How Does Mindfulness Change the Brain for Addicted Adolescents?

How Does Mindfulness Change the Brain for Addicted Adolescents?

Today’s adolescents are alarmingly anxious. Anxiety disorders, which can include general anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder, are common in teens. 25.1% of teens between 13-18 years old will experience symptoms of anxiety in their young lives. Experiencing symptoms doesn’t simply include stress about school, peers, or anxiety due to hormones. 13-18 year olds are experiencing clinical anxiety symptoms, which, for the majority of adults who live with anxiety disorders, can be disruptive and even debilitating.

Ongoing, there is an issue in America especially in which those who are struggling with the clinical symptoms of mental health disorders like an anxiety disorder do not receive treatment. For adults this is common. As for the mental health and wellness of adolescents, this is a critical issue. According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80% of adolescents and teens who experience clinical symptoms which qualify a diagnosis of anxiety don’t receive treatment. Untreated mental health issues like anxiety, especially in adolescence, frequently leads to the development of substance use disorders in teenagehood.

Treating Anxiety and Addiction In Adolescents With Mindfulness

A study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology used brain imaging to examine the effect of mindfulness based cognitive therapy in adolescents with anxiety disorders. Participants spent 12 weeks practicing and learning MCBT. According to Good Therapy, MBCT “blends cognitive therapy, a modality, that encourages participants to recognize and alter automatic negative thoughts and behaviors, with mindfulness, the practice of slowing down and noticing things in the present moment.” Mindfulness is a spiritual practice, mental practice, and a form of meditation. Commonly practiced as meditation, mindfulness can be practiced in other ways like cognitive behavioral therapy and stress reduction.

Key areas of the brain which contribute to emotional processing revealed significant changes after the 12 weeks of mindfulness. “Specifically,” lists the article, “the bilateral insula, lentiform nucleus, thalamus, and left anterior cingulate showed increased activation when participants were exposed to emotional stimuli.”

Processing emotions in a healthy and successful way is a challenge for any adult who is recovering from addiction. In adolescents, the brain isn’t fully formed, making some kinds of processing especially difficult. Mindfulness based practices help the adolescent work with their brains rather than against it. In addition to neurological changes, mindfulness practices have been shown to improve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, increase heart health, and enhance general feelings of wellbeing.


Mindfulness and meditation are practices we use as the staff at Stonewater Recovery Center. Living in recovery, we practice what we preach, showing adolescents a new way of living, founded in spiritual faith and clinical recovery. For information on our residential treatment programs, call us today at: 1-662-598-4214.