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Mental Health

5 Stress and Coping Skills for Teens

Teens can manage stress by practicing mindfulness exercises, like meditation or yoga, engaging in physical activities, maintaining a balanced diet, and ensuring adequate sleep. They should also develop a strong support network of friends and family, and consider seeking help from counselors or therapists. Journaling, hobbies, and time management techniques can also enhance coping skills.

Growing up isn’t easy, and in today’s hyper-connected world, teenagers are confronted with unique stressors that previous generations didn’t face. From academic pressure and social media-induced anxiety to the challenge of navigating personal identity, stress has become an uninvited guest in many teenagers’ lives. The impact of this relentless stress can be significant, affecting mental health, physical well-being, academic performance, and interpersonal relationships.

Left unchecked, this stress can build up, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed. It can result in poor decision-making, such as resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse. However, simply wishing stress away isn’t a viable solution. Teenagers need to be armed with effective strategies to manage this inevitable part of life.

In this article, you will discover five stress and coping skills for teens. By mastering these skills, teenagers can not only survive but thrive in the face of stress, turning these challenging years into a foundation for a resilient future.

Essential Coping Skills for Teens

In this section, we’ll introduce 5 practical coping skills for teens that can help you better manage stress and maintain a healthy mental state. These essential coping skills provide valuable tools for teenagers to navigate the challenges they face and promote their overall well-being. Here are the five coping skills we will explore:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness becomes an invaluable tool for navigating the challenging waves of emotions. It offers a compassionate and supportive approach to understanding your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you, all without passing judgment. By cultivating mindfulness, you can embark on a profound journey of self-discovery, empowering yourself with a deeper comprehension of your emotions and enhancing your ability to effectively cope with stress.

Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine can be accomplished through various activities that promote a sense of tranquility and self-awareness. Engaging in meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can be particularly beneficial. For instance, you can set aside just 10 minutes each day to fully immerse yourself in the present moment, allowing your breath to be your anchor. As you breathe in and out, consciously release any distracting thoughts that may arise, granting yourself the freedom to embrace the stillness within.

Remember, the path of mindfulness is a personal journey, and there is no right or wrong way to practice it. Each experience is unique, and by exploring different techniques, you can discover what resonates best with you. With time and patience, mindfulness will become a compassionate companion, providing solace and equipping you with invaluable coping skills as you navigate the complexities of stress.

2. Engage in Physical Activity

Engaging in physical activity is an essential part of developing effective stress-coping skills, especially for teens. It’s crucial to recognize that regular exercise has been scientifically proven to be a powerful stress reliever and can significantly enhance mental well-being. By participating in physical activities that you genuinely enjoy, such as swimming, dancing, or playing sports with friends, you not only incorporate exercise into your daily routine but also create a space for rejuvenation and self-care.

When you engage in physical activity, your body releases endorphins, known as “feel-good” chemicals, which naturally elevate your mood and contribute to reducing stress levels. These endorphins act as your companions in your journey to better mental health, helping you combat stress and find a sense of inner balance.

Remember, finding an activity that resonates with you personally is key. Explore different options and experiment with various forms of exercise until you discover what brings you the most joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s through team sports that foster camaraderie or individual pursuits that provide solace, each step you take towards incorporating physical activity into your routine is a significant stride toward overall well-being.

Embracing physical activity as a part of your stress management toolkit is an act of self-compassion and empowerment. By prioritizing your physical well-being, you are actively equipping yourself with the tools necessary to navigate the challenges and pressures that come your way. So, be kind to yourself and make time for the activities that bring you happiness and respite. Your mind and body will thank you for it, and you’ll discover the transformative power of physical activity in managing stress and nurturing your mental health.

3. Manage Your Time Effectively

Managing your time effectively is crucial, particularly when it comes to navigating stress and coping skills for teens. During hectic periods, poor time management can intensify the overwhelming feeling. To ensure a smoother journey, it’s essential to establish a daily schedule that incorporates regular breaks and enjoyable activities. Breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps and setting realistic goals can help alleviate the sense of being overwhelmed. Remember, prioritizing self-care and nurturing a healthy work-life balance is paramount. By implementing these strategies, you’ll empower yourself to better handle stress and embrace a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.

4. Communicate with Others

When it comes to stress and coping skills for teens, effective communication plays a vital role in finding support and understanding. Engaging in heartfelt conversations with friends, family, or a trusted adult not only offers emotional solace but also grants valuable insights into your challenges. To foster open and honest communication, express your genuine feelings and needs without reservation. Remember, reaching out for assistance or seeking advice is a sign of strength, not weakness. By embracing this understanding and helpful approach, you empower yourself to navigate through stressful situations, paving the way for personal growth and resilience.

5. Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, the weight of stress can be overwhelming, and coping alone may feel like an impossible task. During these moments, it’s crucial to remember that seeking professional help from a compassionate mental health specialist can provide the support you need. Whether it’s a skilled therapist or an empathetic counselor, they have the expertise to guide you through the challenges you face. With their understanding and helpful approach, they can offer valuable insights, practical strategies, and a safe space for you to express your emotions. Remember, reaching out for professional assistance is a sign of strength and self-care, enabling you to develop effective coping skills and regain a sense of balance and well-being in your life.

FAQs

We often receive questions from teens about managing stress and coping skills. Here are some common queries we encounter:

  • How can I identify when my stress levels are too high?

There are several signs that can indicate high-stress levels. Look out for symptoms like frequent headaches, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, irritability, loss of interest, and feeling overwhelmed. Physical cues like increased heart rate, tense muscles, and shallow breathing can also suggest heightened stress. Recognizing these signs can help you take proactive steps to manage and reduce stress.

  • What are some additional coping skills I can try to manage stress?

Additional coping skills to manage stress include self-care activities, journaling, seeking social support, practicing deep breathing exercises, and exploring relaxation techniques. Find what works best for you and prioritize self-care while being open to seeking help when needed.

  • How can I encourage my friends to adopt healthy coping skills?

To encourage your friends to adopt healthy coping skills, lead by example and engage in activities that promote mental and emotional well-being. Share your own positive experiences and benefits of healthy coping strategies, such as exercise, mindfulness, or seeking professional help. Offer support and understanding, and be a good listener when they express their challenges, gently suggesting healthier alternatives to cope.

Taking proactive steps to manage stress is essential in preserving and promoting optimal mental well-being. Amidst the challenges and demands of everyday life, it is crucial to recognize when professional assistance becomes necessary. Collaborating with a mental health professional can yield a multitude of advantages, ensuring that the guidance and support received are specifically tailored to individual needs.

When seeking help from a mental health professional, such as Visions Adolescent Treatment, individuals gain access to a wealth of expertise and specialized knowledge. These professionals possess a deep understanding of various mental health conditions and the most effective treatment approaches. By tapping into their extensive experience, individuals can receive personalized care that addresses their unique concerns and challenges.

Moreover, mental health professionals provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore their emotions, thoughts, and experiences. Through therapeutic interventions and evidence-based practices, they empower individuals to develop coping strategies and build resilience in the face of stressors. Additionally, the support and validation received from mental health professionals can foster a sense of empowerment and self-compassion.

