Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Parenting

Red Flags in Teenage Behavior to Look Out For

We’ve heard the jokes and the comparisons before – teenagers are like little aliens, their moods change on a whim, their logic is incomprehensible, they’re incredibly difficult to deal with, and so on. While it’s true that most adults won’t remember what it’s like to think like teens, most teenage behavior still follows some sort of logic – even when it’s purely instinctual or based on very short-term benefits. But what if becomes more than that? What about the red flags in teenage behavior that nobody told you about, you know, the ones that could create a mental health condition later on?

Being a teen means transitioning from childhood into fully matured adulthood – a process that begins with the onset of puberty but lasts well into a person’s early 20s or even later. With that process come a lot of bumps and challenges. Differentiating between these and real mental health issues – which are becoming increasingly common for teens – can be difficult.

Outside of being boneheaded or self-centered, teens will often struggle with emotional maturity, consistency, and long-term planning. Sometimes, “normal” teen behavior can be conflated with a serious behavioral issue, and in other cases, it is a precursor to a serious behavioral or mental health problem.

Even if your teen infuriates you, there’s a line to draw between annoying or troublesome teen behavior and genuine mental health issues. Learning to recognize those is important, whether as a parent, friend, or close relative.

What is Normal Teenage Behavior?

Defining normal behavior is difficult. There’s the societal norm, then there’s the researched average, and the matter of what feels normal from an individual, anecdotal, or cultural perspective.

Most people can agree on a few general things about teens – such as their shortsightedness or lack of emotional maturity – but there are case-by-case differences on where normal ends and where red flags in teenage behavior may begin. There’s no real way to “treat” a teen’s sexual drive, their will towards rebellion, or their curiosity for the taboo.

For example, our laws make it illegal for kids to get drunk or engage in sexual intercourse before a certain age.

Yet despite these laws, we know that the average drinking age in the US (i.e., age of first drink) is 13-14 and that half of the population has their first sexual encounter between the ages of 16 and 20. Teens do things they shouldn’t do all the time, and we need to intervene on a case-by-case basis. But that doesn’t mean we pathologize every teen’s mistakes.

In other words, we just need to draw a line between normal individual expression and signs of pathology. In the case of the latter, your teen might be struggling with something they can’t deal with on their own, and getting help as soon as possible gives them the best chance of fighting it.

It’s the difference between trying out a beer and becoming a heavy drinker by age 17. It’s the difference between trespassing for a “prank” and routinely engaging in dangerous and illegal activities. And it’s the difference between having a teen’s typical short temper and becoming violent towards others on multiple occasions.

Important Red Flags in Teenage Behavior to Spot

Let’s start with the red flags. These are signs of a serious problem. In other words, if your teen is exhibiting one or more of these red flags, you should consider speaking with a professional and talking to your teen about counseling or therapy. These red flags include the following:

  • Heavy drinking and other signs of repeated drug use.
  • Knowingly engaging in illegal activities, including speeding or vandalism.
  • Becoming violent towards other teens or people on multiple occasions.
  • Often referencing death and talking about death, especially what it would be like if they died.
  • Frequent signs of physical injury and hiding/lying about cuts and bruises.
  • Burns and other signs of self-harm.
  • Suicide attempts.

Red flags are meant to highlight problems that most teens don’t have. While a large number of teens have had a beer or tried marijuana, most teens are not habitual users of “hard drugs” or struggling with addiction. Most teens aren’t engaged in routine illegal activities, whether it’s vandalism or theft. Most teens aren’t routinely assaulting each other or struggling with suicidal thoughts.

These are serious behavioral issues that warrant a professional opinion. There’s no point trying to diagnose your teen’s behavior yourself – it might look like addiction, but it might be a combination of drug use with a mediating mental health condition, like social anxiety. It might look like depression, but it might, in fact, be a bipolar disorder, which may require a different treatment plan.

If you’ve observed certain red flags in your teen, then seeking professional help is important.

Other Important Signs

However, you don’t need to wait for a teen to show red flags to be concerned for your teen’s mental or physical well-being.

Some of the behaviors listed below might indicate a mental health problem or personal issue, but they may also indicate that your teen needs someone to talk to or that they are finding themselves engaged in unhealthy coping mechanisms for their schoolwork or personal life. These behaviors include:

  • Illicit drug use.
  • Losing interest in old hobbies.
  • Rapid weight loss (or rapid weight gain) at an unhealthy scale.
  • Overexercising (i.e., to the point of repeated injury and/or hospitalization).
  • Social isolation (withdrawing from others).
  • Spending inordinate amounts of time online (never going outside or logging off).
  • Sudden and severe mood swings.
  • Struggling to enjoy things and being gloomy most of the time.
  • Having a very quick temper and becoming easily frustrated at minor things.

Talk About It and Get Help

Some people worry about pathologizing normal instances of negative behavior – for example, it’s normal to act out after a messy breakup or feel terrible after the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, we do things that aren’t in our best interest, and that goes for doubly for teens. We all cope in our own ways, and it isn’t always clean.

But the concern is still valid, even when there’s a “good reason” your teen might be acting a certain way. They may “snap out of it,” or it might start them down a seriously dark road as their symptoms get worse. If these behaviors apply to your loved one, keep an eye on them, and see if things get better. If they don’t – there’s still plenty of time to talk to them about getting real help.

