The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard for teens. They’ve been separated from their friends for months, missed their proms and graduations, and are adapting post-graduation plans. They may have struggled with online learning or felt anxious about themselves or a loved one getting sick.
With all of the new fears and stressors that COVID-19 has brought, it’s understandable that teen mental health has been suffering. Luckily, there is an effective and safe treatment method: online therapy. Learn more about the effects of COVID-19 and how teen and adolescent teletherapy can be an effective treatment method.
Teen Mental Health During COVID-19
Although lockdowns and school closures are necessary to contain the spread of the virus, these measures can negatively impact teens’ mental health. One research study found that adolescents were three times more likely to develop depression after experiencing social isolation, and the mental health impact could last up to nine years. A recent poll of teen mental health during the pandemic found that over half of respondents experienced anxiety and 43% experienced depression.
Given these statistics, it’s important for parents to be on the lookout for signs of mental health issues in their own children.
Warning Signs of a Mental Health Disorder in Teens
It’s normal to experience anxiety, stress, and other negative emotions in response to COVID-19. However, be on the lookout for early warning signs of a mental health disorder. This can look different depending on the condition.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities they usually enjoy
- Feeling worthless and guilty
- Withdrawing from family (i.e. spending all day in their bedroom, refusing to interact with the rest of the family)
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Problems with memory, focus, and concentration
- Frequently feeling tired
- Aches and pains that seem to lack a physical cause
- Constantly feeling worried and anxious
- Having irrational fears or worrying without cause
- Sudden feelings of terror accompanied by heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and other physical and mental symptoms (indicates a panic attack or panic disorder)
- Feeling self-conscious about how others perceive them
- Intense fear about certain things or when leaving the house (could indicate a phobia)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Frequent anxiety and irritability (feeling “on edge”)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling detached or emotionally numb
- Experiencing nightmares and/or intrusive thoughts about a distressing event (like the pandemic or the death of a loved one)
- Avoiding things that remind them of a distressing event
- Obsessively counting calories or measuring portion sizes
- Frequently thinking about or discussing food and weight
- Exercising compulsively despite injury, illness, or fatigue
- Skipping meals
- Binge eating
- Refusing to eat in front of other people
- Worrying about appearance and/or weight
- Fluctuations in weight (gaining or losing weight)
Substance Use Disorders (Addiction)
- Experiencing depression, anxiety, and/or irritability
- Frequent mood swings
- Losing interest in hobbies or favorite activities
- Withdrawing from loved ones
- A drop in performance at school
- Lack of motivation
- Hostile, aggressive, and/or violent behavior
- Stealing or borrowing money
- Lying and deception
What Is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy, also called online therapy or telepsychiatry, refers to mental health treatment that is delivered over the internet. This makes it possible to see a licensed mental health professional no matter where you live. Teletherapy is great for individuals who have trouble accessing mental health care. During the outbreak of COVID-19, online therapy provides treatment from the safety of home, so you don’t have to worry about exposure to the virus.
Attending virtual therapy sessions is convenient and effective. Clients log into a secure video conferencing platform and talk with a therapist in real time. They may also attend group sessions virtually.
How Online Therapy Can Help Teens Cope with COVID-19
Online counseling sessions with a trained therapist can help teens cope with the stress of the pandemic. Although parents and loved ones can be a source of support, a therapist is an unbiased third party with a neutral perspective. This can be especially helpful for teens since adolescence is a time to develop their own identity apart from their family.
Therapists are trained in specific techniques that help teens overcome negative feelings and cope with the symptoms of a mental health disorder. These techniques may include grounding, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy and more.
Talking with a mental health professional can be an extra point of contact to help ease the loneliness and isolation that many adolescents are feeling right now. Most of all, a trusted therapist gives teens a safe space to vent the difficult feelings that have come up throughout the pandemic.
Teletherapy Can Fill the Gap in School Counseling
When teens are in school, they have access to a counselor they can turn to when they’re struggling. Now that schools are closed, it’s important to find an alternative source of support. Teletherapy sessions can provide the extra help teens need to succeed in school and thrive in their personal life.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Online Mental Health Treatment
Teletherapy can be just as effective as in-person treatment, but it may require more intentional effort. Here are some tips for teletherapy sessions:
- Find a private, quiet space that’s free of distractions and avoid multitasking during sessions.
- Make sure you have a strong internet connection.
- Take notes so you can remember what was talked about in the session.
- Bring up any questions or concerns during the session and talk through them with the therapist.
- Be sure to do any assigned homework between sessions.
Teletherapy with High Focus Centers
High Focus Centers is currently offering teletherapy sessions for teens. We address a wide range of concerns including mental health disorders, eating disorders, and substance use. If you feel your child could benefit, get in touch with us at 877-721-3461 or fill out a contact form on our website.