Substance abuse among adolescents is potentially a problem of genetics influenced by easy access to addictive substances in the environment; however, it is also considered a symptom of underlying behavioral disorders, especially if the substance abuse is used to self-medicate or rebel against authority figures. According to SAMSHA, about 3.3 percent of adults in 2014 had a mental illness and a substance use disorder; about 340,000 children 12-17 years old had both a major depressive episode and substance use disorder.
There are many kinds of behavioral disorders, and these often manifest in childhood. Here are some of the groups of behavioral disorders, based on information from the Pacer Center for Children with Disabilities:
- Adjustment disorders:
The most common sign of this type of disorder involves a child’s inappropriate or maladaptive emotional or behavioral response to changes or stress in their lives. For diagnostic purposes, symptoms must appear within three months of the life change, and last no more than six months after the end of the stressful event. Symptoms include extreme distress, disruptions of friendships or social bonds, and impairment at school. Other symptoms include truancy, fighting, or vandalism.
- Anxiety disorders:
This classification covers a wide range of disorders, including phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and others. The primary feature is overwhelming anxiety beyond the average response to stress or disruption. Physical symptoms of anxiety can include headaches or stomach aches. Changes in conduct, such as refusing to do homework, and inappropriate emotional responses, such as giggling at a tragedy, can indicate an underlying anxiety disorder.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD):
This group of disorders is most often characterized by repeated and persistent obsessions (e.g., constant doubt or the need to have objects in a specific order) or compulsive behaviours (e.g., inability to stop washing one’s hands, requiring the door knob to be turned a certain number of turns, or silently repeating words). These are time-consuming and increase distress in the person suffering from the condition. Even when the person who suffers from OCD knows that their thoughts and behaviours are unnecessary or not reflective of reality, they are unable to stop.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDS):
This condition develops when a person is exposed to a traumatic event or series of events. Consistent feelings of fear, helplessness, insomnia, nightmares, reliving the event, anhedonia or general unresponsiveness to emotional situations, or increased arousal are common symptoms of PTSD.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):
The most common symptom of this condition is the inability to concentrate, which is inconsistent with other mental development. Other symptoms are hyperactivity and impulsive behaviours. These symptoms are typically noticed in children early on, around elementary school.
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD):
- The main features of ODD are a negative attitude and defiance toward authority figures, such as parents and teachers. Although ODD involves refusal to acknowledge the person in charge, or acting against that person, it does not involve violence. Common behaviours more typically include arguing, refusing to follow directions, blaming others, deliberately annoying other people, or being vindictive.
- Conduct disorder (CD):
- This condition is defined as a repeated, persistent pattern of behaviour that violates social norms and the rights of other individuals. Behaviours associated with this disorder include violent lashing out, running away from home, truancy from school, bullying, or physical cruelty to animals or other people. Children with CD tend to become involved in sexual behaviours, substance abuse, and reckless behaviours early in life.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD):
People who struggle with MDD are diagnosed after they experience at least two major depressive episodes, with at least two months between the incidents. Symptoms of depression can appear as an inability to get along with others, including avoidance or aggression, along with general sadness, anhedonia, and malaise.
Children who grow up in an environment with parents or other relatives who have a substance use disorder, such as alcoholism or drug addiction are more likely to develop behavioral disorders. Substance abuse in the family can lead to a variety of stresses, including incarceration, divorce, or abuse, which all affect childhood development. However, there are many other ways that substance abuse can affect a child’s development and lead to behavioral disorders.
Additionally, struggling with a mental health issue such as a behavioral disorder can contribute to substance abuse later in life. A 2014 study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that in adults with any mental illness, 18.2 percent also had a substance use disorder; in comparison, 6.3 percent of adults without mental health disorders struggled with substance abuse of some kind.
Treatment Requires the Whole Family
Early intervention is the best method for helping to prevent substance abuse and ease mental health issues. Identifying protective factors, like high self-esteem, self-control, competence, and positive relationships, and developing these factors can reduce the chance that a person will develop a substance abuse problem because of a behavioral disorder. These protective factors can also reduce the severity of behaviour disorders.
Some risks and protections are outside of a person’s control, but many of them are within one’s control, and it is important to find ways to bolster these protective factors to minimize the risks. Both risks and protections are cumulative, as they have an ongoing influence on a person’s psychology and emotions.
“Early intervention can also help a person to develop prevention strategies, which address the root causes of the behavioral disorder and/or substance abuse.”
Credited to: American Addition Disorders