing young people nowadays, an addiction is an additional handicap no one should have to work with.

While the school months give teens some much needed daily structure, summer break means more freedom and more free time. This is great, but without a matching daily structure, that free time can lead to boredom, and worse things. For teens with a history of dual diagnosis, or addiction and a mental health problem, a lack of daily structure can feed into a destructive spiral.

6 Sobriety Goals for Teens this Summer

Personal goal setting helps teens plan ahead, creating a daily schedule to keep themselves busy with what they want to do, improving their self-sufficiency and self-esteem, while helping them become more comfortable with support structures and their newfound sober social network. Let’s go over a few goals teens can set for themselves this summer to nurture their sobriety.

1. Achieve Your Short-Term Sobriety

What is “short-term sobriety” to you? Most of us have a number in mind that might feel difficult to achieve, or scary to overcome.

Reaching that number through day-to-day incremental progress is important, because it teaches us to remember that each day is just like any other, and that it’s not about trying to “last” without drugs for a certain amount of time, but to instead live a sober life with no consideration for how long you’ve been sober, because it doesn’t matter.

Whether it’s a month, three months, or half a year, reaching your first “milestone” helps you realize the ironic importance of the journey over the goal of long-term sobriety.

2. Create A Flexible Fitness Goal

Fitness goals are a great idea for the summer because they incentivize movement, are often concrete (mastering a certain move, reaching a certain level of fitness, beating a certain time, or reaching a certain weight), and can be achieved through day-to-day and week-to-week planning. Whatever your goal may be, pick something specific to the things you enjoy, rather than an arbitrary fitness goal. If you hate running, there’s no reason to try and train for a six-minute mile. Your goals could be subjective or deeply personal, such as mastering a tough dance routine that you’ve always wanted to do or getting closer to a true split.

3. Commit to Greens

Substance use is often conflated with poor nutritional health, in part because good food and a healthy diet may be harder to maintain while addicted, and because many addictive substances either greatly increase or decrease appetite. A healthier body is not just less likely to relapse, but can help you think better, sleep better, perform better, and feel better. And the key to that is good greens.

If you aren’t big on eating vegetables, there are a few ways to incorporate more of them into your diet. Consider working frozen greens into your food plan by making breakfast smoothies with fruits of your choice and some baby spinach.

Experiment with different leafy greens to find the kind that you might like. Did you know that there are far more types of green lettuce than the typical iceberg? Give arugula a try for something spicier or try Swiss chard for a bitter leaf. Improve your salads with a combination of nutritious add-ons, like seared tuna, roasted pumpkin, fresh apple slices, different light cheeses, and interesting homemade dressings, such as orange-wasabi, honey-soy, or garlic-yogurt.

4. Nurture New Friendships

Make time for the people you’ve been meeting through sobriety, especially if you’ve been spending most of your time alone for the last few months. Social interactions are both risk factors and important protective factors for any mental health condition.

Acquaintances, friendships, and deep personal bonds help us improve our emotional health and wellbeing, train our social skills, develop stronger empathic ideas, and become better people – given we’re hanging out with the right people, as well.  

5. Keep Learning New Things

While school is all about learning, it’s an entirely different thing to go out of your way to learn a new skill on your own.

Autodidactic skills can greatly improve a person’s cognitive functioning and autonomy and help provide teens with a host of useful life skills, from fact-checking to proper sourcing, research skills, and a more creative mind–not to mention the benefits of the skill itself!

It could range from a neat party trick, such as getting good at darts, to opening new career opportunities through additional language skills or coding practice. It may also help you explore what you want to do later in life by giving you a taste of a variety of different trades and crafts.

6. A Self-Reflection Goal of Your Choice

Not everyone enjoys meditating, but there are certain benefits to taking time out of your day, each day, and dedicating to self-reflection or quiet. If you aren’t inclined towards mindfulness exercises or meditation, consider other forms of self-reflection or relaxation, including yogajournaling, nature walks, autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), and sky gazing.

Setting Your Own Sobriety Goals

What about setting your own goals? If you have certain specific goals in mind, making them your priority this summer could be a good idea. But you must differentiate between an ambition and a realistic goal.

It’s one thing to aim to be accepted into your one dream college – but it’s smarter to approach this goal as “getting into college”, instead. There’s a great benefit to goal setting in that achieving our goals can help us feel accomplished and fulfilled. But missing the mark can be quite difficult.

Make it a Sober Summer with Your Best Goals

Life will be full of opportunities to go above and beyond and risk missing the mark for a potential shot at something extraordinary, but in the early stages of the recovery process, structuring your sobriety goals modestly is important.

