If you’re a parent of an adolescent, you know that the teenage years can be an emotional rollercoaster. The changes of puberty combined with the pressures faced by today’s teens can cause a fair share of moodiness.
However, teens are also vulnerable to mental health disorders that go far beyond typical mood swings. It’s important for parents to know the signs of these disorders so they can get their child the help they need.
Common Teen Mental Health Conditions
Certain mental health disorders are particularly common among adolescents. These conditions include:
Depression: Many teens will suffer a temporary case of “the blues” at some point, but clinical depression is a real health problem that can lead to suicidal thoughts or behavior. Teen depression is surprisingly common; a study by the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that over 3 million adolescents in the United States suffered a depressive episode in 2015.1
Eating disorders: Teens face significant pressure regarding their appearance; in some cases, this focus on body image can turn into an obsession. The effects of bulimia and the severe weight loss associated with anorexia can lead to serious—sometimes fatal—health consequences.
Substance abuse: Peer pressure is responsible for a fair amount of substance abuse among teens, but many teens turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of a mental health condition. Parents should keep in mind that some commonly abused substances may be sitting in their own medicine cabinet; prescription drugs and even over-the-counter cough and cold remedies can be misused.
Knowing the Signs
While teens can develop many of the same mental health conditions as adults, their symptoms may not be exactly the same. The teen years are filled with many transitions; however, some sudden changes may be warning signs of a developing problem.
The following signs may indicate that your teen could benefit from professional help:2
- Trouble eating or sleeping
- Avoiding social interaction and isolating themselves
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Compulsive exercising or dieting
- Destroying property
- Significantly reduced energy levels
- Suicidal thoughts
- Harming themselves or others
- Hearing voices
- Difficulty enjoying pleasurable activities
During your child’s teen years, it’s essential to keep the lines of communication open. Let your child know that they’re not alone in their feelings and anxieties, and try sharing some of your own experiences as a teen.
If you’re concerned about your teen’s mental health, it can be helpful to talk to your child’s pediatrician. Not only can your child’s physician perform an overall medical assessment, but they can also refer you to the appropriate professionals if needed.
There are several forms of psychotherapy that can help with teen mental health conditions: cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, group therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are a few common approaches. In some cases, a combination of these psychotherapy approaches is utilized, and some adolescents also benefit from a treatment plan that includes both medication and psychotherapy.
Mental health disorders can affect a teen’s life in countless ways; fortunately, effective treatment is available. If you suspect your teen may be struggling with a mental health disorder, don’t hesitate to seek help. A parent’s guidance and support can go a long way toward helping a teen get their life back on track.