Mental health issues are difficult to deal with, and many of them have their onset in the late teen years. Understanding why your teen is acting the way they are is important – but oftentimes, they might not even have a reason. Things like depression and anxiety can and often do develop without good cause, and their symptoms come and go without a specific trigger. If you’re concerned for yourself or your loved one, be sure to talk to a professional. At Visions Treatment Centers, we are here to help.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health

Can Low Self Esteem in Teens Affect Mental Health?

Did you know that low self esteem in teens can pose many effects on their mental health?

Self-esteem is intrinsically tied to mental health – our self-worth is not just a reflection of how we see ourselves but can reflect on how we see the world, how we perceive opportunities and react to certain circumstances, and how resilient we become to outer stressors.

Greater self-confidence and healthier self-esteem can help a person cope with more hardship, get back up after setbacks, and better stand up to life’s challenges. Conversely, struggling to retain any pride or suffering from insecurity can make it that much harder to contend with life’s more difficult moments and makes it harder to refute or fight back in times of anxiety or depression.

Studies show us that self-esteem and mental health are strongly correlative – when one is down, so is the other. But there’s also evidence to suggest that the reverse can be true: by improving your self-esteem, you can improve your mental health. And by improving your mental health, you may make it easier to work on your self-esteem.

Let’s look at some of the ways low self in teens has an impact.

Which Came First?

When it comes to self-esteem and mental health in teens, it is a little bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

Which is more likely? That low self esteem in teens caused them to be more perceptible to stressors that led to a mental health issue? Or that their self-esteem is a reflection of existing mental health problems, such as a precursor of depressive symptoms in the formative years?

Sadly, it’s very difficult to tell – and it might not matter much in treatment.

For example, depression, like other mental health issues, is a multifactor problem. Inner issues, such as genes and a behavioral predisposition towards negative thinking, as well as outer problems, such as victimization, stress, trauma, or abuse, all contribute to a depressive cycle.

Treatment Modalities for Teen Mental Health

In the same way, treatment for certain mental health issues will require the use of several modalities.

There’s the therapeutic aspect:

  • Talking to a therapist, learning to regulate your mood, identify harmful thinking patterns, and use affirmations and more positive ways of thinking.

Then there’s the pharmacological aspect:

  • Utilizing antidepressants to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.

And the use of non-therapeutic methods in long-term depression management:

  • Forest walkingspending time with your petjournaling, long walks with friends, better sleep schedules, a good diet, and taking a break from a stressful habit.

Self-esteem is one important facet of a larger set of factors that might help determine a teen’s mental health. Having healthy self-esteem is important and should not be mistaken for narcissism or grandiose thinking.

For example, someone with narcissistic tendencies – someone who might qualify for narcissistic personality disorder – will usually struggle with major insecurities, and part of their behavior and presented self-image hides a deeper fear that they cannot own up to that image, leading them to lash out when confronted about it.

Healthy self-esteem can be promoted through therapy and non-therapeutic activities alike, including skills-building and social activities.

Improving Low Self Esteem in Teens to Boost Mental Health

There are a million analogies for understanding how your sense of self reflects on your attitudes and behaviors regarding the world around you. In the simplest psychological terms, everything we experience is filtered through our perspective, and the more we struggle to internalize positive qualities within ourselves, the more we struggle to see the good and fortune in everyday circumstances. It can become a dangerous and self-destructive cycle over time.

Addressing self-esteem problems does not have to start in a therapist’s office. Low self esteem in teens can be identified long before serious mental health symptoms, and in many cases, they’re completely normal. Most teens are self-conscious and insecure, and it is part and parcel of growing up and learning to live in your own skin.

Yet certain teens are more confident than others, and a lack of self-confidence can be a strong indicator of future problems, mental health issues, and an even lower quality of life. Here’s how you can change that.

1. Learn a New Skill

One of the quickest ways to improve your self-esteem and work on your self-confidence is to teach yourself something new. It could be a relatively lofty goal, like achieving your first backflip, or something a little simpler, like learning to use an image editing tool to improve your scanned drawings.

With free online resources all over the Internet and YouTube, there are countless things you can learn to do in just a few days of practice. You don’t have to show them off or compete with anyone but yourself. Pick anything you’re interested in and achieve a minor goal – then work up to something bigger!

2. Improve an Old Skill

Let’s say you’ve already spent a few years learning to draw or know how to play a few tabs on the guitar. Hone those skills! Pick a goal for your existing hobbies or skills, and let that goal revitalize your interest.

Simply spending time to improve on something that you like doing can be immensely gratifying and can help cement the crucial concept that no matter how you might feel about yourself today, you’re always capable of greater things than you might expect.

3. Find Healthy Communities

Learning to approach the problem of achieving a new goal will usually lead to questions and the experiences of others. That’s how many communities are shaped and grown.

Entire communities online revolve around teaching parkour skills to one another, sharing drawing techniques, or finding new ways to reduce run times on “speedruns” of retro video games. These communities are full of people sharing their successes and failures, their trials, and their victories. Those experiences can help you, as well, to find other people with similar interests and to push yourself. If you struggle with consistency in a new habit or skill, finding a community can help you maintain that drive toward achieving your goals.