By reaching out to Visions Adolescent Treatment, individuals can embark on a journey toward improved mental well-being. With their tailored mental health treatment options, they aim to support individuals in navigating and overcoming the obstacles that contribute to stress and mental health issues. Remember, seeking professional help is a sign of strength and a proactive step towards a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Conclusion

Teen years can be stressful, but with the right coping skills, you can navigate this challenging time more effectively. Incorporate mindfulness, exercise, time management, healthy communication, and professional help when needed. Remember, if you’re struggling with stress, Visions Adolescent Treatment is here to offer support and guidance.

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Mental Health

How to Parent a Teenager with Borderline Personality Disorder

If your teenager has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you may be curious about how to parent a teenager with borderline personality disorder.

Parenting a teen is never easy. But parenting a teen with a personality disorder requires additional patience, as well as a unique set of parenting skills. Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition that affects about one in a hundred teens, and is characterized by impulsive behaviors, thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, frequent mood swings, and difficulty with interpersonal relationships. 

In other words, teens who struggle with borderline personality disorder often exhibit the behaviors that teenagers are stereotypically known for – but to an extreme and sometimes harmful degree. 

Borderline personality disorder is only recently being recognized and diagnosed in adolescents. In fact, adolescent BPD is sometimes considered a separate diagnosis from adult BPD – and there is less research on the condition in teens than older adults. For parents, watching a teen struggle with frequent changes in mood and impulsivity can be heartbreaking. And because personality disorders can be inherited, parents with a family history of borderline personality disorder or other personality disorders might be worried about how to handle their teens if they begin showing symptoms. 

In this article, you will discover how to parent a teenager with borderline personality disorder.

Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder in Teens

Diagnosing borderline personality disorder in teens isn’t a straightforward process. In the past, some experts would argue that because most teens haven’t had the chance to cement their personalities, a traditional borderline personality disorder isn’t possible. 

Teen borderline personality disorder symptoms aren’t characterized so much by an unstable or fluctuating personality (as this is the norm for teens in the beginning stages of adult maturity), but by concurrent symptoms of self-harm, depression, intense and frequent mood shifts, impulsive behavior, and interpersonal problems. Other important signs and symptoms to watch out for include: 

  • Problems with emotional regulation, such as a difficulty to calm down or self-soothe. 
  • Poor coping mechanisms, and frequent outbursts of rage.
  • Jumping from one emotional crisis to the next. 
  • Fearing abandonment and loneliness, yet always feeling isolated even among friends. 
  • Often falling out with friends or switching friend groups. 
  • Paranoia about social rejection and perception. 
  • Long-term symptoms of depression. 

A formal diagnosis is important. Psychiatrists and other trained medical doctors can assess a teen’s history of behavior and recommend treatment based on their responses to certain questions. Teens and even children have agency, and can understand their behaviors and motivations, even if their personalities are not yet set in stone. 

More recent research on the topic indicates that teens may be accurately diagnosed for borderline personality disorder as early as age 11. This research also stresses the importance of a cohesive and comprehensive treatment team and treatment plan, and the invaluable nature of parental cooperation and support. 

The causes for personality disorders like BPD aren’t yet fully understood. The fact that the risk of a personality disorder can be inherited suggests a genetic link, or a neurological trait. In many cases, personality disorders find their onset in late childhood or early adolescence, at a crucial stage of mental development. External risk factors – such as trauma and neglect – also play a role in how, when, and if a personality disorder might surface in a teen

Recognizing and acting on signs and symptoms will be your best bet. Once you have a formal diagnosis, you can start working with your teen and a professional treatment team to develop a plan for their condition. However, there’s more to managing a mental health diagnosis like BPD than professional treatment. How you manage your teen’s symptoms at home can play a big role in their progress. 

Important Parenting Tips for Borderline Personality Disorder

The first and most important lesson is to remember that teens with BPD should not be treated the same way as teens without BPD. Silent treatment, tough love, or classic reward or consequence parenting is not going to work and will fail to elicit a healthy emotional response in your teen. 

Furthermore, it’s important to temper your expectations for behavioral progress. People respond to therapy and other treatments in different ways. It may take your teen some time to learn to manage their impulses and BPD symptoms. Here is what you might want to know: 

  • Manage your own fears and emotions. With your teen struggling to deal with their short fuse, the last thing they need is more anger and anxiety to bounce off of. Finding ways to manage your own emotional stress, through counseling or healthy coping skills, is important. 
  • Emotional intelligence is paramount. Sometimes, mental health issues can benefit from a logical argument. But with BPD, emotions usually come first. Take the time to think about what you say and be sensitive to how your words might be misinterpreted. Use simple and clear forms of communication and leave no room for misunderstanding. 
  • Assist in your teen’s problem solving, but don’t solve problems for them. Developing a stronger and healthier sense of self is important in cases of BPD. Learning to deal with your own problems is a crucial part of that process. Rather than telling your teen what to do when faced with day-to-day challenges, ask them what they’re thinking of doing, and lead the conversation to bring them to the right conclusion. 
  • Compassion and validation matter. Your teen will be constantly second-guessing themselves, unsure of who they are. While you can’t answer that for them directly, it helps to hear positive things and affirmations from an outside source, even if it’s from a parent. When your teen is acting out, reinforce calmness. 
  • They will do things you might not understand. Neither do they, not really. Self-harm usually comes from a place of emotional dysfunction, not a healthy throughline of logic. You can’t make your teen explain why they want to hurt themselves, because the answer usually won’t be coherent. Instead, keep an eye out for signs of escalation and talk to them about seeking help together in times of acute stress. 
  • However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create boundaries. Boundaries are important and enforcing them is something no parent can avoid. For BPD, that means a zero-tolerance policy on destructive behaviors – whether towards the self, others, or objects – and no violence. 

Borderline personality disorder is a complicated condition that requires long-term psychiatric and emotional support, in and outside of treatment. 

Parents of teens with BPD can arm themselves with the knowledge needed to guide their child through the treatment process, as well as the day-to-day challenges of adolescence. Be patient and remember to take care of yourself. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support as you navigate this journey together.

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Mental Health

Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month and Breaking Stigmas

May has been the designated Mental Health Month in the US since 1949 – and this year, Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration want Mental Health Month 2023 to continue the tradition of raising awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. 

What does Mental Health Month mean? It can mean different things for different people. For families and individuals with a history of mental health issues, it may be about remembering that you’re not alone, and calling into focus the things that families and communities can do to support each other, such as spreading awareness about local resources, providing free education on the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and addiction. 

Mental Health Month can also be an opportunity for businesses to focus on fundraising for local organizations and non-profit teams that provide safe shelter for the homeless, improve mental healthcare access in the community, or invest in the safety and beauty of our local parks and communities for children to play in. 

For those who have no history of mental health issues, it can mean reminding yourself to be compassionate and considerate of others, to learn more about the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in life, and to recognize and combat the continued prejudice and stigma that people who struggle with their mental health experience every day. 

Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month—a time dedicated to raising awareness, fighting stigma, providing education, and advocating for policies that support people with mental health and their families. The celebration of this month, held annually, is more than just an acknowledgement; it’s a global campaign to create a world where mental health is understood, accepted, and prioritized.

