January 29, 2021

Navigating Teen Mental Health Conditions

Adolescence is a common time for signs of mental health issues to emerge—many are struggling with hormonal changes, adapting to new environments, and increased stress from school or social activities. Critically, 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness; however, the majority of young people fail to receive appropriate treatment. Early intervention is essential when warning signs of mental illness emerge. If you are unsure whether you or a loved one is experiencing signs of a mental illness, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional. Self-diagnoses can be dangerous and often inaccurate. In order to receive the most appropriate and effective care, reach out for support—you are not alone.

Mental illness can present differently among different individuals. Be sure to monitor your teen or loved one’s changes in behaviors. This may include:

Lack of interest in previously engaged activities – If your teen abruptly quits activities or shows decreased interest in socializing that they previously loved, this may indicate a sign of a mental health issue.  

Unexpected changes in moods – It’s normal for teens to experience mood swings as hormonal changes are occurring. However, it’s important to monitor if these mood swings increase and begin to affect a teen’s ability to continue with normal activities.

Changes in sleep habits – Sudden insomnia, increased napping throughout the day, wanting to stay in bed all day etc.—may be signs of a greater problem.

It’s critical to stay calm and act appropriately if you notice your teen is experiencing warning signs of mental health issues. Try having open and honest conversations with them about the symptoms they are experiencing. Active listening is the key—avoid sudden interruptions and refrain from judgement.

Often times, teens are unwilling to speak with their parents about mental health issues. If you are experiencing this—you are not alone. It’s important for teens to have trusted adults and resources who they can reach out to. If your teen is unwilling to communicate with you, try reaching out to trusted adults who they may be more open to engaging with—teachers, family members, community leaders. Mental health professionals are a great resource to guide you in these difficult situations.

Common Teen Mental Health Conditions

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – GAD is the most common teen anxiety disorder. Teens struggling with GAD often present extreme worry and stress over everyday activities and tasks for extended periods of time. This anxiety can become debilitating and cause teens to retract from activities they previously loved. Low self-esteem is often an underlying cause of GAD and exacerbates feelings of anxiety.

Major Depression (MD) – A major depressive episode is defined as a period of two weeks or more where an individual experiences a consistent low mood, affecting their ability to continue with normal activities. Teens experiencing a major depressive episode often feel unhappy, hopeless, and struggle to complete everyday tasks. In some teens, a major depressive episode can result in suicidal ideation or self-harm behaviors. If these symptoms present, it’s critical to reach out to a mental health professional or emergency resources immediately.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) – SUD is often a co-occurring disorder of someone who is already struggling with anxiety and/or depression. Teens with substance use disorders tend to rely on substances to cope with external stresses in their lives. SUDs can also present in teens due to genetic predisposition, social pressures, and environmental factors.

Eating Disorders (ED) – Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders can have extreme consequences on mental and physical health. Teens with eating disorders often present co-occurring signs of depression and anxiety.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – Teens with Borderline Personality Disorder struggle to process emotions—often lacking a consistent and stable sense of self. There is significantly less research around teens with BPD than adults. There is controversy as to whether or not it is appropriate to diagnose teens with BPD. If you’re noticing symptoms of BPD in your teen, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional for more information.

The information presented here is not comprehensive and does not intend to replace the importance of speaking with a mental health professional. Each individuals’ experience with mental illness can vary and it’s important to identify warning signs early in order to prevent crises from occurring. 

Charlie Health’s team of expert mental health professional is here to guide you during this challenging time. If you’re unsure if you or a loved is in need of additional support, reach out to Charlie Health today. Charlie Health's clinicians are here to listen to your needs and provide you or your loved ones with personalized treatment programs to allow you to successfully recover from the comfort of home. You are not alone!

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Laura Sebulsky, MBSR

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