Mental illness is becoming increasingly prevalent among adolescents in the United States. According to statistics, about 1 in 5 teens between ages 12 and 18 struggles with at least one diagnosable mental health condition.
Mental health issues in teens often go overlooked or undetected. The main reason being that mental health issues are usually misconstrued as “teen angst” or normal part of adolescence, which will just go away on their own. Another one is that teenagers tend to keep their symptoms to themselves for fear of being stigmatized.
If you’re concerned about your teen’s behavior and want to find out if this is a sign of a mental health issue, whether it is just temporary, and what you can do about it, here’s all you need to know.
Common Mental Health Problems in Teens and Their Symptoms
Mood variations and temporary deviant behaviors are part of the normal adolescent process. From time to time, young people tend to experience low mood that can last for several days.
With vigilance, you can distinguish these mood variations and behaviors from real mental health issues by closely paying attention to the duration and impact of the symptoms on your teen’s daily life.
Below are a few of the mental health problems commonly affecting teenagers along with their symptoms.
Depression in adolescents is more than just a phase: it’s a real condition that does not only interfere with the teen’s daily life but can also lead to suicidal thoughts and risky behaviors.
Signs and symptoms of depression in teens include the following:
- Persistent low mood or sadness, lasting more than two weeks
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Excessive irritability and intolerance of others
- Unnecessary anger/or frustration
- Frequent mood fluctuations
- Rapid or unexpected changes in mood accompanied with emotional outbursts
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Sleep problems
- Persistent and unexplained stomachache, nausea, and headaches
- Withdrawal from social interactions (becoming increasingly socially isolated)
- Thoughts about self-harm or talking about doing it
- Poor academic performance
- Regularly skipping school or work
According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 1 in 3 of all teenagers between ages 13 and 18 will struggle with an anxiety disorder.
Common symptoms of anxiety in adolescents include the following:
- Recurring irrational fears and worries about their day-to-day affairs
- Edginess and difficulty concentrating
- Extreme self-consciousness or sensitivity to criticism
- Withdrawal from social interactions
- Sleep problems
- Avoidance of new situations or those that they think are difficult
- Persistent and unexplained stomachaches or headaches
3.) Eating Disorders
In the United States, there are as many as 10 in 100 adolescents who are suffering from an eating disorder—a mental health problem that involves a complex and damaging relationship with food.
Eating disorders are characterized by harmful eating behaviors (e.g., calorie restriction or binge eating), and often coexist with depression, anxiety, or substance misuse.
Indications of an eating disorder can include:
- Secrecy around eating habits
- Noticeable weight loss/weight gain
- Distorted view of body image/weight
- Letting people think they have eaten when they have not
- Anxiety or guilt associated with eating
- Vomiting/using laxatives to lose weight
What You Can Do
Learning everything you can about your teen’s mental health is central to ensuring you take all appropriate measures to detect any potential problems and mitigate them before they get worse.
It is important to talk to your teenager and let them know the specific signs that you have noticed and that you find them alarming. Make sure to come from a place of compassion, love, and understanding. Avoid asking too many questions and passing judgment. Explain to them that you are there to help, you have their best interests at heart, and you are willing to listen and provide them with whatever support they need.
If you notice your teen chronically showing most of the signs and symptoms of any of the conditions mentioned above or you’re concerned that they might harm themselves or other people, reach out to your child’s pediatrician. They can recommend the best course of action or even render effective care.
Treating any mental health condition can take time, and there may be ups and downs along the way, particularly if your child has had it for a while. Working closely with your child’s pediatrician and fostering supportive environments within the family, at school, and in the wider community, go a long way toward helping your child live well with or even overcome their mental health problem.
Adolescent Mental Health Support in Purchase, NY
At Westchester Park Pediatrics, we offer adolescent mental health support as part of our commitment to providing comprehensive healthcare services for the pediatric patients in our community and beyond. Our board-certified pediatricians are not only here to simply help manage your teen’s symptoms: we will work closely with your teen—in a comforting and reassuring environment—to carry through a holistic care plan that will guide them on the path to optimal health and well-being.
Through talk therapy, we can help your teen better understand themself by allowing them to explore their own feelings, behaviors, and beliefs; and teach them healthy coping mechanisms that will ultimately help them live a happy and productive life.
If you would like to schedule an appointment or find out more about our mental health services for children and adolescents, please call us at (914) 761-1717.