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Self-Identity and Its Impact on Adolescent Addiction and Recovery

Low self-esteem is often a major factor in substance abuse among adolescents, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Some of the factors that contribute to low self-esteem include low household income, domestic dysfunction, physical or sexual abuse, and poor performance or bullying in school. In this article we hope to give the reader a better understanding of self-identity and its impact on adolescent addiction and recovery. Low self-esteem often presents with anxiety or depression. When a mental illness is present along with a substance use disorder, it’s known as a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis, and the integrated treatment of both conditions is essential for helping to ensure long-term recovery, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Self-Identity, Substance Abuse and Addiction

Self-esteem is the sense of personal value that comes from understanding oneself. According to a study published in the journal Addiction & Health, low self-esteem leads teens to believe that they are unimportant and that nobody likes them. They expect to be humiliated, and they distrust others. Overcoming negative feelings about oneself requires constant external positive experiences, which are often found through abusing drugs or alcohol. Once adolescents become addicted to drugs or alcohol, they will likely adopt an “addict” or “illness” identity, and their self-image becomes inextricably entwined with false beliefs and attitudes about addiction and about themselves. Addicted teens may attach meanings to their experiences and conditions that leave them feeling stigmatized, incompetent, and dangerous, and their behaviors reflect those beliefs about themselves. These behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs combine to extinguish hope and further impact their self-esteem and intensity of drug abuse, according to an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, and their risk of developing depression and anxiety, if it’s not already present, is increased.

What You Can Do to Help Your Teen

A dual diagnosis treatment program that’s designed for adolescents who have anxiety or depression and low self-esteem will focus largely on helping your child identify the beliefs, ideas and attitudes that underlie his or her addictive behaviors and low self-esteem and replace them with more accurate, hopeful and healthy ways of thinking and behaving. Additionally, family therapy is an essential component for successful recovery and will help open the lines of communication between you and your child. Family therapy will lead to a more harmonious home life and a deeper understanding of how mental illness and the disease of addiction affect how your child regards himself or herself. Family substance abuse counselor Carole Bennett, M.A. points out that humans aren’t born with low self-esteem, and she assures that it’s never too late to help your child by avoiding misguided or hurtful comments and extending expressions of love and confidence. Let your teen know that there is hope for recovery and – more importantly – that despite the absence of drugs and alcohol, a meaningful and enjoyable life is possible. Contact us at 877-466-0620 to learn how we can help with adolescent addiction recovery.