Furthermore, a lot of teens may feel overwhelmed in the day-to-day if their goals are too far-fetched or vague to begin with. Define your end goal, but also determine progress points you might want to meet along the way, as well as a day-to-day plan to help you achieve that progress.

For example, if you have a physical goal – such as looking and feeling healthier – you might consider revisiting and redefining your goal as time goes on, and as the rate at which you are making progress becomes clearer.  

A good sobriety goal is not just a single defined endpoint, but a journey you can refer to in smaller, realistic steps to reassure yourself that you’re still on the right path, and to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.

Reach Out to Visions Treatment Centers

If at any point you are struggling with substance abuse or sobriety, speak to a professional. Many treatment options like a residential treatment center for teens exist to get you back on track.

At Visions Treatment Centers, we treat adolescents for various mental health disorders and dual diagnoses, including drinking disorders, marijuana, and more.

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Adolescence Therapy Treatment

Breaking the Silence with Talk Therapy

Teens can benefit from talk therapy just as much as adults, whether it’s for mood swings and anxiety issues, or exam blues, relationship troubles, and school pressure. Talk therapy is not limited to people with mental health conditions and can be a powerful tool to enable introspection and a healthier outlook on life even when a person considers themselves mentally healthy.

The argument for talk therapy can be summed up as preventative care: making sure minor problems don’t brew into major issues down the line, while helping teens build life skills that will continue to serve them as bastions of resilience and strength against mental health issues in the future.

What is Talk Therapy?

Talk therapy is another term for psychotherapy or individual therapy. In talk therapy, a patient and a therapist discuss a patient’s thoughts, concerns, experiences, worries, ambitions, and more.

The point of each therapy session is to make progress on the patient’s mental wellbeing, which may involve thought exercises and “homework,” such as writing a daily journal entry or making observations about one’s responses and emotional states at work or at school.

Combining Talk Therapy with Therapeutic Methods

Different forms of talk therapy apply different questions and therapeutic methods to help a patient make progress. Nearly all therapy centers around introspection, wherein a therapist helps their patient reflect on their way of thinking and their coping methods in order to think healthier, more positive thoughts and develop better, more effective coping skills.

As an example, a therapist treating a teen with depression through cognitive behavioral therapy may teach their patient to identify and isolate self-deprecating and negative thoughts, to dissociate from them, and use positive affirmations to negate these thoughts. These positive affirmations will be rooted in truth, focusing on the teen’s strengths or positive attributes.

It might not feel convincing or effective at first, but reinforcing this type of mental work can, in turn, change the way a patient feels, creating a stronger self-image and healthier self-esteem. This can take as few as five or as many as 20 sessions.

Talk Therapy isn’t Always Used Alone

Talk therapy is not always used on its own. It may be reinforced through medication, helping the brain dull severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem while training a teen to refute and replace unwanted thoughts when they arise.

How Does Talk Therapy Help with Depression?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most used talk therapy method for cases of depression. Depression in teens can range from a mild or temporary issue to a long-term chronic condition, or a severe and debilitating mental health problem. Regardless of severity, talk therapy is often a central part of treating a depressed patient.

It is true that you cannot “talk your way out” of a depression. It is also true that conditions like depression do not have a cure. Mood disorders are mental health conditions that may resolve themselves over time but are often chronic and long-lasting. For teens with depression, this might mean struggling with dark thoughts from time to time, for years or decades.

Talk Therapy Builds Reinforcements Against Depression

The point of talk therapy is to reinforce habits that help a teen build resilience against these thoughts, anticipate and isolate them, learn not to listen to them, and learn how to refute them with real-life examples of joy and happiness.

We also know that conditions like depression are exacerbated and disarmed by risk factors and protective factors alike. Excessive stress and poor physical health can make depressive symptoms worse and more frequent. Taking care of oneself, spending more wholesome time with friends, and insisting on a healthier work-life balance can help keep depression at bay.

In many cases, talk therapy involves helping patients lay the foundation for the habits and mindset that will keep them safe from depressing thoughts in the future.

Therapy and Addiction

Substance use is another condition where talk therapy, both individual therapy, and group therapy, plays an important role in treatment. Substance use disorder or addiction is a very complicated health problem with compounding social, physical, and psychological factors.

While talk therapy alone does not address all these factors, it can be key to helping patients re-establish themselves in the aftermath of addiction, reaffirm their interests, reclaim their hobbies, and emphasize their newfound lives in sobriety.

