Young Adult Mental Health & Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

5 Reasons Why Treatment Is Important for Young Adults During the Holidays

Reading Time: 5 minutes

For young adults, the holidays are typically about catching up on sleep, going out with friends, and spending time with family. Entering or remaining in treatment for mental health conditions doesn’t usually look like an appealing option, even when they know they need help.

However, treatment is important even during the holidays—and can be life transforming. Here are five reasons for young adults to make the choice to start or stay in residential treatment throughout this season.

1. It’s common to experience worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression during the holiday season.

Young adults are experiencing high rates of anxiety and depression. A CDC survey found that this demographic is now bearing the brunt of the mental health fallout of the pandemic, climate change anxiety, and social and political upheaval worldwide. Some 75 percent of this age group is experiencing at least one adverse mental health symptom, including trauma-related disorders. Furthermore, CDC researchers found that one out of every four young adults ages 18–24 seriously considered suicide in the 30 days prior to the survey.

These statistics, coupled with research showing significant increases in anxiety and depression during the holidays, make it clear why young adult treatment is important during this time of the year. Research shows that people’s moods get worse during Christmas. And 64 percent of people with a diagnosed mental health condition find that the holidays make their symptoms “a lot” worse or “somewhat” worse, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Participants surveyed said that the holidays also made them feel lonelier, and that they spent more time during this season comparing the present with happier times in the past. Gen Z, nicknamed the “loneliest generation,” is particularly vulnerable to these seasonal issues.

2. Staying in treatment is important for avoiding relational trauma triggers.

The holidays can be one of the most difficult times for young adults who are healing from relational trauma and attachment wounds. Because families are together and expectations are high, it’s common for old patterns and conflicts to resurface. And since the holidays usually mean more drinking, children of parents with untreated substance abuse issues are at a high risk of being retraumatized.

Moreover, the treatment process involves developing greater awareness of childhood trauma, as part of the journey of healing the inner child. As a result, young adults in treatment are often emotionally raw and open. Consequently, they may be more aware of and more sensitive to relational trauma triggers. Over time, however, their experience in treatment will give them the tools to navigate challenging family situations and get-togethers. That’s another reason why young adult treatment is important, particularly treatment that involves family therapy. 

3. Substance abuse among young adults increases during the holidays.

There’s no mystery here, but the research confirms it: A study tracked the alcohol consumption of 576 emerging adults (ages 18 and 19), including some in college and some not attending college. As a result, researchers found that the number of holiday drinks consumed during the week of New Year’s was second only to spring break. Young adults consumed an average of just under 10 drinks during the holiday week. Hence, remaining in residential care can be the most effective holiday relapse prevention plan for young adults.

Taking a break from treatment during the holidays, or waiting until after the season is over to enter treatment, exposes young adults to a higher likelihood of substance abuse and, consequently, a higher risk of overdose. Moreover, staying in treatment during the holidays protects young adults from the higher likelihood of engaging in other types of risky behavior. These include driving while intoxicated, having unsafe sex, violent behavior, and vandalism.

4. Structure and community support sustainable healing.

Staying sober during the holidays is often a new experience for young adults recovering from substance abuse. And a holiday focused on personal growth and self-care may be new to young adults healing from other mental health disorders. At Newport Institute, they can experience what a healthy holiday looks like. Moreover, they experience the healing power of connection and community. During this time with us, young adults will

  • Strengthen self-care habits
  • Make progress on their recovery and personal growth goals
  • Experience structured time for reflection and mindful practices
  • Celebrate their triumphs with peers and mentors
  • Enjoy healthy holiday feasts prepared by our expert chefs
  • Connect with friends and family via technology
  • Spend time outdoors on hikes and playing games
  • Engage in group therapy that may include processing emotions related to the holidays
  • Do creative activities such as music- and art-making.

5. A better future is the best gift a young adult can give or receive.

One of the best answers to the question of why is treatment important during the holidays is this one: Longer stays in residential care yield the most positive outcomes. Therefore, choosing not to interrupt treatment is important because it gives young adults a better chance of achieving sustainable healing.

It’s not easy for a young adult to make the choice to enter or remain in treatment at a time that is traditionally reserved for a very different type of experience. However, missing a typical holiday season is an excellent tradeoff when it means young adults will gain the self-knowledge, self-esteem, resilience, and coping and life skills to take on the next stage of life with confidence.

How to Know When Young Adult Treatment Is Important

Are you or a loved one considering the question “Why is treatment important?” Here are five symptoms indicating that young adult treatment may be needed.

  1. Self-care habits such as grooming, exercising, and healthy eating have gone by the wayside.
  2. A young adult is no longer deriving pleasure from activities that used to be enjoyable.
  3. Feelings of hopelessness, grief, and worthlessness dominate over all other emotions.
  4. Frequent headaches, stomachaches, and/or other aches and pains have no medical explanation.
  5. The young adult is unable to concentrate on school or work, and doesn’t seem to care about accomplishing assigned tasks.

If you or your loved one is experiencing any of the above signs, reach out to Newport Institute today. We’ll help you figure out what level of treatment will be most beneficial, and guide you on the path toward sustainable healing.

Frequently Asked Questions About Young Adult Treatment During the Holidays

Can I have visitors during the holidays while I’m in treatment?
Yes, at Newport Institute, our young adult clients can visit either in person or virtually with family members.

Do people really drink more during the holidays?
Yes, alcohol consumption increases during the December holidays, particularly the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Studies show that young adults consume an average of just under 10 drinks during the holiday week.

Are young adults more depressed during the holidays?
Research finds that people’s moods get worse in general during the holidays. For those with mental health diagnoses, about two-thirds say that their symptoms increase during this season.


Innov Clin Neurosci. 2011 Dec; 8(12): 10–13.

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Aug;69:1049–1057.

Psychol Addict Behav. 2011 Mar; 25(1): 16–27.

Treatment / November 22, 2022

Newport Institute

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