4. Talk To Your Friends

The more a person struggles with low thoughts, the more likely they are to isolate themselves. But this usually leads to even worse symptoms of self-deprecation and lower self-esteem. We need our friends to help us formulate a better and healthier sense of self – no man is an island!

5. Stop Negative Self-Talk

Negative thoughts are a common aspect of depressive thinking and many mental health issues. It becomes part and parcel of the day to blame yourself for everything, but that second nature can be very harmful.

Like positive affirmations, negative ones can reinforce negative thoughts and negative behaviors.

If you’re late with a book report, don’t call yourself lazy or stupid. Don’t get upset about procrastinating or forgetting. Take a deep breath. Focus on the task at hand. Ask for an extension.

Whenever the urge comes to insult yourself – no matter what the context might be – stop it. Not only is it not productive, but it can be actively harmful to your mental health, no matter how much you might feel you “deserve” chastising yourself.

6. Talk to a Therapist

For teens with low self-esteem, it can be hard to remember that how they might see themselves is not necessarily a true reflection of who they are, and compliments or comments from others get brushed aside amidst instances of criticism or negative attention.

You don’t need to have a formal diagnosis to talk to a professional. People can and do seek out a therapist’s help without struggling with major depressive disorder or conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A therapist can help you sort out your emotions, learn to manage irrational thoughts or separate impulses from smarter decision-making, and learn to implement habits and thinking patterns that control some of your worst tendencies, especially if you tend to see the worst in yourself and/or others.

Get Help at Visions Treatment Centers

Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help, whether it’s a professional, someone at school, or your parents. If you know a friend or have a loved one who consistently struggles with self-confidence, help them build that confidence through some of the activities mentioned above or by talking to someone together.

For more information about low self esteem in teens or how to get help, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Self-Care

12 Ways to Practice Self Care for Teens

The topic of self-care and mental health conditions has grown in interest over the years, especially over the course of the pandemic – more than ever, people report struggling with professional burnout, stress-related illnesses, and social isolation. Yet these issues are not exclusive to adults. Teens, too, have been hit hard in recent times, and teenage rates of anxiety and depression continue to grow – making self care for teens and adults alike a priority.

Learning to manage your thoughts and minimize stress is valuable but difficult. Anxieties and worries can perpetuate themselves through the way they affect motivation, productivity, restlessness, and physical health – the longer you struggle with your mental health, the harder it is to improve it.

Can self-care help? Absolutely. While not a substitute for professional treatment, learning to incorporate different methods of self care for teens at home can help improve their mental health and even help combat symptoms of mental health issues like depression.

What Does Self Care for Teens Look Like?

Self-care does not need to be strictly defined. For some people, it’s a nice warm bath. For others, it’s a jog through the park. In some cases, self-care can be as specific as putting on your favorite song from a childhood movie and dancing around the living room or finger painting.

Self-care does not replace professional care – for teens who need therapy, self-care can be a supplemental regimen used to manage stress at home and avoid mental flare-ups.

For teens who aren’t diagnosed with anything but feel stressed out by exams, studies, relationships, or world events, self-care constitutes emotional awareness and learning to listen to your needs. Let’s go over a few concrete examples of proven and effective methods of self care for teens.

1. Start Journaling

Journaling is a powerful and often underrated tool for productivity, emotional awareness, and mental health.

More than just the ability to recount your dreams or go over your day, journaling prompts teens to be privately introspective, think back on and second-guess impulsive thoughts or negative impulses, and reinforce a healthier mindset – through journaling, a teen can come home from an upsetting day, write about it, calm down, review what they’ve written, and learn to come to a positive conclusion.

2. Create a Healthy and Realistic Schedule

As teens’ responsibilities grow, they quickly find out just how few hours there are in a waking day. Some teens overbook themselves, trying to manage school alongside friends, relationships, and a packed extracurricular program.

Teaching kids to leave time to dabble and experiment and then prioritize the things that interest them or bring them the most joy is important. Plan your day! Set aside the time you need to comfortably do your schoolwork and your chores and create timeslots for hobbies and interests.

Don’t cram for a test at the last minute, do homework an hour before it’s due, or play video games until the early morning hours. A sound, solid, and realistic schedule that leaves plenty of room for fun can help teens achieve their next big self-care goal.

3. Prioritize Good Sleep

Sleep can never be overrated, especially in the context of mental health. Even just an hour of missing sleep can have a significant impact on a person’s cognitive abilities and mental load, reducing their capacity for stress and ability to fulfill the day’s tasks and goals.

4. Using Video Games for Good

Video games have been a part of the mainstream for well over thirty years, ever since Nintendo and SEGA revitalized a dying industry in the 1980s. Yet despite polarizing headlines and worries about gaming addiction, there’s also been a lot of research showing that used sensibly, video games become an excellent tool for stress reduction as well as cognitive improvement.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying video games as a medium, especially if it’s your personal method of winding down after school – and in the modern era, video games have become one of the most popular ways to stay in touch with friends over the summer, or even over a pandemic.

Just don’t let your gaming habit eat into the rest of your schedule!

5. Swap Out Your Snacks

When it comes to self care for teens, it’s not just about what you do, it’s also about what you eat. A healthier diet can have a marked improvement in a person’s mental health and mood regulation.

