understanding mental health struggles and diagnoses crop


We started the OPI Living Programs to provide effective, innovative and therapeutic treatment for young adults who are challenged by a number of different diagnosis as well as…

  • Discovering their own identities and
  • Finding their niche in our competitive and rapidly changing world with its unprecedented complexity.

Our young adult participants DO MUCH MORE than address all of the above while attending an OPI Living Program. THEY MOVE BEYOND the multiple issues that seem to be rapidly increasing today and threaten to hold back our young adults. These issues range from…

  • Excessive Anxiety to Depression and Addictions;
  • “Failure to Launch” and Asperger’s Syndrome to Learning Disabilities and Dual Diagnoses;
  • Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and ADD/ADHD to Borderline Personality Disorder, to name just a few.

In our OPI Living Programs, young adults move forward because we combine the most effective, innovative and therapeutic approaches available with real world opportunities to practice acquired skills and achieve growth and success whether they are completing high school or college, finding a job, volunteering or participating in the multitude of extracurricular activities we offer through one of our dedicated service departments including our Department of Educational Services, Career & Volunteer Services, Extracurricular Activities, Life Coaching and more.

We craft individualized programs that provide a dynamic balance between finding purposeful inspiration and the ability to mobilize while providing support and helping participants acquire knowledge about how to create their own supportive networks and find and express passion, joy and success.


Lasting change is always expressed by “doing.” At OPI, participants are supported and encouraged to become people of action while demonstrating patience, tolerance and compassion for themselves and others.

Read more about the OPI Vision of Transition for young adults and adolescents and why Optimum Performance Institute feels strongly that it makes sense to provide the experiences and skills necessary to grow as a young adult in an environment like that in which one eventually wants to function.

In any of our programs, including the OPI Standard, the OPI Intensive program for young adults with BPD or Borderline Traits and the OPI Intensive Outpatient Program, we stand by our beliefs and commitment to participants and their families that we treat the whole person not just the diagnosis.

Visit our OPI Living Admissions Process page to learn more about how we support new admissions coming into one of our programs.


Attention deficit disorder was once the name for what we now formally recognize as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Approximately 5.1 million children aged 4 to 17 are currently diagnosed with ADHD, according to the National Resource Center on AD/HD. Children with this neurobiological disorder show symptoms of impulsive behavior, struggling to pay attention and at times, hyper behavior too, per Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that parents of ADHD-diagnosed children attested to three times more troubles with peers when compared to children without ADHD.

There are three types of ADHD: inattentive, lacking hyperactivity and impulsivity; hyperactive and impulsive, lacking inattention; and inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive — this form being the most widely diagnosed, per HelpGuide. Causes of ADHD aren’t fully understood, but it is thought that genetics have an effect on neurotransmitters to some extent that may contribute to the attention-deficit condition, according to WebMD. Stimulant medications like Adderall are the most popular method of treatment for ADHD, with an 85-percent success rate, according to CHADD.


Bipolar disorder falls into the following four subtypes, per KidsHealth:

  • Bipolar I
  • Bipolar II
  • Cyclothymic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified

Often known by many as manic depression, bipolar disorder has been diagnosed in children and adolescents, but it more commonly appears initially in the early 20s, according to KidsHealth. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that of the 10 million Americans with bipolar disorder, over half are diagnosed between 15 and 25 years of age. While adults, children and teens with bipolar I will experience severe mood swings and shifts from mania to depression, the latter two age groups will often bounce back and forth between the two more quickly and more often, frequently within the same day, per KidsHealth.

Children and teens with bipolar type II will have the same depression that those with bipolar type I do, but they will not experience mania on the same level; their manic episodes are often referred to as hypomania which is sometimes accompanied by hostility, per WebMD. There is little evidence to point toward environmental contribution in the development of bipolar disorder; rather, most science is aligned with the idea that it is biological in nature. Likewise, WebMD reports that people with bipolar disorder increase their offspring’s chance of developing it by nine times in comparison to those without bipolar-diagnosed parents. Treatment with medications such as mood stabilizers and antidepressants has shown great success, with the National Advisory Mental Health Council boasting an 80-percent success rate.


The National Institute of Mental Health defines borderline personality disorder as a mental health disorder that causes severe mood swings, erratic behavior, and ultimately the decline of many interpersonal relationships. Those with BPD cannot control their feelings or thoughts – something that often isn’t understood by those without this diagnosis or one similar to it. Both genes and environment seem to have a stake in deciding who gets BPD, which is about 2 percent of the population, according to a study published in the Child Development Perspectives. BPD is not commonly diagnosed under the age of 18 because most physicians believe personality traits are not yet cemented at earlier ages; as a result, teen and adolescent statistics are not well-known.

The simplest of events can trigger a violent storm or rage and emotional turmoil from someone with BPD. In fact, irrational reactions to the statements and behaviors of others is a common symptom of the disorder, along with impulsivity, a distorted self-image, suicidal tendencies and more, per NIMH. Ongoing therapy is generally recommended in cases of BPD, a disorder that never goes away. Likewise, PsychCentral claims that dialectical behavior therapy has shown the most promising results for this disorder specifically. Medications such as antipsychotics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are also helpful.


