Most psychological problems begin to emerge during adolescence and young adulthood. Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Eating Disorders, and Substance Abuse can display differently in teenagers than they do in adults. A time of immense growth and development, the changes that occur between the ages of 12-19 are exciting but also challenging. Teens must adapt to the pressures from society, school and peers. Intense hormonal and biological changes occur at a rapid pace. A budding mental health problem should not be considered a teenage phase. Early detection and intervention is vital.
Teenagers do not “outgrow” a mental health disorder. The teenage years are a time for exploration, development and change. Unfortunately, they are also the years when mental health problems begin to surface. We may assume that moodiness, impulsiveness, sexual experimentation, problems in school, strange eating and sleeping habits, and negative responses to peer pressure are all part of normal adolescent behavior. But there is a difference between “typical” and “troubled.” Mental health problems in teens are real and painful, and left untreated, can have serious consequences. Study after study over the past 10 years conclude that although the onset of psychological disorders appears early in life, most parents, families, and teens themselves, wait too long to ask for help.
The statistics about teenage mental health problems are alarming. Repeated studies conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health have concluded that: Approximately 20% of adolescents have a diagnosed mental health disorder. Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents and eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in individuals between the ages 15 to 24. Up to 50% of teens can be diagnosed with an anxiety or impulse control disorder.
What are the Warning Signs?
Common Symptoms of Mental Health Problems in Teenagers and Young Adults
- Isolation or withdrawal from peers.
- A change in sleeping habits which may exhibit as excessive sleeping or insomnia.
- Loss of self-esteem which may display as expressions of worthlessness or hopelessness.
- Constant worry and obsession with grades and achievements.
- Eating habits that result in noticeable weight loss or gain.
- Spending more time tethered to technology than direct contact with family and friends.
- Abandonment or loss of interest in favorite pastimes.
- Physical complaints and over-worry about medical conditions.
- Unexpected crying or excessive moodiness.
- Personality shifts and changes that appear out of character, such as aggressiveness or anger.
- Unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance.
- Any evidence of self-mutilation or mention of self-harm.
- Obsessive body-image concerns.
- Any drug use including under-age drinking, or misuse of prescription or over the counter drugs.
- Poor communication and unwillingness to talk to friends and family about problems and concerns.
- Mention of, or attempt of, suicide.
As a specialist in treating teens and young adults, I understand and can differentiate between what is typical and what is troubling. Along with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), I utilize a variety of techniques to gain trust, work on behavior changes, and get to the root of the problem. Therapy may be short-term or take more time, depending on the psychological issue. At times I may consult with other professionals such as doctors, nutritionists, and psychiatrists if warranted. I believe that involving the family in therapy can be useful at various phases of treatment. Teaching adolescents social skills, communication skills and how to manage their moods is always a component of therapy. I treat each teenager and young adult as the unique individual that they are, allowing them the space and comfort to be motivated to work on feeling better.
Although problems of teens and young adults may appear to be temporary, we know that many times they turn into long-lasting problems. The keys to long-lasting psychological wellness are:
* Early detection. * Timely intervention. *Relapse prevention.
Our youth deserve to enter their adult years with a sound foundation for mental health.
Contact me for a free, initial 10 minute phone consultation.