If you’re not a big fan of eating your greens, for example, find other more appealing ways of getting your daily vitamin and nutrient intake, whether it’s dried fruit, berries, salted nuts, or health-oriented snacks, like edamame and cacao nibs.

6. Get Moving

You don’t need to do laps around school or struggle on a pull-up bar to benefit from the mental health effects of exercise. Any kind of regular movement will do, whether it’s a long walk through the park or a round of Just Dance in front of the TV.

The most important thing about exercising isn’t what kind of program you choose or which equipment to buy – it’s about finding exercises and activities that you can do consistently.

7. Exercise a Creative Muscle!

Creative endeavors can be a wonderful way to release stress and enter a state of psychological flow. Not only is this great for skills development – whether it’s learning to play a musical instrument or learning to sketch – but it helps build a healthy habit that you can use to deal with adult stressors later in life.

8. Spend More Time with Pets

Spending time with your pet can be incredibly cathartic and stress relieving.

Animals like cats and dogs have been our companions for hundreds of generations, long before any of today’s existing civilizations were around – and the bond between humans and companion animals has significant evolutionary benefits for both.

9. Don’t Ignore Your Friends

The worse you feel, the easier it gets to isolate and stay away from others. When you notice that feeling is encroaching, try to spend more time with your friends.

Don’t stay away! Do the opposite. We’re social creatures, and interactions with other people are important for our mental well-being, regardless of whether you thrive in larger crowds or prefer hanging out with just one or two best buddies.

10. Be Outdoors

Whether it’s a longer hike or the occasional walk in the woods, being one with nature – even if that boils down to hanging out near a tree and reading a book – has a marked effect on mental and physical health, to the point that it’s become a researched phenomenon.

11. Go On a Social Media Break

You don’t need to radically delete your profiles or turn off and lock your phone away in a safe, but going through a social media cleanse every now and again can do a lot to reduce your stress levels, recalibrate your self-esteem, and even improve your empathy.

Social media is a wonderful tool – it’s a borderline miracle to be connected with so many people at once. But with it comes a heavy burden, as well. There’s just too much noise and far too much content, and it can become wildly distracting, especially when you’re in the middle of trying to build good habits and healthy schedules. Take a break every now and again, especially if you feel overwhelmed.

12. Volunteer (In Any Way!)

Doing good for others is a surefire way to feel better yourself, ironically. While it might not seem like we’re the most altruistically inclined species, there are genuine selfish benefits to doing something without asking for anything in return. Join the fire brigade for a summer or two! Help a homeless shelter. Work with rescue animals. Choose any cause that interests you, and give it a try.

Start Practicing Self Care Today

Taking care of your own mental health is difficult but important. Prioritize the things you need to function well – three meals, good sleep, enough water, and a nature break every now and again, for example, as well as less basic needs, like the occasional outing with some friends or a little alone time with a good book.

But when tough situations get tougher, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need it from time to time.

For more tips on self care for teens and mental health treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Adolescence Communication Feelings Mental Health Parenting

Supporting LGBTQ Teen Mental Health

LGBTQ youth (teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning/queer) are far more likely to experience victimization because of their identity, are far more likely to struggle with symptoms of mental illness, and are far more likely to resort to self-harm and suicide. With all of these variables at play, it’s essential to support LGBTQ teen mental health to provide help, empowerment, and growth.

These statistics are not inherent to being queer, but they are often a side effect of identifying as part of the LGBTQ community or living under circumstances that force repression and self-hatred. Getting help can be difficult, especially when teens worry about or fear the repercussions of coming out as LGBTQ or struggle with acknowledging their identity.

Acceptance goes a long way. Mental health rates and suicide have gone down among gay and lesbian teens, although they are still above the rates for their straight peers. In the same vein, suicide rates remained highest among trans teens, especially in the wake of a rise in violence against LGBTQ youth and continued attacks on LGBTQ groups – especially trans individuals – in both media and politics in America.

Helping your LGBTQ teen get the support they need to lead a fulfilling and happy life can be difficult, but it can be done. The resources are there, and the communities exist, both locally and online. You are not alone, whether as a teen or as a parent.

Beware of Conversion Schemes

Seeking help is an important part of getting better, whether you initiate it with your teen or through your teen’s own research. But with the desperation of wanting treatment comes the vulnerability that leads thousands of teens and parents into the trap of conversion therapy.

Regardless of your personal beliefs, research shows that conversion therapy is unethical and harmful to children and teens. It does not work and only causes lasting psychological trauma as a result. It is under no circumstances a form of “therapy” to begin with, and it is, with good reason, banned in 19 different states and jurisdictions.

Finding a Therapist with Knowledge of LGBTQ Teen Mental Health

The best thing you can do for your teen’s well-being, and to help your teen cope with the growing mental stressors associated with coming out as an LGBTQ+ individual, is to accept them as they are and, if they are struggling with their mental health, find a professional therapist or psychiatrist who has a history of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community, LGBTQ+ teens, and/or LGBTQ teen mental health.

A therapist with a personal history and knowledge of the different struggles that LGBTQ teens go through today may be able to have more success in helping your teen find treatment than someone with no experience with LGBTQ.

