If you’re a parent of a teen, you’ve probably already seen the extensive changes they’ve been through. They are changing physically, emotionally, hormonally, sexually, socially, and intellectually. The many levels of change are no doubt going to be felt by your child. Perhaps you’ve already noticed mood swings, irritability, impulsivity, and emotional intensity.
However, it’s also important to know that dramatic or abrupt change can be a red flag. They can point to drug use, mental illness, or risky behavior. Certainly, there are a variety of life pressures that can lead to anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder. Some of the concerns that teens can face can even be life-threatening, such as depression that leads to suicide. Red flags that might point to an illness or a concern include:
Excessive sleeping – There will be teenage fatigue and swings in the quantity of sleep that teens will need or want. However, if your child is sleeping excessively, it could indicate depression or substance abuse. It might also point to insomnia or other sleep disorders.
Loss of self-esteem – Self esteem could be described as having confidence in oneself. For teens, it includes having confidence in their abilities and having respect for who they are inside and out. Yet, there are so many factors that can contribute to having a low self esteem, especially during adolescence. There are expectations placed on teens by parents, teachers, and peers. Too much pressure can cause a loss of self-confidence for teens during a time when their self-esteem should be getting stronger and stronger.
Abandonment or loss of interest in favorite pastimes – This could be an indication of depression. It might also be a sign of addiction. The cycle of addiction includes a fascination with the drug or substance that a teen is using. Also, the cycle of addiction can take place with certain behaviors as well, including sexual activity, gambling, Internet use, porn, shopping, and other behaviors that can induce a pleasurable feeling. When an addiction begins, whether it’s a substance or a behavior, other activities in a teen’s life might be ignored.
Unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance – This could point to substance use or even addiction. Mental illness such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression can contribute to a decline in academic performance. Also, it’s important for parents to remember that schizophrenia and other disorders similar to it begin to reveal its symptoms in teens who are between the ages of 18-22. This might also be a reason behind a decline in academic performance.
Weight loss and loss of appetite – This is a red flag that could point to a mental illness such as depression. However, it might also indicate an eating disorder. Because social acceptance and outer appearance are so importance during adolescence, especially for girls, a loss of appetite or significant weight loss could be a sign of an eating disorder, or other mental illness.
Personality shifts and changes, such as aggressiveness and excess anger that are significantly out of character – This could be a sign of a number of conditions. As mentioned above, a shift in personality might be a sign of psychosis. But it could also mean drug or alcohol use or an addiction. Furthermore, a teen might be struggling with his or her sexuality. If this is the case, it’s important that parents keep an open mind. For instance, gay teens who do not have the support of their parents regarding their sexual orientation have the most difficult time psychologically, emotionally, and socially.
These are some major changes in an adolescent’s life to be aware of are as parents. Other more specific patterns to look out for include: unexpected weeping or excessive moodiness, eating habits that result in noticeable weight loss or gain, expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness, paranoia and excessive secrecy, self-mutilation or mention of hurting himself or herself, obsessive body-image concerns, excessive isolation, or abandonment of friends and social groups.
If you have a concern about your teen, contact a mental health professional today.