In our society, mental health issues are often overlooked, misunderstood, or stigmatized, making it difficult for individuals who are suffering to seek the help they need. Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month means recognizing the importance of mental well-being as a critical component of overall health. It means understanding that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that it’s okay, normal even, to seek help when we’re struggling mentally, just as we would if we were physically ill.

During this month, we encourage conversations about mental health, shedding light on topics such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and many more. We highlight the need for proper mental health resources and advocate for better accessibility to mental health services.

Moreover, we celebrate the strength and resilience of those living with mental health issues. Their journey is a testament to human resilience and serves as an inspiration for all of us. Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month is about changing the narrative, breaking down barriers, and reminding everyone that mental health matters.

Remember, mental health is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going. So, let’s continue to spread awareness, compassion, and understanding, and make every month Mental Health Awareness Month.

The Prevalence of Mental Health Issues in the US

With an improved understanding of mental health and better screening tools, rates of mental illness in the US have grown over the past few decades. It is currently estimated that about one in five US adults experiences the symptoms of a diagnosed mental health issue every year, and that about one in 20 experience serious mental health problems per year. 

The most common type of mental health issue worldwide is anxiety. Anxiety disorders encompass a variety of conditions ranging from social anxiety to obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Being anxious or nervous isn’t enough to constitute an anxiety disorder – in most cases, anxiety disorders are characterized by irrational and overwhelming fear or mental discomfiture. Some anxiety symptoms are triggered by a stressor, while others might be generalized and recurring. 

Depressive disorders (or mood disorders) are another common form of mental health problem. These include major depressive disorder, post-partum depression, and bipolar disorder. Just like anxiety disorders, depressive disorders are more than normal sorrow – depression is characterized by a consistently low mood over multiple weeks or months, and difficulty feeling joy or pleasure. Depressive disorders often (but not always) occur without a trigger or discernable reason. 

The continued impact of mental health problems in the US (and worldwide) cannot be overstated. Conditions like major depressive disorder are among the leading causes of disability in the US, and despite improvements in treatment, nearly 40 percent of adults with major depressive disorder have not received any treatment for it in 2020. While we have made strides in the depiction of mental health issues in pop media and the general understanding of common mental health problems in the general public, treatment options remain scarce. Surveys show that there are still serious barriers to mental health care in the US, including access to a mental health professional.  

Modern Stigmas Surrounding Mental Health

There is still plenty of stigma surrounding mental health in the US. A stigma or prejudice often grows in cases of ignorance. When a person or group does not know enough about a mental health problem, they may develop hurtful assumptions about these conditions, and the people who live with them. 

But ignorance is not the only reason. It’s no secret that mental health conditions are not treated as seriously as physical health conditions – not just by laypersons, but by doctors as well

Cultural or religious beliefs can influence a person’s perception of mental health issues, especially conditions involving substance use, and especially when they have little to no personal experience with mental health problems. In general, mental health stigma can be identified as one of three forms of stigma: 

Self-stigma. This includes internalized stigma, such as feeling shameful about being depressed, refusing to get help, denying treatment, or feeling like it’s all “deserved”. 

Institutionalized stigma. This is stigma perpetuated by an institution or a corporation. For example, in addition to the medical stigma, a growing number of inmates across the US struggle with severe mental health problems. It is believed that the rate of mental disorders among incarcerated populations is between 3 and 12 times higher than the public, and the rate of severe mental illnesses in jails and prisons falls between 16 to 24 percent, versus about 5 percent among all US adults. 

Public stigma. This is stigma perpetuated by communities and society at large, often displayed through media or public opinion, especially online. Public stigma might involve providing unhelpful comments or judgments (telling someone with a mental health problem to “just work out more” or “just go outside”) or viewing someone as weak because they have decided to go to therapy. 

To address and destigmatize mental health issues, start at home. Learn more about the history of mental health in your family, and the conditions your family members may have struggled with in the past. Encourage friends or family to seek treatment if they haven’t and find out how you can support them if they have. 

Important Resources for Mental Health Support

If you have concerns about a loved one’s behavior, keep a few important numbers on speed dial: 

  • 911 for emergencies. 
  • 988 for the suicide and crisis hotline or use the Lifeline Chat website. 
  • 1-800-985-5990 for mental support and counseling after an environmental disaster or terror attack. 
  • Contact the SAMHSA for information about substance use disorder or mental health specialists. 
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for current and ongoing federal mental health programs. 
  • Your local state or county website for more information about local organizations and mental health specialists. 

As simple as it might seem, sometimes the only thing we can do to help others with an ongoing mental health problem is to make sure they know we’re here for them, and to remain at their side.

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Mental Health

5 Common Teen Mood and Thought Disorders

From the moment a child reaches puberty up until their mid-20s, they begin the long journey of physically and neurologically developing into adulthood. This is a biological, psychological, and social journey. Even 18-year-olds – who are, by definition of the law, adults – have a lot of growing up left to do. 

Teens are on the cusp of being independent and responsible members of society, and with that comes an innumerable list of uncomfortable physical changes, volatile emotions, complex interpersonal relationships, and a growing list of expectations and social mores. 

When teens lack healthy coping skills, and the guidance to work through these day-to-day challenges, they may be more likely to struggle with feelings of anxiety, or even depression. 

Understanding the most common mood and thought disorders can help teens and parents alike recognize and address their symptoms and provide the necessary support to better manage symptoms in adulthood. 

Here are five common teen mood and thought disorders.

What is a Mood Disorder?

Mood disorders are a class of mental health problem characterized by an unconventionally low mood (depression), or an unconventionally high mood (mania). An important characteristic for most mood disorders is that these feelings of overwhelming sadness or bursts of energy have no reasonable cause or explanation. 

A teen isn’t necessarily struggling with depression if they feel sad about a classmate’s death. But the loss of a close friend may be a trigger for the onset of a mood disorder, especially if they struggle to cope with their friend’s passing. 

Common Mood Disorders in Teens

Most mood disorders feature some form of depression, and depression itself is considered the second most common type of mental health issue in the world (next to anxiety).

However, some conditions – specifically bipolar disorder – also feature symptoms of mania, which include racing thoughts, insomnia, uncharacteristic productivity or creative energy, delusions of grandeur, and an exaggerated self-confidence. 

Current definitions of mood disorders and known mood disorders are based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR). Under the DSM, common mood disorders include: 

  1. Major depressive disorder
  2. Bipolar I disorder
  3. Bipolar II disorder
  4. Cyclothymic disorder
  5. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  6. Persistent depressive disorder
  7. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

In addition to these conditions, the DSM also identifies other types of mood disorders, including depressive or bipolar symptoms triggered by another medical condition (with physiological causes, such as an endocrine disease), substance or medication-induced mood disorder, and other specified or unspecified mood disorder. 

Major Depressive Disorder

Usually known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common mood disorder in the world. 

It is diagnosed when symptoms of depression last for at least two weeks with no apparent physical or identifiable cause, characterized by feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder may refer to up to five different mood disorders, but most people will recognize three: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia. 

Bipolar I is characterized by symptoms of mania, or intense euphoric and irritable moods. Sometimes, these can lead to behavior that lands a person in the hospital. People with mania can work feverishly on a project for days before crashing, and do not consider negative consequences for themselves or others. 

Bipolar II more frequently features cycles of depression, alongside hypomania, or less severe manic symptoms. 