Just as personal representation in media can make a difference for many teens and adults who feel invisible in a heteronormative culture, working with a mental health professional who has personal experiences in the LGBTQ community to draw on or can better relate to your teen professionally through their LGBTQ identity may be a better fit for them.

Comfort is important when choosing your therapist. A gay man or a trans woman may have a better idea of what it is like to be in your teen’s shoes, in addition to their professional training and academic experience as psychologists and therapists, to help identify valid treatment options, root out local resources, and help cope with individual stressors.

How You Can Help Your Teen

There are countless ways in which parents contribute to their teens’ well-being, knowingly and unknowingly.

While professional treatment is important, especially in the event of self-harm, suicidal episodes, or debilitating mental health symptoms, parents should never underestimate the significance of their influence and supportive parenting, nor should they lose sight of how their actions and behaviors continue to shape their teens’ lives. Here are a few things you could do or are doing that can continue to help your teen with their mental health.

  • Let your teen know they’re loved unconditionally.
  • Talk to them and hear them out. Listen to their thoughts and words.
  • Spend time getting to know their interests a little better. Spending time with your teen and showing interest in what they like can help them feel more comfortable talking to you about other things, and helps them understand that you aren’t out to judge them as many others might be.
  • Review your misconceptions. Well-meaning intentions may lead to ideas and sayings that are actively hurting your teen. For example, don’t shrug off their identity or their mental health issues as “just a phase.” Learning more about gender identities and sexual orientation can help you relate to your teen and avoid alienating them.
  • Advocate at school. Not all schools have LGBTQ+ ally groups or LGBTQ-friendly student bodies, but all schools have LGBTQ teens. Talk to teachers and parents about organizing queer-straight alliance organizations to help LGBTQ teens in your community feel welcome, and to reduce victimization.
  • Talk to the teachers. Teachers can be a good source of information about what’s going on at school. Your teen might not always be forthcoming about what’s going on at school, especially if they’re being hurt or bullied. They may blame themselves or feel ashamed.
  • Get into therapy together. If your teen is struggling with depression or anxious thoughts or has a history of self-harm, then getting help can be daunting. Mental illness, in particular, has a way of feeding on self-doubt and shame, and many teens who know they need help may be reluctant to get it. Encourage them by making an appointment together and tagging along the first few times. Alternatively, look into remote online therapy as an option, to begin with.
  • Give them privacy. Being there for your teen is important, but there’s a difference between being aware of what’s going on in their lives and spying without their consent. If you try to monitor all of your teen’s online activities, for example, they’re just more likely to go to greater lengths to establish secret accounts or carve out some other niche of privacy and foster resentment. The best way to keep your teen from keeping too many secrets from you is to ensure they know you’re always available to talk to and are willing to listen.

LGBTQ Teen Mental Health Services at Visions

Being a parent is hard, and it can be harder yet when your teen is struggling with depressive or anxious thoughts. LGBTQ+ teens are just like any other teen but are much more at-risk for mental health issues, often as an indirect result of their identity. Helping them protect themselves, know they are loved, develop stronger self-esteem, and feel proud in their own skin can go a long way towards helping them feel better.

If you or a loved one is seeking additional information on LGBTQ teen mental health, reach out to us. At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer unique mental health programming for LGBTQ+ teens, addressing many issues often found in the LGBTQ+ community.

Categories
Adolescence Therapy Treatment

Breaking the Silence with Talk Therapy

Teens can benefit from talk therapy just as much as adults, whether it’s for mood swings and anxiety issues, or exam blues, relationship troubles, and school pressure. Talk therapy is not limited to people with mental health conditions and can be a powerful tool to enable introspection and a healthier outlook on life even when a person considers themselves mentally healthy.

The argument for talk therapy can be summed up as preventative care: making sure minor problems don’t brew into major issues down the line, while helping teens build life skills that will continue to serve them as bastions of resilience and strength against mental health issues in the future.

What is Talk Therapy?

Talk therapy is another term for psychotherapy or individual therapy. In talk therapy, a patient and a therapist discuss a patient’s thoughts, concerns, experiences, worries, ambitions, and more.

The point of each therapy session is to make progress on the patient’s mental wellbeing, which may involve thought exercises and “homework,” such as writing a daily journal entry or making observations about one’s responses and emotional states at work or at school.

Combining Talk Therapy with Therapeutic Methods

Different forms of talk therapy apply different questions and therapeutic methods to help a patient make progress. Nearly all therapy centers around introspection, wherein a therapist helps their patient reflect on their way of thinking and their coping methods in order to think healthier, more positive thoughts and develop better, more effective coping skills.

As an example, a therapist treating a teen with depression through cognitive behavioral therapy may teach their patient to identify and isolate self-deprecating and negative thoughts, to dissociate from them, and use positive affirmations to negate these thoughts. These positive affirmations will be rooted in truth, focusing on the teen’s strengths or positive attributes.

It might not feel convincing or effective at first, but reinforcing this type of mental work can, in turn, change the way a patient feels, creating a stronger self-image and healthier self-esteem. This can take as few as five or as many as 20 sessions.

Talk Therapy isn’t Always Used Alone

Talk therapy is not always used on its own. It may be reinforced through medication, helping the brain dull severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem while training a teen to refute and replace unwanted thoughts when they arise.

