Growing Up With Co-Occurring Disorders

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The correlation between substance use and mental illness is especially prevalent in the youth population for several reasons. First, at such a young age, a child’s brain is not fully developed. The brain is not considered fully developed until age 25, leading to very immature thought processes. Therefore, children have a more difficult time healthily processing their emotions. They do not understand why they feel the way they are feeling and may begin to find substances that help fix those issues. If they do not understand these issues, how do they relay them to an adult to receive help?

With immature emotions, a child does not have the confidence to approach a parent or authority figure about emotional or substance issues. They can’t talk to their peers in a meaningful, objective way either, because their emotional immaturity presents them with the same roadblocks. It is vital to take an active role in a child’s life and make sure they know there are people they can talk to without ridicule or fear of punishment. These types of issues in childhood can be exacerbated in adults who do not realize their mental condition.

Although there is a stigma surrounding mental illness, just as there is an addiction, it seems to be subsiding for mental illnesses. Many people don’t see addiction as a disease, but it becomes easier to understand if we can view it in the same respects as a mental illness. Substance use disorder (SUD) is categorized as a disease because it physiologically changes a person’s brain the same way a mental illness does. Neither of these is a choice. People do not choose to be mentally unwell, and they do not choose to be addicted. It’s important to understand where your unhealthy behaviors and habits come from and if they are influencing substance use so that you can receive the best possible care.


It may be challenging for individuals to get a mental health diagnosis, especially if these issues have been around since childhood. The effects of mental trauma on a young brain are profound and can lead to many adult life problems. Some people with substance abuse issues don’t realize that their behaviors and habits are linked to their mental state. Realizing this is the first step in recovery. From there, you can seek help and support. At Avalon Malibu, we have various models of treatment to help treat co-occurring disorders. We combine evidence-based mental health therapies and effective addiction treatments to provide you with comprehensive care supported by an integration of mind, body, and spirit. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health disorder or substance use disorder, call Avalon Malibu today at (844) 857-5992. You deserve to live your best and healthiest life, and we want to help you get there.

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