Cyclothymia is characterized by mild manic and depressive symptoms that do not qualify for bipolar I or II, but have been ongoing for at least two years. 

Contrary to popular belief, bipolar disorder does not typically cycle between states in rapid succession. A person with bipolar disorder will usually experience a handful of shifts or episodes per year. 

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder, chronic depressive disorder, or dysthymia is diagnosed when a person is experiencing a depressive episode for at least two years. These long-term episodes may be less intense but can be just as severe. 

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a mood disorder diagnosed in children between the ages of 6 and 18, characterized by extreme irritability and temper tantrums, at the drop of a hat. DMDD exceeds normal moodiness. A teen must exhibit inappropriate temper tantrums across different settings with intense mood swings between tantrums to qualify for a DMDD diagnosis. It is a relatively new diagnosis, and a controversial one. 

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a complicated and recently recognized mood disorder closely related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). While teens with PMDD share some of PMS’ symptoms such as cyclical symptoms, food cravings, and irritability, PMDD is much more severe, with often debilitating depressive symptoms, anxiety, and suicidal ideation in the weeks leading up to a teen’s period. These feelings wane two to three days after the period starts and return in the next cycle. 

Like other forms of depression, PMDD is largely hereditary. Our current understanding of PMDD assumes that it’s caused by an abnormal reaction in the brain’s neurochemistry to the hormonal changes that occur after ovulation, and before menstruation. 

Is My Teen Sad or Depressed?

When talking to your teen about mood disorders and mental health issues, it helps to be able to distinguish between “normal” and concerning behavior and thought patterns. 

The truth is that it can be hard to make these individual distinctions, and it often isn’t appropriate to make sweeping generalizations about what is and isn’t within the realm of a teen’s healthy spectrum of thoughts and behaviors. A few red flags to keep in mind may include: 

  • Extreme or sudden changes in behavior or personality. If your teen was previously outgoing, but has become intensely reclusive, it may be a serious sign of danger. 
  • Frequently talking about death, especially one’s own passing. Suicidal ideation can be masked and is often very private, but it may drop as hints in conversations. 
  • Loss of affection in relationships, loss of interest in physical contact. For teens with close partners, common signs of a depressive episode include pulling away from intimacy and becoming emotionally colder. 
  • Signs of substance use. Whether as a consequence or symptom of a mood disorder, or as one of the causes, substance use in teens is often a significant mental red flag. 

One of the biggest challenges when talking about mental health is recognizing that there often isn’t a single cause or villain to every story. It’s not satisfying to blame a mixture of circumstances and neurological predisposition for a person’s depressive episodes, but that’s often the truth: while tough times can make depression harder, people can also be depressed for no reason, or seek to harm or kill themselves at a time when they’re ostensibly at their “happiest” and most successful. 

Depression is exceptionally insidious because it does not offer a clear answer or a satisfying why. 

It’s often erroneously portrayed as a result of dire circumstances, when it can happen to anyone, at any point, for no reason. Expecting a reason or cause for depression leads to the unhelpful expectation that outwardly happy people are doing okay, or that there must have been a cause for them to feel worse. 

Recognizing and understanding that is crucial to making resources and help for depressive symptoms available to all people, regardless of their circumstances. 

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Mental Health

What Are the Benefits of Teen Friendships?

Should you encourage your teen to make friends? Absolutely! Encourage them to make all sorts of friends. Friendships are great; not only is connecting with other people cognitively gratifying in that you can learn all sorts of things through others, it’s also emotionally and even physically beneficial. Friends can get you into better habits and sports you might never have given a try before. They can get you to explore hobbies and interests you wouldn’t have. Friends widen our horizons. They can be a great source of joy

In this article, we’re looking closely at one of the most common questions we hear from teens – what are the benefits of teen friendships?

Friendships Can Reduce Anxiety

Teen anxiety is a vast and growing mental health crisis. A disproportionate physical and emotional stress response is at the root of every case of anxiety. It’s normal to be anxious under certain circumstances.

Teens are often anxious the day before a big test. They’re naturally going to be anxious about confessing to a crush or asking someone out to the prom. Most teens worry about getting into a good college or doing well in their sport or profession of choice. Many teens worry about things that adults might not find as necessary, such as school clout and online popularity. Some socially conscious teens will be anxious about things like global warming, the direct effects of policy on their lives, or their prospects in tomorrow’s job market. 

While many of these things are anxiety-inducing, people often mistake them for the causes of anxiety. Anxiety is not just the manifestation of stress

On a more psychiatric or clinical note, anxiety disorders are mental health issues wherein a patient displays disproportionate reactions to stressors or experiences a sense of dread and worry without a meaningful cause or stressor. 

Friends can play an essential role in mitigating these stressors, helping teens cope with their anxiety, being understanding supporters throughout the recovery and treatment process, and helping your teen continue to focus on their anxiety treatment.

Friendships are a Core Part of Adolescence

Have you ever wondered why making friends as an adult is harder? Most people blame factors like a lack of time and resources and fairly few opportunities to go out and meet new people. While some of these things are true, take note of another important factor: your brain. 

Most teens are explicitly wired to make friends, and accepting new people into their lives usually comes more naturally to adolescents than it might to some adults. Meanwhile, many adults face opportunities to introduce themselves to strangers and make new friends nearly daily– yet, we typically don’t. 

This isn’t always true – especially teens who struggle with social anxiety in adolescence but not in adulthood, will find it easier to bond with people they like as they get older – but generally speaking, teens are in a developmental stage in their lives where it’s normal to turn toward your peers and develop deeper bonds of friendship with those around you. 

It’s also one of the reasons teens find it so crucial to fit in. Teens are much more predisposed towards groupthink and peer pressure because they want to belong to a larger contingent. Some of this comes down to evolutionary psychology – the idea that many human behaviors result from survivalist behaviors handed down from generation to generation. 

We’re innately social creatures, not just because we continue to rely on each other in society but because we have always relied on each other to hunt, raise children, protect one another, and secure our futures. Teens are children on the cusp of independence in the wider adult world and seek to align themselves with other adults to find strength in numbers. 

These survivalist tendencies are not always positive. Popularity does not predict the health or strength of a friend group or any given friendship. But it does explain why teens are particularly drawn to the popular and why popularity and cliques play an even greater role in adolescence than they do later in life. 

In other words, your teen years are the ideal years for you to develop your social skills, hang out with people, meet new people, and explore the different facets of interpersonal relationships; to make mistakes, to trust, to be hurt, and to learn. 

Friendships Can Prolong and Enrich Life

Teen friendships are an essential part of a healthy and happy teen life, and the quality of a teen’s relationships with others can be a factor in their mental wellbeing in adulthood

Research shows that teens with deep, close friendships with other people generally show lower rates of anxiety, depression, and poor self-worth than teens who grew up as part of larger friend groups but with more external connections. 

True friends are great. They keep it straight with us. They remind us of our weaknesses and celebrate our strengths. They look out for us. They encourage us to be better, to embrace the best parts of ourselves, and to do what is best for ourselves. They become confidants in times of stress and turmoil and people to share and enjoy life with when it’s at its best. They make every moment of joy and bliss even sweeter and more memorable. 