How Does Talk Therapy Help with Depression?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most used talk therapy method for cases of depression. Depression in teens can range from a mild or temporary issue to a long-term chronic condition, or a severe and debilitating mental health problem. Regardless of severity, talk therapy is often a central part of treating a depressed patient.

It is true that you cannot “talk your way out” of a depression. It is also true that conditions like depression do not have a cure. Mood disorders are mental health conditions that may resolve themselves over time but are often chronic and long-lasting. For teens with depression, this might mean struggling with dark thoughts from time to time, for years or decades.

Talk Therapy Builds Reinforcements Against Depression

The point of talk therapy is to reinforce habits that help a teen build resilience against these thoughts, anticipate and isolate them, learn not to listen to them, and learn how to refute them with real-life examples of joy and happiness.

We also know that conditions like depression are exacerbated and disarmed by risk factors and protective factors alike. Excessive stress and poor physical health can make depressive symptoms worse and more frequent. Taking care of oneself, spending more wholesome time with friends, and insisting on a healthier work-life balance can help keep depression at bay.

In many cases, talk therapy involves helping patients lay the foundation for the habits and mindset that will keep them safe from depressing thoughts in the future.

Therapy and Addiction

Substance use is another condition where talk therapy, both individual therapy, and group therapy, plays an important role in treatment. Substance use disorder or addiction is a very complicated health problem with compounding social, physical, and psychological factors.

While talk therapy alone does not address all these factors, it can be key to helping patients re-establish themselves in the aftermath of addiction, reaffirm their interests, reclaim their hobbies, and emphasize their newfound lives in sobriety.

There are very few medications for addiction – some medications help cut down on alcohol cravings, for example, while others block the effects of addictive substances like opioids, eliminating the high.

Most of the work in overcoming and surviving addiction relies on guided introspection through one-on-one therapy and group therapy sessions, positive affirmations, healthy coping mechanisms to avoid or defeat cravings, and a long-term support plan.

How Can I Convince My Teen to Try Therapy?

More than half of those who are diagnosed with a mental health problem are not getting the help they need. In many cases, it’s a matter of misinformation, fear of judgment, financial worry, and other factors. In your teen’s case, they may be worried about what might happen if news got out about their therapy. Or, they might be worried that it won’t work and that you would be wasting your time and money.

Sometimes, just talking to your teen will be enough to get them to try it out. Letting them know that you’re in their corner and want them to get the best possible care is important. At other times, it may take more than a single heart-to-heart. Consulting with a therapist beforehand might get you some important pointers on how to bring your teen to therapy.

Being a teen represents being at a major crossroads in life physically, socially, and mentally. Teens are at the cusp of their transformation into adulthood, which brings with it a set of responsibilities and new authorities they need to learn to manage.

Meanwhile, becoming an adult means teens will be expected to do more, first at school, then in the workplace, introducing more sources of overwhelming stress. While all this is happening, teens are struggling with their own emotional and sexual identity and maturity, learning to develop as individuals and cementing their personality traits.

Talk therapy can help teens navigate these issues and accompanying life stressors, before they’re further complicated by anxious or depressed thinking, or other symptoms of illness. In teens who are already struggling with a condition like depression, talk therapy can help them navigate their thoughts and develop better habits.

For more information, contact us today. We are here to help you and your teen. At Visions Treatment Centers, we offer residential treatment programs for teens that address various mental health conditions and diagnoses.

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Depression Mental Health

Depression and Bullying

Everyone goes through trying times, and it’s only natural for us to say we feel depressed because of money, relationship or family issues. The problem with depression comes when we’re feeling sad, isolated and hopeless all of the time. Depression is a mental health condition that we see if over 60% percent of our population, and it’s not simply adults that are affected by this but children and teens are the most affected by depression.

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Feeling disconnected
  • Social withdrawal
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Loss of concentration
  • Agitation
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of interest

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Center, we see teens in addiction recovery that deal with depression as part of their daily lives. Depression gets worse when these kids suffer from bullying in school, which can sometimes lead to suicide. These kids move through life in a fog of sadness every single day; addiction for them is the only way they know how to get out of that. Our job is to remove that fog from their lives and show them there are so many beautiful things that can keep them happy, healthy and willing to explore all the world has to offer.

Pushed to the Edge Because of Bullying

Bullying isn’t something new, but it’s become increasingly worse as time passes with the availability of things like technology. Technology has created a web of bullying tactics that make the impact worse because of embarrassing videos or photos that circulate to thousands and live online for years. The web, social media and news stories bring awareness to the issue of bullying as well. People don’t realize how pranks that may seem small affect people that already have issues with depression.

Schools are a battlefield when it comes to being the most popular kid, the best dressed, or the coolest. Add this to issues at home that no kid wants to talk about at school, such as abuse, death or loss of a loved one, conflict, and we get a lethal combination of issues that can push someone over the edge. Many people that suffer from depression don’t know that it’s a chemical imbalance that’s made significantly worse when external factors blend with their own personal feelings. Early diagnosis of depression can help with managing depression; the child that has access to a counselor and already working to manage their condition are less likely to look to self-harm.

Don’t Let Bullying Continue—Be Better

We ask that bullying is taken seriously and that if you see or become an accomplice regarding bullying, please stand up for that person and say something. You never know what someone is dealing with internally, and it is our job as human beings to stop someone from hurting others unnecessarily. Whether it is children picking on each other or anyone treating someone rudely, we must rise as one and fight against this treatment and behavior. We would all hope that our children have someone there to lend a helping hand and stand up for them.