There are very few medications for addiction – some medications help cut down on alcohol cravings, for example, while others block the effects of addictive substances like opioids, eliminating the high.

Most of the work in overcoming and surviving addiction relies on guided introspection through one-on-one therapy and group therapy sessions, positive affirmations, healthy coping mechanisms to avoid or defeat cravings, and a long-term support plan.

How Can I Convince My Teen to Try Therapy?

More than half of those who are diagnosed with a mental health problem are not getting the help they need. In many cases, it’s a matter of misinformation, fear of judgment, financial worry, and other factors. In your teen’s case, they may be worried about what might happen if news got out about their therapy. Or, they might be worried that it won’t work and that you would be wasting your time and money.

Sometimes, just talking to your teen will be enough to get them to try it out. Letting them know that you’re in their corner and want them to get the best possible care is important. At other times, it may take more than a single heart-to-heart. Consulting with a therapist beforehand might get you some important pointers on how to bring your teen to therapy.

Being a teen represents being at a major crossroads in life physically, socially, and mentally. Teens are at the cusp of their transformation into adulthood, which brings with it a set of responsibilities and new authorities they need to learn to manage.

Meanwhile, becoming an adult means teens will be expected to do more, first at school, then in the workplace, introducing more sources of overwhelming stress. While all this is happening, teens are struggling with their own emotional and sexual identity and maturity, learning to develop as individuals and cementing their personality traits.

Talk therapy can help teens navigate these issues and accompanying life stressors, before they’re further complicated by anxious or depressed thinking, or other symptoms of illness. In teens who are already struggling with a condition like depression, talk therapy can help them navigate their thoughts and develop better habits.

For more information, contact us today. We are here to help you and your teen. At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer residential treatment programs for teens that address various mental health conditions and diagnoses.

Categories
ADHD Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health Substance Abuse

4 Sneaky Mental Illnesses in Teens to Watch Out For

Mental illnesses in teens can be a complicated topic for parents, especially if they have no personal experience with mental disorders. Recognizing and separating symptoms of a mental disorder from regular teenage behavior can be difficult, because many mental health symptoms are subtle, and begin in ways that can be misconstrued as normal teenage behavior.

Nevertheless, recognizing and identifying these symptoms is important. Teens themselves may lack the awareness or the experience to identify their feelings as troublesome and might instead internalize their symptoms as being their own fault.

This guilt can feed and accelerate feelings of anxiety, depression, or other symptoms, and can make treatment more difficult over time. Pressure at home or at school, a history of victimization, or mental health stigma in the community can complicate things even further, making teens less likely to seek help or consider asking for it.

Mental Illnesses in Teens Have Gone Up

The rates at which mental illnesses in teens have also gone up over time. Some of it may stem from awareness, or from societal factors, such as environmental concerns, greater academic pressure, and a poor economic outlook. But by and large, teen stressors are the same as they have always been: relationship problems, grades, fitting in, family environment, and trauma.

Let’s look at a few common yet sneaky mental illnesses that may affect your teen and how to identify them.

1. Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is a growing issue with the prevalence of social media and doctored Instagram posts, even amid waves of body positivity and messages about self-acceptance.

Also dubbed body dysmorphic disorder, this mental health condition is characterized by an untrue self-image. It isn’t just that a teen with BDD does not like the way they look – in their eyes, they look completely different than what they might look like to others. A teen with BDD might starve themselves or work out excessively to try and conform to their ideal, unattainable self-image. Teens with body dysmorphia may also abuse substances to suppress their appetite or achieve a different figure, such as using anabolic steroids to build muscle quickly. Signs and symptoms of BDD include:

  • An excessive and extreme focus on physical appearance and repeated negative comments about their self-image.
  • Spending inordinate amounts of time checking and rechecking their appearance.
  • Hiding away from others or hiding their body with loose-fitting clothes and baggy clothing.
  • Not listening to affirmations from others, ignoring praise about their physical appearance/continuing to lament their appearance as ugly.

2. Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are often adjacent to body dysmorphia but are characterized primarily by an unhealthy relationship with food. Eating disorders are usually diagnosed as either binge eating disorderanorexiabulimiaavoidant restrictive food intake disorder, other specified eating disorders, or unspecified eating disorders.

Binge eating Disorder 

Binge eating disorder is characterized by a cycle of emotional lows and depressive symptoms culminating in an unhealthy binge eating session, leading to another cycle of low mood. Teens who are binge eating may hide their binges, keep food in their room, or store chocolate bars and snacks in their drawers.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder characterized by excessively restrictive calorie counting and starvation, including severe body image issues, such as seeing oneself as fat despite being dangerously underweight. Therefore, anorexia can be a life-threatening condition.