Not all friendships are like that, though. Encourage your teen to nurture and cherish their closest and oldest friends, not to grow apart, to keep in touch, and to reap the benefits of friendship well into adulthood. 

Of course, friendships can also come with drawbacks. Some friendships turn out not to be friendships at all. Some people go out of their way to hurt others quickly and sometimes over the years. It may take your teen some time to figure out the difference and learn to eliminate toxic relationships over time. But even those lessons are valuable and help prepare them to find and avoid similar experiences in adulthood when they can be arguably far more harmful. 

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Mental Health

How Does Social Media Affect Teen Mental Health?

When the printing press made books available to the general public at an unprecedented rate, generations of children had their bad manners and poor habits blamed on time spent burrowed between pages rather than household chores. When television took over every household in the developed world, spoiled behavior and dropping grades were blamed on too much TV. Now, we live in the Internet and social media age – but does that mean it’s the same story, with different characters?

Not necessarily. While it’s true that smartphones and social media make a convenient scapegoat for the same generational gripes that have existed since the days of ancient Greece, we have more to go on these days than public opinion and the words of a famous philosopher. 

Teenagers are at risk of developing mental health issues due to mobile phone usage. In this article, we’re taking a closer look at one of the most common questions we hear from parents – does social media affect teen mental health?

How Does Social Media Affect Teen Mental Health?

Research shows us that there are more direct links between the long-term chronic use of social media and poorer teenage mental health – even when that research is being funded by companies that have a vested interest in the exact opposite findings. 

Yes, correlation is not the same thing as causation, and while it’s true that smartphones, likes, and retweets can elicit feelings of “addictive” joy through dopamine dumps, the same goes for any enjoyable activity – whether it’s reading a thriller novel, going to the movies, or sitting on the sidelines of a major sporting event. 

But there are a few unique things about social media that make it a serious concern for today’s youth and the youth of the near future. 

So, how does social media affect teen mental health?

Social Media and Self-Image

Social media refers to any platform that caters to a network of individuals and encourages people to connect to each other via online accounts. Most social media platforms encourage using real names, locations, and personal details, and very few ask users to stay anonymous for their safety. 

Social media is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It is constant. It is pervasive. And for billions of people worldwide, it plays a significant role in their daily lives. 

Social media is more than radio or television – it is a second life, a life on the internet, or a lens through which others can voyeuristically view your real life in bite-sized, curated, unfiltered, raw moments screencaps. It affects a person’s self-worth and self-image, especially among adolescents. 

Nevertheless, many teens are smart enough not to post everything online. Instead, they take a number of different approaches to online social networking. 

  1. The first is the typical curated account. This is more of a social portfolio – a look into a version of themselves that teens carefully cultivate and edit to evoke a certain aesthetic, appeal to a certain group of peers or fit into a clique. These accounts are, for all intents and purposes, networking tools. 
  2. The second is the private account or the finsta. Sometimes these second accounts are secret and reserved for close friends or an inner circle. They’re like a digitally-hosted communal album experience – one part of a larger social collage created by a group of friends. 
  3. The third is the anonymous account. This could be a meme page, a gimmick account, or any other anonymous account created for posting jokes, sharing content, or creating a community online. 

Regardless of what kind of account a teen runs – and teens often have multiple accounts on the same platform for this very reason – these accounts can change a teen’s self-image for better or worse.

A curated profile can help teens boost their self-confidence by choosing how they present themselves to the world around them. But this has the downside of causing teens to prefer the “filtered” version of themselves while perhaps resenting how they really see themselves. 

For teens with existing mental health issues, the dangers of putting oneself “on display,” even if it’s a curated digital analog, can be myriad. 

Social Media and the Erosion of Privacy

Even while curating the content, they create, teens keep less and less of themselves to themselves nowadays. There is an expectation of candid honesty, a societal pressure between teens and influencers to present a “day in the life of” for every teen who wishes to be accepted, let alone popular.

Teens growing up in a post-Patriot Act would have a very different expectation of privacy, to begin with. Still, Internet culture’s shift away from anonymous posters to constant, infinite interconnectivity and online social influence has built a culture of oversharing. 

Even ten years ago, surveys showed that as many as 77 percent of teens were at risk for identity theft due to the amount of information they published about themselves. Ten years is a long time in the Internet age, and things have only worsened. 

Whether it’s public chatrooms, daily TikTok posts, or hourly Tweets about college life, teens are leaving more and more of themselves for the rest of the world to watch and participate in – not just ephemerally but as a permanent record. We’ve already seen real-life examples of people suffering career consequences for the thoughtless ramblings they had as teens on Facebook and Twitter

Not only are the consequences of a lack of privacy immense, but they can carry a mental toll. More and more teens are victims of cyberbullying and place great weight and importance on their popularity on social media platforms. Some of the other long-term mental health consequences of social media overuse include: 

Is Social Media Bad For Teens?

Some research points directly at social media as a potential cause for teen ills. Other research is inconclusive. If we want to draw our own conclusions, we can pick social media – especially the overuse of social media – as a scapegoat for teen problems. 

But social media is often just one part of a bigger problem. 

Teens today are growing up in a world still shaken by a global pandemic, facing the looming threat of global warming and other societal issues. In addition to these pressures, teens still worry mostly about the same things as ever, such as whether their crush likes them, getting good grades, making their parents proud, and picking the right career path. 

Teens spend a lot of time in front of their screens. But they also smoke less, drink less, do fewer drugs, and have sex at a later age. While many teens struggle with adulthood, that’s nothing new – and millions upon millions of American teens continue to enter the workforce every year. 

Social media has a definite negative impact on many teens, especially those already susceptible to self-image issues and depression

It can make them feel like they aren’t living up to the fake standards set by their peers or by popular influencers, the same way fashion magazines and advertisements have made women feel self-conscious about their weight for decades. 

Excessive screen time among teens is also linked to poorer sleep, less than recommended physical activity levels, and a worse mental state.  

But social media can have its benefits. It allows friends to stay friends across state lines and even national borders. It gives teens access to greater information, provided they are taught to be media literate. And regardless of whether parents agree with it, social media is a crucial part of social life in the modern world. It can become actively harder to interact, network, and communicate with your peers without an account on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  

Rather than taking your teen off the internet, help them navigate it more safely, with respect to their own privacy and with respect to the dangers of being excessively online. 

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Mental Health

Top 7 Teen Mental Health Issues

Are you worried about your child experiencing one of the more common teen mental health issues?

For many adults, being a teen again might feel like a blessing. Chances are you might not have had to worry about filing your tax returns, paying your bills, or managing a business as a teenager. Teens are less likely to feel a stiff back in the morning or suffer from bad knees. Meanwhile, teens have much to look forward to in life – from their first real romance to starting college, or forging through a career path from scratch. 

But adolescence is far from a walk in the park, especially today. Teens live in an increasingly digitalized and isolated world, one that perhaps expects more from them than it did from previous generations. And while teens lead safer lives than their parents did, they are also less prepared for adulthood. How can parents help their teens work their way through the struggles of adolescence, especially with mental health issues? 

For starters, it’s important to sit down and listen. It may have been a while since you were last a teen and knowing more about where your teen is coming from can help you find the right words to guide them. 

