At Paradigm East, we understand that mental health and physical health are not independent of each other, and that teen’s physical health is inextricably bound to their mental and emotional health. To this end and as part of our overall commitment to providing holistic treatment, all teens receive a thorough medical evaluation as part of their assessment and diagnostic process, preceding treatment. We use this medical evaluation in order to gain knowledge of the teens’ current baseline health and overall physical functioning. This information can be extremely helpful in several different aspects of the teens’ treatment process, including those measures implemented by the therapists, nutritionists, doctors, psychiatrists, and other team members.
One of the reasons we’re so committed to holistic teen treatment at Paradigm East is because the scientific evidence and our experience continues to speak to the fundamental connection between the two. Many of the most significant and challenging symptoms that teens with mental illnesses face would be categorized as “physical,” such as headaches, stomach aches, hormonal imbalance, digestive problems, and insomnia, among others. Beyond this, teens that are struggling with a mental illness are very likely to also struggle with substance abuse, which only complicates symptoms further, as the chemicals disrupt normal, healthy functioning, even further. In this sense, it seems imperative that in order to address teens’ full experience regarding their struggles with mental health and substance abuse disorders, we must also carefully look at the physical aspects and effects of these illnesses.
Moreover, this cause and effect relationship works in both directions. Therefore, what we find is that when we support teens’ rudimentary physical needs (nutritious diet, moderate regular exercise, stress-reducing practices), the teens will almost always feel improvement in their moods and stress levels, as well. Not only are teens that exercise and eat well less likely statistically to struggle with anxiety and depression, but teens can learn to use these things as tools, in order to have practical habits they can practice, to feel better and be healthier in their daily lives.
Two extremely important aspects which are fundamental to teens’ overall health and apply to physical health is stress levels and healthy hormonal functioning. Stress is inevitably a part of all teens’ struggles with both mental health and substance abuse disorders, and the effects of stress alone can affect numerous aspects of the body, including: appetite and metabolism, raised heartrate, stomachaches, ulcers, headaches, thyroid function, and numerous immune related disorders. At the same time, stress can also cause increased anxiety, low moods, low energy, insomnia, disruption of the endocrine system, negative effects on neurotransmitter levels, and imbalance of hormonal levels. What we find, therefore, is that the factors at work within teens’ overall health and current challenges are so intimately linked (often, in a cyclical, cause-and-effect nature) that when we aim to support all aspects of health at once, the benefits are synergistic and the treatment can be far more successful.