Adolescence can be both an exciting and challenging time. There are many significant physical, behavioral, and psychological changes that adolescents experience during this stage.
Teenagers experience a wide variety of emotions on a daily basis and many teenagers may feel that they are on an emotional roller coaster. They may feel overwhelmed by changes around them and struggle to cope effectively. While teenage “angst” and mood dysregulation have become a stereotypical hallmark of adolescence, it is important to be able to differentiate between moodiness and symptoms that are impacting an adolescent’s wellbeing and functioning in social, emotional, and academic contexts.
There are several common mental health disorders that teens experience such as anxiety disorders, depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and eating disorders. It is important that these symptoms are identified and that adolescents receive adequate treatment.
Mental Health Struggles in Teens Are More Common Than Most People Think
The changes that take place during a person’s teenage years make teens more susceptible to mental health struggles. According to a study, almost 20% of adolescents have diagnosable mental health disorders.
Unfortunately, many parents may not be aware of, or notice their children’s struggles until the intensity, frequency, and duration of their symptoms are more severe. This is not always due to a lack of awareness and is often a result of the isolation, avoidance, and withdrawing that occurs when an adolescent begins and continues to struggle. It is important to talk to your child regularly about their feelings, emotions, and general wellbeing. They may be resistant to these conversations at first AND they will become more accustomed to them the more familiar they become. If your teen’s stress seems to be interfering with their everyday life, it may be time to opt for counseling for teenage anxiety, depression, or whatever their particular concern may be so that they receive adequate support.
Mental Health Struggles Can Look Different in Teens vs. Adults
To diagnose a mental health problem in an adult, a licensed mental health professional will look for different symptoms such as mood swings or a declining interest in activities that the person used to enjoy. In teens, these signs might show up as an urge to disconnect from their friends, a drop in grades, and extreme irritability or feeling irritable for an extended period.
Here are some common signs of mental health struggles in teens.
➢ Suicidal thoughts
➢ A sudden and inexplicable increase or decrease in energy levels
➢ Appetite changes
➢ New onset of guilt
➢ Decline in concentration
➢ Changes in sleep pattern and sleep quality
➢ Changing mindsets
If your teen has occasional outbursts or stays out late sometimes, that is normative for adolescence and expected. However, if the above described symptoms are frequent and persistent it may be time to seek additional support through evidence based therapeutic services that will help support your teen in learning ways to effectively cope and help parents support them in doing so.
Warning Signs of Mental Illnesses in Teens
Warning signs of mental health struggles in teens vary depending on the disorder, yet one of the most common signs of mental illnesses in teens is a decline in grades.
Some signs of generalized anxiety disorder include fatigue, difficulty with concentration, muscle tension, rumination, reassurance seeking, and sleep difficulties.
Some common signs of depression in teens include mood swings, loss of interest in hobbies, lack of energy, suicidal thoughts, and physiological symptoms such as unexplained aches or pains.
Ways to Support Your Adolescent in Managing Symptoms
Follow these tips to help your teen manage their symptoms effectively.
➢ Identify stressors and engage in problem solving when appropriate and active coping when the stressor may be out of their control.
➢ Seek out a therapist who practices evidence based therapeutic approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Exposure and Response Prevention.
➢ Validate their emotions NOT unhealthy responses to emotions such as avoidance, isolation, and maladaptive coping mechanisms such as substance use or self-harm.
The OCD & Anxiety Center is a team of skilled counselors in Orland Park and Oak Brook. Our experience allows us to design customized treatment plans to fit the specific needs of our patients. To make an appointment, call (630) 522-3124.
Dr. Maha Zayed is a psychologist and owner of The OCD & Anxiety Center. The Center is located in two suburbs outside of Chicago. She has devoted her career to specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy for anxiety, OCD, and anxiety-related disorders. She is comfortable working with children and adults and is able to provide treatment both in the office and outside of the office, wherever anxiety happens.