In this article, you will discover the top seven teen mental health issues.

Teen Mental Health Issues

While teens today seem more anxious and depressed, it’s also important to remember that our understanding of mental health has changed dramatically over the last few decades. While some of it remains, the stigma around mental health problems has lessened, and teens are more likely to come forward. In other words, teens today are not just inherently more stressed than previous generations; they are also more likely to willingly identify their maladies.

If you think your teen might be struggling mentally, better understanding what they might be going through can help you both. Talk to a professional today about teen mental health, and the signs you should be looking out for.

As a parent, you worry about your teenage child and want to ensure they’re okay. Here are the top seven teen mental health issues.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are an unfortunately common adolescent mental health problem and one that is statistically devastating. 

More so than nearly any other mental health condition, eating disorders can often be fatal. They include the urge towards starvation, as well as unhealthy binges, and the consumption of non-edible and even dangerous objects. Bulimia and Anorexia stem from issues with self-esteem and self-image, especially body dysmorphia. Other times, eating disorders can result from trauma or childhood abuse and chronic depression. 

Some people are predisposed to having problems with eating disorders. Suppose your family has a history of eating disorders like binge eating, bulimia nervosa, or anorexia nervosa. In that case, your teen might be at an increased risk of developing an eating disorder throughout adolescence.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders will often co-occur in teens alongside other mental health issues. Teens with an anxiety disorder or a mood disorder are more likely to start drinking early, and more likely to use illicit drugs. Furthermore, teens with untreated ADHD are more likely to use drugs, and struggle with addiction. 

Substance use disorder is both a physical illness and a mental health issue. A holistic treatment approach is needed to help teens recover from the neurological and physical effects of long-term drug use, and develop the necessary coping skills and psychological framework to avoid relapses in the future. 

Signs of drug use in teens depend on the type of substances they use. Some teens use prescription medication, such as anti-anxiety medications, as a party drug. Others use medications such as Ritalin to focus for a test, despite not having ADHD. And while teens are not legally allowed to drink, about 24 percent of teens aged 14 to 15 admit to alcohol use. Research tells us that the earlier someone starts drinking alcohol regularly, the more likely they are to struggle with alcoholism in adulthood. 

If your teen is struggling with a different mental health issue, they are generally more susceptible to the addictive effects of illicit drugs. Whereas mental health therapies work to improve a teen’s symptoms over long periods of time, certain drugs offer an immediate mood boost. While most teens are aware that these drugs can carry lifelong risks, they often lack the mental faculties to fully acknowledge or appreciate what that risk looks like. 

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions in childhood and adolescence and can also be considered a mental health disorder. 

Teenagers with ADHD have brains that develop differently from their peers and require support in matters such as learning, task management, executive functioning, and motivation. They are more likely to struggle with drug use if their ADHD is left unaddressed and are more likely to develop other concurrent mental health issues over time, such as generalized anxiety, panic attacks, or major depressive disorder. 

Managing ADHD through behavioral therapy and individualized medication protocols can help teens function on par with their peers and develop the self-sufficiency needed for adulthood. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is a common anxiety disorder that usually begins in adolescence and continues throughout adulthood. Teenagers with OCD may begin with mild symptoms that get worse with age. 

OCD comes in different forms and can have varying degrees of severity. Classic examples include excessive cleaning or counting rituals, but other people with OCD develop strange habits and tics to combat and address intrusive thoughts about religion, sexual orientation, or even unwanted violent fantasies. 

It is estimated that about 90 percent of people with OCD have at least one other mental health problem, often exacerbating the condition. Concurrent treatment is important – addressing not one, but all of a teen’s mental and physical health concerns, and the way they interact with each other. 

Conduct Disorders

Some teens are unruly. Some teens are especially argumentative, and most teens will defy authority in one way or another. But a conduct disorder goes above and beyond expected teen behavior. 

If your teen is routinely combative, and even outright dangerous, they may be struggling with impulse control. Conduct disorders are most common in children and teens, and involve patterns of property destruction, theft, physical violence, or pathological lying. Many conduct disorders are closely related to personality disorders. 

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are the second most common type of mental health problems in the world. Mood disorders include conditions such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. Not all mood disorders are related by cause. Some are linked largely to hormonal changes, while others are linked to a change in local environments or stress. Some are linked to seasonal changes – winter depression, or seasonal affective disorder, may even be exacerbated by a lack of sunlight. 

Mood disorders affect roughly 14 percent of teens in the US. Not all treatments are the same, either – while modern antidepressants often play a large role in successful treatment, therapy is just as important, and incredibly varied. In addition to talk therapy, mood disorders may be addressed through neurofeedback, nerve stimulation, and rTMS treatments

Anxiety Disorders

While depression is often the de facto mental health concern for parents and educators, anxiety disorders are the worlds most common mental health problem. An estimated 19 percent of adults and 32 percent of adolescents have some form of anxiety disorder. Among teens with identified anxiety disorders, over 8 percent struggled with severe life-changing impairment. 

Anxiety disorders range wildly from rarer conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder to specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. While medication may be used in treatment, therapy is key. Long-term behavioral and cognitive therapy can help teens improve their symptoms, especially if their condition does not cause severe impairment. 

How Can I Help My Teen?

Helping a teen manage their mental health without the framework of professional treatment is not a good idea. 

There are many things a family can do to help improve some of their teen’s symptoms – implementing certain changes, such as more time spent together on the weekends, a better diet at home, setting better boundaries, and improving communication between family members are some universal pieces of advice. But they do not come close to addressing some of the inherent issues that a teen with a mental health disorder may be facing. 

Talk to a therapist about individual and family therapy, and find out how you can specifically help your teen throughout their treatment. 

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Mental Health Therapy Treatment

Therapy for Teens: What Parents Should Know

Are you curious about mental health therapy for teens but scared of the stigma?

Well, here’s a damning fact: we are well into the 21st century, with decades of progress in psychiatric medicine, and nearly half of the American workforce still believes that seeking therapy is a sign of weakness.

Research tells us that psychotherapy – a set of guided conversations and exercises between a trained professional and a client/patient – is one of the most effective forms of treatment for the majority of mental health issues that we face. Yet despite growing rates of depression, anxiety, and psychosis, most people either do not get the help they need or do not seek it out, to begin with.

We must do better, especially for our children. The attitudes we take on regarding health, both mental and physical, often reflect in our offspring. The fact is that despite the fear of peer pressure, teens are overwhelmingly influenced by their parents and rely on their parents to be positive role models. Furthermore, teens are struggling.

Rates for anxiety and depression are higher than ever as awareness around mental health issues continues to soar. Yet instead of seeking treatment, many teens with mental health issues become susceptible to other, more maladaptive forms of coping. They may develop self-esteem issues and eating disorders, struggle with substance use, or fall into an online rabbit hole of scams or even hate speech marketed as a form of “self-improvement.”

Many teenagers need help, and therapy for teens can be one of these forms of help. Here’s what parents should know.

Does Therapy for Teens Work?

Yes. There is ample research specifically on the topics of adolescent mental healthcare and the efficacy of talk therapy protocols as treatment modalities for teen patients. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy see as much success in teens as they do in adults, in addition to specialized forms of therapy applied to various diagnoses, such as EMDR, exposure therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.

