With the Christmas holiday approaching, many parents are excited to have their children back home from college. For most parents, the last four months has been the longest period away from their child. While this coming weekend will be packed with joy for countless families across the country, for others it may be a different story all together—with parents witnessing a side of their child they have never seen before. And that may include substance use and/or other forms of mental illness.
Early adulthood, like adolescence, is a time for many changes since the brain is still developing. In a short span, your child can go from being mentally sound to being unrecognizable. You may, unfortunately, observe marked changes in your child’s behavior, symptoms that might fall under the diagnostic criteria of a mental health disorder. At Family Recovery Specialists, we implore you to stay strong in the face of such a realization, you are not alone and there are effective methods of treatment available.
In the field of addiction medicine, experts are acutely aware of the adage: when it rains, it pours. It is extremely common for people affected by addiction to alcohol to have a co-occurring mental health disorder—such as depression or bipolar disorder. Conversely, people, living with any one of a multitude of mental illnesses, will often self-medicate to alleviate their symptoms. At first, the practice may provide some relief, but in the long run drugs and alcohol only exacerbate the symptoms of the condition and can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.
The longer mental health disorders are left untreated and self-medication continues, the more difficult it can be to treat. Despite effective methods of diagnosing and treating mental illness, such conditions often persist for decades before an individual receives help. Intervening at an early age can be the difference between a decade of pain or not. If you think that your son or daughter is exhibiting unusual behaviors, it is paramount that you have a compassionate conversation about what is going on. Ignoring the problem will not make it disappear, as you might imagine.
Resistance to Change
The paradox of addiction and mental illness is that simultaneously the affected is convinced they are alright, while actively their lives are being torn to shreds. Parents who confront their children are likely to be met with resistance, do not despair. Getting a loved one the help they need can be a process, sometimes a long one; it may involve bringing in a third-party, such as an interventionist who can help mediate.
Those who actively work their recovery program and behavioral health specialists realize that having a trusted “recovery toolbox” can be beneficial for every member of the family. The toolbox usually contains resources, coping skills and emergency strategies. This past month we came across an article which we thought you might want to add to your “recovery toolbox:” 7 Things You Need to Know About Substance Use and Mental Illness.
In closing, if your loved one is struggling, do not hesitate to reach out for help. It could be the only gift your child needs this holiday season. Please contact Family Recovery Specialists, we can assist your family in finding the most appropriate placement for a loved one struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorder.