Addiction Depression Mental Health Recovery

Privilege Doesn’t Mean Easy

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Sometimes, teen angst is obvious. It shows up as truancy, poor grades, and sullen or surly attitudes. But sometimes, it’s subtle, and easily missed by parents desperate to feel their child is doing all right. After reading this remarkable article by Dr. Madeline Levine, I was reminded about the elusive nature of teen angst and the parental actions taken to limit pain, sadness, fear, and frankly, some of the pertinent life experiences which are part and parcel to learning about the human condition. Dr. Levine noted how common this is amongst those more privileged when she states, “It would be a stretch to diagnose these kids as emotionally ill. They don’t have the frazzled, disheveled look of kids who know they are in serious trouble.” In these cases, it takes time to really unravel the problem because the outsides are masked so skillfully. Levine notes this as well, “After a few sessions, sometimes more, the extent of distress among these teenagers becomes apparent. Scratch the surface, and many of them are, in fact, depressed, anxious and angry.” She also notes the fact that it’s the kids requesting help, not always the parents recognizing there might be a problem.

Many parents will say,  “I just don’t want my child to feel pain or be sad, or get hurt.” While parents are providing tremendous resources and attention to these kids, there is still an internal sense of strife felt in many of them. This additional desire to protect and fix things with materialistic items is just a another way of muffling the reality of whatever it is we’re dealing with.  An iPod, or a new pair of Uggs won’t fix the emotional pain and loneliness of social anxiety or lift the spirits of the depressed. Sure, the thrill of getting something new may make us temporarily feel good, but those feel-good moments start to fade and we’re still left with the feelings we were trying to run away from in the first place.

This presents an interesting conundrum when it comes to asking for help. The suffering isn’t as obvious for these teens, and it becomes harder still to determine the root cause when the issues themselves are concealed. In this sense, the “privileged” may find it harder to reach out for help because their ability to acquire bigger and better things is easier, and their academic and social resources are more viable. In this case, the ability to stuff feelings comes at a higher price, both literally and figuratively.  And while some may view those who are more privileged as spoiled, I hesitate to think this is entirely the case. In fact, I would venture to say some of this is the manifestation of a larger issue: parental denial, a need to run from feelings and the financial ability to do it in bigger and more aggrandized ways.

Sometimes it’s harder to ask for help when it looks like you have it “together” from the outside. The assumption is that one is doing well because they may not have lost everything, or because they appear fine solely because their outsides are seemingly put together. Unfortunately, the outsides don’t always match the insides. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt low but was complimented on my appearance. It’s a trick we play to hide what’s really going on. That “trick,” however, leaves us lonely and sometimes isolated from the very people who can help us. Our kids need us to be there for them, but we can’t always intervene. In doing so, we teach helplessness, when what we really want to do is provide a safe foundation at home so our kids can develop the tools they need to experience life. As Hodding Carter once said, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”

Read the article in its entirety (I highly recommend this).

See here for more information about The Price of Privilege.

Addiction Dual Diagnosis Guest Blogs Mental Health

Dual Diagnosis and Teens: What to Know

Guest blog by Recovery Rob from the Pat Moore Foundation

The combination of substance abuse and forms of mental illness are common. In fact, it’s what most clinicians, therapist, and counselors often expect to find when one diagnosis is confirmed. According to the NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) more than

half of all adolescents with substance abuse issues also have a diagnosable mental illness. These diagnosable mental illnesses consist of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Depression, and Bipolar Disorder. Unfortunately, history has not shown treatment for both at the same time. Typically a teenager who is in treatment for substance abuse is not referred out to a qualified mental health professional to discover a source of their drug and alcohol abuse. Self-medicating with alcohol and illegal drugs is prevalent when there is a mental health issue.

Over the years, the psychiatric and drug counseling communities have begun working together, agreeing that both of these disorders must be treated at the same time. Often with one diagnosis you have the other. With a dual diagnosis it’s been found that suicide attempts and psychotic episodes decrease rather quickly. Treatments consist primarily, but not exclusively to 12-Step programs. However, special peer groups that focus on treating both the illness and substance abuse are found to strengthen social networks.

Adolescents often seek acceptance, and support each other as they learn the role alcohol and drugs have taken in their lives so far. Learning, and in some cases re-learning, social skills will help replace self-medication with patterns of healthful and helpful behaviors.

In order to discover the presence of a confirmable dual diagnosis, one must seek a professional assessment from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Once the dual diagnosis has been established confirmed, then family members and mental health professionals are urged to work together to seek a strategy that works best for the adolescent.

Here are five tips on what to do if your adolescent has a substance abuse disorder.

  • Your teen is NOT a disgrace to the family.
  • Establish consequences for behaviors, and don’t be afraid to call upon law enforcement if your child is drinking on your property.
  • Don’t threaten unless you plan to follow through. Typically a parent surrenders and their addicted child learns their parent doesn’t mean what they say.
  • Try not to nag or lecture.
  • And, if your teenager is seeking and working at his or her recovery you should offer support, love and encouragement.


Recovery Rob is a 47-year-old man who has more than nineteen years of sobriety, whose drugs of choice at one time were alcohol and drugs, and he has worked in and around the field of addiction for more than 20 years. Recovery Rob is a professional writer who has published two novels and is currently working on his third. He has been writing and working as Pat Moore Foundation’s premiere blogger and content writer, which helps keeps Pat Moore Foundation’s addiction and recovery blog top-rated.

You can also follow Recovery Rob on Twitter!

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