One particular type of therapy that may be more effective for adolescent patients is family therapy. There are different forms of family therapy, but each focuses on addressing issues within a family unit or even a small subsection of a community, rather than focusing solely on an individual.

Family therapy programs center around the idea that treating a patient’s symptoms in isolation is not enough when the root cause or major contributing factors to their condition are still present at home. Family therapy can help parents and other relatives better understand their loved one’s condition, discover interpersonal issues that may be contributing to their mental malady, and improve communication skills between teens and parents alike.

Therapists understand that parents play a vital role in a teen’s therapeutic process. Individual therapy sessions can help teens immensely, but it’s the parent who has the most influence and plays the greatest role in a teen’s behavioral and mental development. Family therapy helps explore this dynamic and utilize it in the best interests of the teen and parents alike.

Does Your Teen Need a Diagnosis to Go to Therapy?

One of the most common misconceptions about therapy is that it is only needed when prescribed by a professional. Although a formal psychological evaluation can help and therapeutic services are more likely to be covered by certain insurance policies if you receive a referral from a professional first, it’s also important to note that you don’t need to wait for a problem to be diagnosed before you can decide to seek someone to talk to, whether you’re an adult or a teen.

Everyone who thinks they might benefit from therapy should ultimately go to therapy. A therapist can help you improve your focus and productivity, address emotional problems at their root, figure out why you struggle with intimacy or have other common relationship issues, and can help you identify and replace maladaptive coping skills with healthier methods of coping regardless of your lack of a specific diagnosis or mental health issue.

Should you feel the need to visit a therapist every time you feel upset or anxious? If it helps you feel better, yes.

On the other hand, there are also circumstances under which a therapist’s help is more than just optional but a necessary part of a long-term recovery and treatment process.

When Should a Teen Go to Therapy?

Teens may get a referral from a mental health professional (a psychiatrist or psychologist) or their primary care physician if they struggle with the following:

Behavioral Problems

These include a wide range of behaviors that may involve acting out aggressively towards others, or showing signs of unprompted rage, extreme narcissism or disregard for others (seeming lack of empathy and compassion), recurring relationship problems, and even recurring legal issues (frequently vandalizing, getting caught stealing, drunk driving or speeding, exhibitionism, substance use, and so on).

Recurring Sadness

Sadness and depression are two very different things, and it’s important for parents to be able to tell the difference. Sadness comes and goes, but depression lingers for weeks at a time, seeping into everything a teen does to the point that they struggle with things they used to excel at or have an easy time with and no longer feel any interest in old hobbies or activities they used to enjoy.

Depression can be brought on by anything or by nothing at all. Some teens begin to struggle with symptoms of depression after a triggering event, such as a breakup or the loss of a loved one. Others may develop depression over time without a clear origin or cause. Not talking about it makes it worse.

Insurmountable Anxiety

Some teens are naturally more anxious than others. But an anxiety disorder can be debilitating, affecting a teen’s personal life, academic life, and future career.

Anxiety disorder symptoms can be manageable at times, but without structure or positive coping mechanisms, teens can fall into maladaptive coping habits and develop other comorbid problems. If your teen is frequently struggling with doubt, fear, and low self-esteem, they may be facing daily anxious thoughts and have no way of dealing with them.

Get Therapy for Teens at Visions Treatment Centers

Therapy for teens can go a long way towards helping a teen understand why they might feel the way they sometimes do and can help them develop the tools they need to combat negative thoughts and emotions, improve their behavior, and lead a more fulfilling life. Support your teen in getting the help they might need.

For more information about therapy for teens and teen mental health services, contact Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Depression Feelings Mental Health

How Does Depression Affect Teens?

How does depression affect teens? What does teen depression look like? When exactly is it depression? And when is it moodiness?

While being a teen can be tough, there are a few telltale characteristics that set depression apart from typical teenage angst. Both teens and parents should keep an eye on these characteristics and how they might affect their loved ones and closest friends.

How Does Depression Affect Teens?

So, how does depression affect teens? And what does it look like?

At first glance, depressive symptoms match closely with teenage despair. Depressed teens can be irritable, difficult, might be less likely to respond to being called, and will hole up in their rooms for hours, if not days, at a time. Concerned parents might have a tough time telling a depressive episode apart from a bad breakup.

But one key aspect of depression is time. Depressive symptoms don’t show up for a few days or a week, then disappear. Your teen may take months to get over a breakup, but they aren’t going to be spending those months at the bottom of an endless emotional pit – they may hit the bottom at some point, then slowly, steadily climb out of it.

Depression, on the other hand, shackles you to the seafloor and doesn’t let you go for weeks, months, and sometimes even years.

Signs of Depression in Teens

Some people diagnosed with a depressive disorder will bear the brunt of the condition for a few weeks at a time, then experience a lull in symptoms before it comes back in full force. Others experience a lower intensity of depression symptoms but at every waking moment. Depressive symptoms can come and go at any point, with no warning and no clear cause. They may include:

  • Deep sorrow, feelings of worthlessness, or guilt for no reason.
  • Extremely low self-esteem or active self-loathing/deprecation.
  • A loss of interest in old hobbies and activities.
  • A significant change in diet and appetite (dramatic weight gain or dramatic weight loss).
  • Restlessness and insomnia/oversleeping, poor sleep habits.
  • Sluggishness and fatigue that won’t go away with rest.
  • Total loss of motivation, struggle to get up, difficulty with routine (poorer physical hygiene).
  • Recurring suicidal thoughts or attempts, self-harm, extreme risk-taking, growing pessimism, and cynicism.
  • Unexplained aches and pains and episodes of nausea.

If your teen is upset over something, it may be part of their depression, or it may be a normal teen reaction to an upsetting event. Telling these two apart requires open communication and a willingness to regularly check in with your teen to keep track of their moods and realize when something seems off.

How Is Teen Depression Diagnosed?

Depression comes in many forms. These are called mood disorders, and they include most mental health conditions that center around extraordinarily low or extraordinarily high moods (symptoms of depression and symptoms of mania). Common depressive disorders include:

  • Major depressive disorder: this is the most commonly diagnosed depressive disorder and is often known as clinical depression.
  • Dysthymia: this is a long-term or chronic form of depression, usually involving milder symptoms.
  • Bipolar disorder: this mood disorder shares symptoms of depression as well as mania or hypomania.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: this form of severe depression is a debilitating form of PMS. Symptoms occur within the first week of every period and often get worse with age until menopause.
  • Postpartum depression: postpartum depression or peripartum depression is diagnosed before and/or after labor and childbirth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder: this form of depression is distinctly tied to a change in seasons, usually from autumn into winter. However, some teens also experience summer-type seasonal affective disorder.

Diagnostic Criteria for Depression

Different depressive disorders have different diagnostic criteria. If a doctor suspects a patient is depressed (during a routine screening, for example), they may be referred to a psychiatric professional for a full diagnosis.

While conditions like depression are not usually diagnosed through blood tests or imaging scans (with unique exceptions) like many other medical conditions, there are certain tests that doctors can conduct to determine whether a teen requires psychological treatment. These tests include one-on-one conversations, a thorough medical and family background, and an observation of a teen’s symptoms and behavior over multiple weeks.