Known over the years as “boomerang” kids and sufferers of Peter Pan syndrome, these individuals are now known to suffer from failure to launch syndrome. The New York Times reported in 2010 that 40 percent of 20-somethings move back in with their folks after already living outside the family home. A 2011 CBS News report on the syndrome reported that nearly one in every five young adults was unemployed that year; it is thought that a lack of income and jobs contributed somewhat. The report remarked that 5.9 million American adults ages 25 to 34 lived with their parents in 2010.

A 2007 study by the University of Granada pointed out that the syndrome is far more common in males than females, and likewise, that is generally a female that’s enabling the behavior by being the Wendy to his Peter Pan. Psychology Today classified the disorder as being a type of avoidant behavior. Simply put, many believe that those with failure to launch syndrome are avoiding growing up and being responsible for themselves, whether they have solid reasons to or not.

While some clearly just want to sponge off Mom and Dad and avoid having to do their own cooking and laundry, others have deep-seated fears of failure and an inability to take care of themselves. A 2011 report by the Daily Mail postulates a theory that men are falling behind in this department as women are rising to higher ranks. Talk therapy and even interventions are sometimes helpful in these situations.


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke classifies Asperger’s syndrome as being one of a handful of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Having trouble communicating and social difficulties are characteristic of ASDs. Symptoms include:

  • Speech that lacks rhythm, or has an unusual infliction or uniform pitch
  • An inability to judge the appropriate pitch for conversation in a given environment; often speaking louder than what others would gauge as appropriate
  • Social isolation due to a lack of social capabilities and limited interests
  • Delayed motor skill development; delays in reaching childhood and adolescent milestones
  • Poor coordination; often walking with a bounce or tilt in their step

While teens may grow to pick up on many of the skills they’re lacking, their communication skills do not often improve; most adolescents with Asperger’s will not be able to learn how to read someone else’s behaviors, tone of voice, or facial expressions well, per WebMD. It is common for OCD, nonverbal learning disorder, depression, anxiety, social anxiety disorder and ADHD to coexist in those diagnosed with Asperger’s.

The cause of Asperger’s is still unknown, which can be somewhat disheartening for adolescents diagnosed with the disorder and their parents and caretakers. While it is generally considered to be somewhat hereditary, there is no isolated gene. Rather, the NINDS suggests that alterations or mutations of some genes may pose a risk to certain people, making them more likely to develop Asperger’s. Treatment for Asperger’s generally consists of many options like CBT, medication, and social skills therapy. It is best to have skilled professionals thoroughly evaluate the youth and come up with a treatment plan tailored to their individual needs.


Major depression is classified as a disorder exhibiting depressed mood, loss of interest, or both and at least five of the following symptoms, per the American Academy of Family Physicians:

  • A markedly depressed mood for the majority of one’s day, almost daily
  • A loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
  • Near daily appetite fluctuations
  • Weight loss without trying; weight gain of at least 5 percent of one’s body weight
  • Almost daily inability to sleep or daytime fatigue and disruption of sleep patterns
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Extreme fatigue and lethargy
  • Low self-esteem, feeling like you’re worthless, or feeling guilty for no reason
  • Loss of focus and concentration capabilities
  • Suicidal ideation or attempts to take your life

Mixed bipolar disorder, environmental factors, substance abuse, and illness must be ruled out too.

Clinical depression occurs in up to one in every 33 children and a staggering one in every eight adolescents, per the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. In 2012, a report by SAMHSA showed that 1.4 million adolescent girls from age 12 to 17 had endured depression in the preceding year.

Causes aren’t entirely understood, but research has come a long way. We do know that depression runs in families and that those diagnosed with it are more likely to have other co-occurring disorders, especially anxiety disorders. Treatment is promising among youths but needs to be emphasized more strongly across all age groups. The previously mentioned SAMHSA study touted that two-fifths of depressed girls from 15 to 17 years old received treatment for their condition while only one-third of girls ages 12 to 14 did.


Often occurring in conjunction with depression, anxiety disorders are affecting 18 percent of the adult American population, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and 8 percent of American adolescents according to the NIMH. The ADAA also says about half of all people diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders stand alone in the DSM-V, and, according to WebMD, they include:

  • Phobias
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

The ADAA notes that about 4 percent of children and adolescents also suffer from separation anxiety disorder, and an even smaller amount from selective mutism — a very rare anxiety-based disorder. The National Institute on Mental Health attests that symptoms of anxiety disorders in children generally appear by the age of 6. Unfortunately, of the 40 million people suffering from anxiety disorders, only an estimated one-third of them ever seek help for it, according to the ADAA. Among teens ages 13 to 18, only 18 percent are getting help, per the NIMH.

Treatment options for anxiety disorders rang from anti-anxiety and mood-stabilizing medications to talk therapy. The results of one significant study showed that children ages 7 to 17 responded best to a combined treatment of antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy, according to the ADAA.