Bulima Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of self-starvation, binging, and purging behavior (through laxatives or self-induced vomiting). Frequent vomiting can also cause throat and dental damage, as well as create callouses on a teen’s index and middle finger knuckles.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder is characterized by an unhealthily restrictive food intake. Teens with avoidant restrictive food intake are incredibly picky about what they eat, to the point that it causes dramatic weight loss and physical health problems. These problems are progressive, meaning the list of acceptable foods becomes smaller over time. Teens with avoidant restrictive food intake are not necessarily worried about body image, but may be worried about choking on their food, or react nauseously to normal foods for no discernable reason. Choosing to cut out certain foods for health or moral reasons (such as a keto diet or veganism) is not a disorder.

Other Specific or Unspecified Eating Disorders

Other specific or unspecified eating disorders may be applied as a label to teens with disordered eating habits that do not yet fit an established profile, fit into multiple disorders at once, or in cases where more information is needed to determine a teen’s condition.

Eating disorders need to be addressed professionally. They can be life-threatening and can cause lasting physical harm.

3. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a well-known condition in children and teens, but it can present itself in subtle ways that often evade diagnosis for years. Teens learn to cope with their ADHD symptoms over time, continuing to mask them well into adulthood.

However, untreated ADHD can be a great risk to teens because it is often associated with a much higher risk of comorbid mental health problems, including depression and substance use disorder.

One of the primary symptoms of teen ADHD is recurring disorganization. Being disorganized or clumsy is not just a personality trait – if your teen is consistently bad with time management, constantly misplaces their belongings, dodges, or misses deadlines all the time, and is actively anxious about these things (i.e., they are worried, and trying, but their behavior does not change), they may be struggling with ADHD.

Executive functioning problems are another common sign of ADHD in teens. Executive functioning refers to the ability to utilize one’s working memory, flexibility, and self-control to go about their life, including making and coordinating schedules and plans, prioritizing tasks effectively, demonstrating emotional control, effective self-monitoring, focusing on a task at a time, and being flexible about schedule changes.

Teens with ADHD can still learn to develop and hone these skills, but they may have a harder time doing so than their peers. Executive functioning can also be impacted by other problems, such as depression, abuse, or trauma.

4. Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder is another term for addiction. Addiction in teens may occur as a result of comorbid conditions, such as an anxiety disorder, PTSD, or depression, or as a result of a combination of environmental factors (socioeconomics, trouble at home, parental disconnect) and inner factors (genetics, family history, addiction at home).

Signs of a substance use disorder in teens can vary. Drug paraphernalia is one common sign, from hidden bongs to a bottle of vodka under the bed. Consistently coming home too late, coming home drunk or high multiple times, and experiencing physical symptoms of recurring drug use – from bloodshot eyes to memory loss – are also important signs.

When To Get Help

Mental illnesses in teens are treatable, and regardless of what your teen is going through, the first step of that treatment is compassion. Help your teen understand that you are in their corner and want them to feel better. They need to internalize that your goal isn’t to punish them, but to help.

In some cases, it can be difficult to convince your teen that you’re on their side. Some conditions make it harder to help teens get help than others, including addiction, personality disorders, and conduct disorders. Working with a mental health professional beforehand can help you come up with the best way to intervene on your teen’s behalf and get them to see things your way.

For more information, contact Visions Treatment Centers today.

Categories
Anxiety

Combating High Functioning Anxiety in Teens: Symptoms & Treatment

While mental health disorders encompass a huge range of symptoms and differentiated conditions, more people struggle with anxiety than any other type of mental disorder. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health issues diagnosed in teens. But not all forms of anxiety are debilitating or disabling, such as high functioning anxiety.

High functioning anxiety describes symptoms of anxiety in people who are otherwise still high achievers among their peers, whether it’s at school, work, or even home (through household tasks and life skills). Anxiety does not preclude hard work or success – but success does not indicate happiness or good mental health, and a capacity for stress is not always a useful indication of a person’s mental wellbeing.

We know from research that anxiety has a detrimental effect on academic performance and cognition. Teens are less likely to internalize lessons and more likely to forget the facts if they’re preoccupied with anxious thoughts and have a harder time focusing.

In adolescents especially, fear of failure and overly high expectations (often self-generated) can lead to excessive academic stress and pressure. This attitude is self-destructive, especially for young adults facing the oncoming pressures and stressors of adulthood.

