9 Myths About Teenage Mental Illness Debunked

Mental health issues come with a stigma and there are many misconceptions. When it comes to teens, some of the myths and incorrect information can be harmful to those in recovery from various mental health conditions. Check out these myths about teenage mental illness and see if you believed any of them. Then, spread the correct information to help reduce the stigma of seeking mental health care among adolescents and young adults.


Myth #1. Teenage Mental Illness Is Rare

You might not realize this, but one in five teenagers will be affected by a mental health condition at some point. It’s very likely that if your teen has five close friends, then one of them has developed or will develop a mental health issue. In your child’s class of 30 students, a half-dozen might have had or be currently dealing with mental illness.

The reason you might not know about this is that most young people who have mental illness continue on with their normal, everyday lives. They still go to school, work part-time jobs, play sports, and do everything else that other teens are doing. They just do so while struggling with their mental illness.


Myth #2. Teenagers Suffering From Mental Health Conditions Are Dangerous

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding teenage mental illness is that the people who are afflicted are dangerous or violent. The vast majority of people with (or without) a mental health condition are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the perpetrator. This myth is particularly harmful among teens because those who are suffering from a mental illness might be more likely to be bullied or ostracized by other adolescents. It’s important to explain to children and teens that an individual with mental illness is usually not dangerous.


Myth #3. Mental Health Conditions in Teens Are Lifelong

While there are some conditions that might resurface at various times of life, most mental health conditions affecting teenagers are treatable and will not last a lifetime. Even those that do reoccur often do not affect the person every day of their life. For example, someone with depression might suffer during adolescence, at some points during young adulthood, after having a baby, and before retirement. Other conditions are lifelong, but with proper treatment, they can be managed.


Myth #4. Teenage Mental Illness Is Caused by Poor Parenting

One of the more distressing myths about teenage mental illness is that it’s caused by poor parenting. There are many different causes of mental health conditions in children, teenagers, and adults. Some environmental factors that might cause mental health issues include:

  • Trauma
  • Abuse
  • Neglect

Others factors are genetic and are simply the luck of the draw when it comes to family members who have suffered from mental health conditions. Either way, poor parenting is not usually the sole cause of mental health conditions in children and teens.


Myth #5. Teens With Mental Health Issues Won’t Live Independently as Adults

Some people are afraid that their teen who is struggling with a mental health condition will never be able to grow up, get a job, get married, own a house, or have children. While this might be true for some people with severe mental illnesses, the majority are absolutely able to live happy, healthy, independent lives. If the teen is in therapy, part of that will include helping with the decision-making processes that enable someone to live successfully on their own.


Myth #6. Teens With Mental Illness Will Grow Out of It Without Treatment

One fallacy is that teenage mental illness, like a sore throat or a stomach ache, will generally go away without treatment. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. While lifestyle changes can help with the symptoms of mild depression or anxiety, full treatment involves therapy and, in some cases, medication. The earlier treatment starts, the better. If you notice that your teen has symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition, seek professional treatment promptly.


Myth #7. Adolescents With Mental Illness Need to Take Medication

Some people are hesitant to bring their teen for treatment because they are afraid that they will need to take antidepressants or other medication. Sometimes, this is true: for severe or persistent mental illness, medication can help immensely. Often, however, adolescents do just as well with cognitive behavioral therapy or other types of counseling. Your child’s mental health specialist will develop an individualized treatment plan based on your teen’s specific circumstances. It might or might not include medication.


Myth #8. Medication Is Dangerous for Teens With Mental Health Conditions

The reason many parents hesitate to try medication on their teenagers is that there is a misconception that mental health medications are dangerous for young people. This is partially true in some cases; some antidepressants have been shown to increase depressive symptoms in some adolescents. For the most part, however, medications are safe and effective when used properly. Talk to your teen’s doctor about the risks and benefits of any medication prescribed. Also, report any side effects and never have your teen stop taking medications suddenly without medical advice.


Myth #9. Mental Health Conditions Are Not Real in Teens

Some people believe that teens who are diagnosed with mental illness are actually just having a hard time dealing with the ups and down of adolescence. They might think that their mood swings are being caused by hormonal fluctuations or that they are acting out due to a desire for attention.

The truth is that while teens do often have mood swings unrelated to teenage mental illness, these conditions are real. It is hurtful and incorrect to say that a teen with a mental health condition is just attention-seeking; in fact, it would be similar to say that someone with diabetes or a broken leg is just “doing it for attention.”



Putting common myths and misconceptions when it comes to teen mental illness to rest is an important step toward reducing the stigmas that accompany these conditions. Talk to a mental health professional for more information on the truth about mental health issues.