What can you do if you experience bullying?

If you’re the victim in a bullying situation, it’s important that you talk to someone about it. Teachers, counselors, friends and family are a great place to start. There are also hotlines you can call and speak to a counselor in just a few seconds. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Center, we have staff ready to offer advice over the phone at any time. You’re not alone in this and being afraid isn’t the answer. Often people don’t realize the negative effects they have on others lives, but we should never feel that it is our fault that they treat us this way.

Suicide Isn’t the Answer

Again, you are not alone in this. Others are experiencing the same things at school or home. At the end of the day, you have options to look to in these situations. Suicide is permanent, and it helps no one; suicide effects more than just the person who elects to end their life. Your friends, family and anyone else you care for will be burdened with more than you can imagine. Sharing your feelings with these people is the best option, they would much rather have had you sit with them and talk then to take these serious actions to end the problem.

Think about this for a moment—if every person that went through bullying said nothing and simply ended their life, there would be no one to stand up for what’s right and stop bullying. There would be no one to share their experience and feelings about bullying, and no one would understand that the things they do have consequences. Become an advocate and get involved. At Visions, we encourage our clients to go out there and have a voice.

If you suffer from depression and experience bullying, please call Visions Adolescent Treatment Center at (818) 889-3665 today and share your story with us.

Categories
Adolescence Anxiety Mental Health Stress

Living With Anxiety

Life can be challenging enough without being affected by something that throws off your emotions, disrupts time with friends and everything about your internal universe. Living with anxiety is one of those conditions that affects nearly 18% of the population; that’s a large percentage that deals with acute stress from anxiety on a daily basis. It may not seem that serious to people who never experienced it before, but for those of us that have it, anxiety can change everything.

Understanding Anxiety

Think about that 18%, and think about who is a part of that number—your friends, daughters, sons, mothers, brothers, wives, boyfriends, sisters, etc. To understand what people living with this disorder go through it’s a good idea to know what anxiety is, so that when they experience an event you can be there for support. Anxiety is a stress-related disorder that is considered a mental health condition caused by intense feelings of worry and fear about a variety of things like health related concerns, social situations and more.

One small thing like a pain in your left arm, to someone with acute anxiety, can feel like a heart attack when it’s just a nerve. These little things escalate quickly because our minds, and in that moment, it’s all real. Can you imagine feeling like that all of the time? People that live with anxiety, often don’t have any idea when an event will happen or what the intensity of the event will be. So you can imagine how difficult it is to prepare for, constantly in a state of worry about a future anxiety or panic attack.

We say the event because they are considered disrupting to our daily activities and can make it difficult to engage in anything else other than what’s happening in our heads. Some people will experience similar symptoms that tell them an episode is coming that allows them to be prepared for the experience; others have no idea or are not entirely sure what they’re experiencing until it’s happened enough times to see a physician and be correctly diagnosed.

Common symptoms of an anxiety attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Numbness
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Clammy palms and sweating
  • Irritation
  • Restlessness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Nausea

Anxiety is Managed, Not Cured

The problem with anxiety is that the feeling of nervousness and paranoia cannot be avoided, you just learn to work through them or manage them differently. Unfortunately, those with anxiety have to experience an attack multiple times before they understand something is wrong. Medications have been used to tone down symptoms or calm the mind, but counseling is the best method and to figure out what works best for you when you experience an attack. There is no cure, but it’s manageable.

Famous People Suffering from Anxiety

Whether you realize it or not, many famous people suffer from anxiety every day. These celebrities deal with bouts of nervous feelings and fear as they’re performing, presenting or walking around the city. Some of the names you may be familiar with are Emma Stone, Kristen Stewart, Adele, John Mayer, Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron! These people are A-lister’s and are in the public eye every day, no matter what they’re doing. It is possible to live with anxiety and do amazing things, but it takes strength and mindfulness to know yourself and how you react. Be inspired to share your story!

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, our clients come to us with a variety of preexisting conditions in addition to their addiction, and we’re here for them every step of the way. Call Visions today to learn more about our addiction recovery and dual diagnosis programs at (866)889-3665.

Categories
Adolescence

Characteristics of Adolescent Resiliency

Adolescents encounter many challenges as they navigate their journey into adulthood. The Internet and other forms of digital media have only increased the intensity of these challenges. In addition to that, the adolescent brain often does not finish developing until the age of 25. This means that adolescents lack the ability to engage in healthy decision-making. Despite all these obstacles, most adolescents make the successful transition from childhood to adulthood. What helps contribute to this success?

The answer is resiliency, an adolescent’s ability to overcome adversity. In working with adolescents and their family members over the years, I have found 3 main characteristics that help increase resiliency in adolescents.

Healthy Identity

The first characteristic is for an adolescent to have a healthy personal identity. Adolescents who have a healthy identity seem to have the ability to overcome obstacles more quickly. Some teenagers who develop challenges during adolescence do so because they have allowed their “struggle” to become their identity. It is important for adolescents to create new narratives for themselves, and to believe that they are victors over any adversity that they have experienced.