Conditions like major depressive disorder can be identified in about 8.4 percent of the population. But while this particular form of depression is more common than others, it’s also important to note that there are many conditions that are harder to identify or that might be misdiagnosed as a different or more common form of depression. Some mental health conditions might share a few symptoms with depression but have a very different cause or psychological mechanism of action and require a completely different type of treatment.

Depression and Related Disorders

Depressive symptoms may be part of a different diagnosis, or a diagnosis of depression may be one of multiple disorders a teen is struggling with. Teens with depression are much more likely than their peers to also struggle with the following:

Don’t count out the possibility of depression just because your teen may exhibit signs of a different mental health problem. In many cases, these disorders are intertwined, sharing certain risk factors or causes, and contributing to each other in different ways. For example, a teen struggling with addiction may be more likely to suffer from bouts of anxiety or depression as they go through recovery and rehab.

How is Teen Depression Treated?

If your teen is diagnosed with a depressive disorder, their first-line treatment plan may often involve one-on-one talk therapy and modern antidepressants. These are the most effective and most commonly prescribed treatment methods for conditions like major depressive disorder.

Certain other disorders may involve different treatments – such as mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder or birth control for premenstrual dysphoric disorder. If first-line treatments fail, a doctor may prescribe alternative treatment plans. This is where psychiatric facilities, outpatient clinics, and residential facilities for teens can help, especially if comorbid health conditions or a serious risk of personal harm are involved.

For more information about treatment for teen depression, contact Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Wellness

7 New Years Goals for Teens

New years goals for teens and adults can vary, simply due to different stages of life. For some, a new years resolution centers around weight lost, picking up a new hobby, or even getting treatment for mental health.

And for millions of Americans, a new year often comes with new goals and resolutions. But is that a good thing? Most new years resolutions fail to uphold their commitment, which would usually indicate that it isn’t just a question of willpowerWhy is it so hard to do the things you should want to do?

The answer, in most cases, is that you don’t really want to do them. New years resolutions typically fail because people tend to select goals that reflect what they should do or be, rather than what they want. It makes little sense to set a goal for yourself that is not ultimately tied to an activity or result that you truly enjoy or crave. Teens struggle with this just as much as adults do.

You Don’t Need to Start Today

A lot of people fail to commit to their new year’s resolutions because they started working on their goals on January 1st, rather than when they were ready. Someone who dives headfirst into a goal without the necessary preparation is more likely to struggle as a result.

Going back to the popular gym and fitness example, you might feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and it becomes impossible to tell the difference between good and bad advice. Instead, use January as your exploratory month.

Do your research. Consult different experts. Formulate a concrete first goal. Determine what you need to establish your starting position – equipment, setting, space, and community resources. And then, get started in February or March once you’ve answered your day one questions.

New Years Goals for Teens in 2023

Goals that mean something to you – that are linked to your interests or guided by intrinsic motivation – are less likely to fail. Here are some concrete and productive new years goals for teens that you can work toward achieving this year for a better you and to improve your mental health too!

1. Set a Small Screen Time Limit

Excessive screen time is a risk factor for mental health and exacerbates symptoms of depression, lowered self-esteem, and anxiety. You don’t need to go cold turkey on social media or delete Discord from your phone. But do consider keeping a closer eye on your daily computer and smartphone usage, tracking your hours on screens, and setting realistic goals to minimize or introduce breaks for both mental and physical health.

Use those breaks to do something you enjoy – listen to music without looking at a screen, read a physical book, go on a walk, or spend some time gardening. If you have pets, take on more pet-related chores and responsibilities – these can be almost meditative and give you more time to bond with your favorite fur buddy.

2. Dedicate More Time to the Outdoors

Whether it’s something substantial like a monthly hiking trip or just a weekly drive out to the nearest national park for a quick jog or leisurely walk, being outside and in nature can do wonders for both your physical and your mental well-being. Try introducing a few extra nature trips or long walks through the woods into your life this year.

3. Place a Premium on Good Sleep

Sleep hygiene gets emphasized heavily in nearly every single one of these posts and articles, and for a good reason. Everything we do is contextualized by how well-rested we are. Cognitively, socially, and physically, our performance in nearly any aspect of life is colored at least partially by the quality of our sleep.

Making a commitment to head to bed earlier than usual is a good start, but it’s almost impossible to implement. Start with habits that will help you tire out more easily: make sure your room is usually cool and dark in the evenings, rely on warmer lights, cut out blue lights or screens before bed, quit caffeine in the afternoons, and exercise.

4. Go To Therapy (With a Friend)

Mental health treatment is not scary. Nor is it painful. But it is stigmatized, and many teens remain unconvinced that they need or should consider seeking professional help, even as their symptoms get worse.

However, reaching out for help and learning to take care of your mental health are great new years goals for teens. If you think you may be struggling with a mental health condition that is affecting your studies, your relationships, and your day-to-day life, taking the first step toward therapy will be tremendously helpful. But if you need that extra push, consider asking a friend to go with you.

5. Move A Little Bit More

There is more to exercise than running track and field, lifting weights, or going for a swim. Embrace movement in some shape or form, whatever it may be.

We’re ultimately not built to be sedentary for long periods of time, and once you find a form of movement that you enjoy, you can massively improve your general quality of life and regain control over your body.

6. Quit Deprecation

It may just be something small – like insulting yourself in the mirror, berating yourself for trying something or putting yourself down for buying something – but try to make a commitment towards stopping all forms of self-deprecation this year.

Don’t make jokes at your own expense, insult yourself when you’re alone or with others, or take your anger out on your own body. Whenever you feel the urge to say something mean, swallow it – and try to say something positive, anything positive, instead.

7. Try One New Thing

It could be crocheting, pottery, learning to bake, making bread, or even Japanese gunpla. New hobbies are not just an opportunity to expand your interests but an opportunity to meet new people, explore new ideas, find new outlets for stress, and even change your worldview.

A new years resolution can be an impetus for self-improvement and change. But it’s not enough to commit yourself to a vague goal on January 1st without more of a personal connection. It’s important to personalize your goals and pick a realistic approach.

Setting Realistic New Years Goals for Teens

Let’s say, for example, that you have always hated gym class, don’t enjoy most sports, and have spent most of high school being sedentary and enjoying non-athletic hobbies.

You have no personal interest in physical fitness and no real intrinsic motivation to go and begin your gym transformation. You have no concrete knowledge of where to begin in the gym, no foundation of strength or fitness, and no idea whether to prioritize cardio over weights or which supplements to take or ignore.

None of that changes from the night of the 31st into the morning of the 1st.

But, if you are interested in getting fit, you can take your general interest and begin adapting it to more specific, intrinsic motivation. Perhaps there’s a specific fictional character you wish to look like.

There’s probably some merchandise you can wear to help you relate your exercise regimen to that character, like a themed training shirt, hoodie, or shaker. Start your training sessions with arousing music from your favorite game or show. Begin consuming more fitness content that you relate to, or have an interest in. Find exercises that you do enjoy doing.

The Power of Goals

Goals can be powerful tools, but they can also backfire heavily. If your mental and physical well-being is important to you, then setting goals that are achievable should come before setting goals that are aspirational.

For more information about treatment for teen mental health, contact Visions Treatment Centers.

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