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 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.
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 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.
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.