Emotional Regulation Skills

The second characteristic is an adolescent’s ability to regulate his/her emotions. Teenagers who do not have strong emotional regulation skills will usually present with some form of unhealthy behavior (opposition, defiance, angry outbursts, drug and alcohol use). Adolescents who develop healthy coping skills to deal with emotional fluctuations have a greater chance of surviving adversity. The key is to encourage adolescents to engage their pre-frontal cortex, the executive part of the brain that is responsible for higher levels of cognition. Cognitive behavioral techniques such as “thought stopping and replacement”, and mindfulness skills, help increase adolescent awareness while reducing emotional dysregulation.

Support System

The last factor that contributes to resiliency is for an adolescent to have positive role models and a healthy interpersonal support system. Adolescents who socialize with peers who are engaging in healthy behavior seem to be more likely to engage in similar behavior. Parents can also help teenagers develop a healthy support system by encouraging their adolescent child to spend more time with healthy peers. Adolescents who feel supported are more likely to take to healthy risks and express emotional vulnerability that, in turn, solidifies a healthy personal identity.

So, it can be seen how the 3 factors of: a healthy identity, emotional regulations skills and a strong support system can help an adolescent persevere during challenging times. As the saying goes, “Calm seas, a good sailor never made”. The more emotional skills adolescents have at their disposal, the greater their chances of developing the resilience to weather the storm.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Alcohol Mental Health

What is “Normal”? Signs of Mental Illness in Teens

The teen years are filled with emotional ups and downs and sudden mood swings. How can you tell whether your teen’s behavior is normal or an indication something might be wrong? Parents of teens may worry that their teen is exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness, but they may not be sure how to identify the condition or talk to their teen about what they are seeing. The staff at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers has some of the early signs of mental illness to watch for and what to do if you see those signs in your own child.

The Prevalence of Mental Illness

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), around 20 percent of youth between the ages of 13 and 18 suffer from a mental health condition. Some of those teens will turn to drugs or alcohol to “self-medicate” their symptoms, creating a substance abuse disorder in addition to a mental illness. A significant portion of those youth also drop out of high school or end up in the juvenile justice system. Common mental illnesses that develop during the teen years include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Behavior disorders
  • Eating disorders

Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14. Another 25 percent occur by the age of 27. The earlier these illnesses are identified and treated, the better prognosis both during the teen years and into adulthood.

Signs of Mental Illness

There are a number of possible signs your teen may be suffering from a mental illness:

  • Mood shifts out of character from your teen’s usual mood fluctuations
  • Withdrawal from family, friends and activities
  • Difficulty in school or relationship problems with friends
  • Behavioral changes that make your child seem like a different person
  • Weight loss without any clear cause
  • Risk-taking behavior completely out of character for your teen
  • Signs of drug or alcohol use that could indicate your teen is self-medicating
  • Symptoms of sadness that last more than a week or two
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations

Any one of these signs alone may not necessarily be a problem, but if you begin to see a pattern that is different from what your teen usually displays, don’t wait to seek guidance and assistance. Talk to your teen about what you have observed – you may be met with resistance, but at least your child will see that you care and you are willing to get the necessary help. The sooner you get your teen the medical support needed, the less likely your child will be to turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of dealing with their illness. If drug or alcohol use is already present, Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers can help. Contact us today at 866-889-3665.

Categories
Addiction Adolescence Recovery

Predicting Adolescent Recovery

A new study has identified a factor that can help to predict the success of adolescent recovery after substance addiction. Researchers have discovered that mastery of one’s thinking could help to predict reduced use of substances like marijuana and cocaine over time. This new study could shed light on how brain function might impact addiction treatment and recovery. It might also provide clues in how utilizing a reward system could improve the outcome of the recovery process for some teens and adults.

Measuring Inhibitory Control
Taking control over one’s thinking processes is guided by areas of the frontal lobe of the brain. While the activation of these areas can be measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), it cannot be accurately measured by behavioral testing. Instead, scientists used a cognitive test, known as antisaccadic test evaluation, which provided a more thorough assessment of inhibition control. Researchers were also able to add another factor to this evaluation – financial reward – to determine the effect these types of rewards had on impulse control.

The study, which was published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, found that adolescents with greater inhibition control were less likely to have a substance use disorder or SUD. However, adolescents were also able to increase their inhibition control through a positive reward system that was based on their performance. This was the case regardless of other factors like the amount of alcohol consumed or the symptoms of SUD.

Young Males Subject of Study
A total of 14 teens were included in this study, with subjects averaging 17 years of age. The large majority (93 percent) were Caucasian and nearly three-fourths were male. All of the test subjects had average IQ levels, 29 percent met the criteria for ADHD, 43 percent for conduct disorder and 21 percent for major depressive disorder. Study outcomes were based on frequency and total days of substance use, as well as substance use six months after baseline.

Takeaways from this study include the fact that adolescents with greater activation of the area of the brain guiding inhibition control tended to see better results in their efforts to overcome their SUDs. Those the received performance-based rewards could improve their inhibition control to help them overcome an SUD. Overall, this study may help those working in addiction recovery to better understand the workings of the adolescent brain and their ability to succeed in SUD intervention. This knowledge can ensure the proper tools are employed during treatment to ensure a higher quality success rate in the recovery process overall.

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