But kids with high grades can still struggle with anxiety. A study of 500 school children showed that as many as 3.9 percent of students with very good grades scored high on anxiety tests. Lower than their peers with poor grades (14.1 percent), but still significant. Knowing what high functioning anxiety looks like and how it sets itself apart from debilitating anxiety can help us gain a better understanding of how to help teens struggling with high functioning anxiety.

High Functioning Anxiety vs. Other Anxiety Disorders

First and foremost, high functioning anxiety is not a disorder. There are no clinical criteria for it. It is not listed in the DSM-5 or other resources for diagnostic criteria in psychiatry. However, “high-functioning” is a common descriptor for cases of mental health problems where a patient effectively copes with their condition, albeit in an unhealthy way, or continues to function in spite of their diagnosis. A diagnosis of high functioning anxiety usually falls under Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD).

Difficult to Identify

One of the primary characteristics of any mental disorder is that a patient is struggling with their condition, meaning it has a material and tangible effect on their life, such as the threat of self-harm, relationship problems, or trouble at school, work, or home.

High functioning anxiety can be difficult to identify because a teen with high functioning anxiety can mask their symptoms and continue to achieve great things. In many cases, teens with high functioning anxiety are doing well at school and in their extracurriculars but still feel overwhelmed from time to time by anxious thoughts or unwanted thinking.

Masking Symptoms

In other, more dangerous cases, high functioning anxious teens might be masking their symptoms through effective yet potentially destructive short-term coping mechanisms.

These are coping mechanisms with long-term consequences, whether it’s something as simple as bottling up a traumatic experience or using drugs like alcohol and marijuana to regularly combat anxious thoughts and continue to “function.”

Teens who feel anxious from time to time might not need professional treatment now but could still benefit from learning how to address and cope with these thoughts before they interfere and turn into a greater, debilitating issue in the future.

Meanwhile, teens who rely on short-term yet destructive coping mechanisms to deal with their anxious thoughts and continue functioning may end up paying the price sooner rather than later, especially in cases of substance abuse.

Recognizing High Functioning Anxiety in Teens

If high functioning anxiety does not keep someone from doing well at school or their job, how can it be identified? By looking for other telltale signs of anxiety. These include:

  • Physical symptoms such as unexplained pains, sudden shortness of breath, and random chest pains.
  • Physical tics, like teeth grinding, clenched jaws and associated jaw pain, scratch marks, shortened nails/nail loss (from biting), and hair loss (from pulling).
  • Rising substance use, including nicotine, alcohol, and illegal substances such as prescription medication (including recreational use of ADHD medication).
  • Avoiding friends and family, isolating more often.
  • Tendency to drift away and not be “present” in the moment.
  • Losing track of time often (consistently too late/too early).
  • Becoming emotionally distant or unreachable.
  • And more.

These symptoms of anxiety might not reach a point in a teen’s life where they become candidates for a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. However, they may be a sign that your teen is potentially at greater risk of anxiety issues, substance use, or depressive problems in the near future, especially if they have a personality that causes them to be harder on themselves, even after failure.

Furthermore, helping a teen with high functioning anxiety learn to identify and develop healthy, strong coping skills against their symptoms and thoughts can help them build resilience and preemptively prevent a future diagnosis. In this case, it’s preventative medicine rather than a cure.

Treating High Functioning Anxiety

High functioning anxiety is addressed in teens like most other anxiety disorders: by talking with a professional. Talk therapy or psychotherapy is the most effective treatment for an anxiety condition, usually in combination with other forms of therapy, including experiential therapy and medication (especially when comorbid conditions are involved, such as depression or substance use).

In teens with high functioning anxiety, taking the opportunity to discuss these fears and anxious thoughts with a professional gives them the chance to nip things in the bud by learning to differentiate between signs of potentially disordered anxious thinking and a healthy amount of self-awareness and doubt.

Modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy also help teens learn to apply lessons from therapy in their day-to-day life and utilize their thinking to affect their emotional and mental health.

Addressing High Functioning Anxiety at Home

In addition to a treatment plan, another important component of long-term emotional and mental health is support at home and within the community.

Parents, siblings, and friends alike can help teens with high functioning anxiety by encouraging them to take breaks from time to time, to stick to healthy physical habits such as a strict sleep schedule, less caffeine, a better diet, and to bring them along on social activities to keep them from isolating themselves.

Staying Consistent

Some days and weeks feel harder than others, but consistency can help overcome and eliminate most anxious episodes and help teens find a better balance in their life.

For more information about anxiety treatment for teens, contact us today. Our team of professionals will be glad to speak to you.