Widely considered to be of biological origin, obsessive-compulsive disorder affects about 500,000 kids and teens in America, according to the International OCD Foundation. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports only around 2 percent of OCD-diagnosed participants given a placebo pill will report any improvements in comparison to about 40 percent of depressed candidates given a placebo. This confirms that OCD is difficult, if not impossible, to control with willpower or positive thinking. Some areas of the brain have demonstrated dysfunction in a few studies too.

Symptoms of OCD include recurrent thoughts, most often unwanted in nature, and compulsive behaviors that stem from these thoughts in an effort to resolve or cease them. For example, someone with OCD may check to ensure they locked their car doors several times in a row. Aware that they did, their intrusive thoughts plague them enough that anxiety occurs over whether they did or not, per PsychCentral.

OCD may have hereditary properties, but research in this department is still fresh. One-third of those diagnosed with OCD first showed signs of the disorder in childhood, an unsurprising statistic given that most are diagnosed before they reach 20 years old, according to NAMI. One large study on treatment options for OCD published in the American Journal of Psychiatry produced results that touted behavioral therapy as the best option for OCD, with an 86 percent success rate. The same study showed 48 percent successful results for Anafranil, the most widely prescribed OCD drug treatment on the market, and 10 percent successful results in the placebo group.


The DSM-V classifies learning disabilities as Specific Learning Disorder — a diagnosis requiring ongoing trouble in mathematical reasoning, reading, writing, or arithmetic primarily during elementary school, per the American Psychiatric Association. According to HelpGuide, the same problems that exist in younger children with learning disabilities are often magnified in adolescents; most will struggle with organization, have sloppy handwriting, and have difficulty with schoolwork. The majority of these individuals don’t enjoy activities like reading and will have problems with writing, such as spelling the same word differently within the same body of work.

Some disorders target specific tacks, like dyslexia does for reading, making some words seem nearly invisible or incomprehensible. That and other disorders like dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dysphasia, auditory processing disorder, and visual processing disorder are some of the most common learning disabilities, per HelpGuide. The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities states that an estimated one in every five Americans has a learning disorder. As of 2010, 2.4 million students were currently diagnosed with a learning disorder, per the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

The causes of learning disabilities are still not fully understood. The NCLD touts that genetics may play a role because parents with learning disabilities are more likely to have a child with one. Further, prenatal and post-birth difficulties or nutritional deficiencies may be a factor. Treatment is tricky with learning disabilities, but we do know that early intervention is best, as are approaches that encompass both the home life and educational settings. Treatment is often most successful when combined therapy and medicine approaches are utilized.


Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is classified as an anxiety disorder in the DSM-V, presenting symptoms such as being easily startled, feeling on edge, avoiding situations that remind one of a trauma, and having flashbacks of the event, per WebMD. Most often stemming from witnessing a trauma but sometimes from hearing secondhand accounts of one, PTSD has become known over the years as a military veteran disorder, but vets aren’t the only victims.

The results of a 2005 study reported by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that approximately 3.5 percent of Americans ages 18 and older had suffered from PTSD in the preceding year. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that around 7 to 8 percent of the American population will have PTSD within their lifetime.

While there are some genetic and neurological ties to the likelihood of developing PTSD, research is still fresh, and the National Institute of Mental Health states that mental illness, physical head injury and environmental factors can all contribute to an increased risk of PTSD in anyone. Treatment for PTSD has come a long way since it was first discovered in soldiers returning from war in 1678, according to the Vietnam Veterans of America. Often known as “shell shock” back then, the Navy Times claims VA-based treatment for the disorder boasts an 80-percent success rate.


Substance abuse, long thought of as a voluntary behavior for the weak and depraved, is now recognized in the DSM-V as a disorder. Genetic causes have been determined, but sometimes a poor upbringing or unfortunate environment is all it takes to push someone into a battle with substance abuse. Likewise, mental illness plays a significant role, with about half of all substance abusers having at least one underlying mental health disorder, per HelpGuide. According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of substance abuse are:

  • A frequent urge to use drugs or alcohol
  • An inability to cease use of the substance
  • Making sure you always have your drug of choice on hand
  • Financial troubles due to spending money you don’t have on drugs/alcohol
  • Compromising your morals
  • Feeling like you can’t cope with life without drugs or alcohol
  • Engaging in dangerous behaviors while intoxicated
  • Obsessing over maintaining your drug or alcohol supply

A 2007 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study accounted for 40 percent of 12th grade students having consumed alcohol within the preceding month, 15 percent using marijuana, and 13 percent smoking cigarettes. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stated that 14.3 percent of 2012 adolescent admissions to substance abuse treatment claimed they started abusing drugs or alcohol before their 12th birthday. In 2008, about 23,700 adolescents ages 12 to 14 were admitted to substance abuse treatment programs, per SAMHSA.

For both teens and adults who suffer from substance abuse, treatment is necessary. With early intervention, those who suffer can recover and go on to lead healthy, balanced lives.

We Treat the WHOLE PERSON not just the diagnosis.