Some parents might be immediately concerned about their teen’s psychological health if they know that depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia run in the family. And adolescence is already a vulnerable time for teens emotionally and psychologically. If you’re a concerned about your teen developing a mental illness, you should know that there are a combination of factors that play a role in whether a person develops an illness.
In fact, it’s hard for experts to pinpoint exactly what causes mental illness. Instead, they agree that it’s a combination of specific factors. Mental illnesses are complex disorders that result from a variety of factors, including:
- chemical imbalances in the brain
- environmental factors
- experiences of trauma
- neglect from parents or caregivers
- high levels of stress
- the death of a loved one
As you can see from this list, there are many factors that influence teen mental health. Genes can play a role, but it’s not the only contributing factor. In fact, genes alone cannot predict mental illness. It would be important for caregivers and parents to try to understand the full picture of a teen’s life. Parents can look at the following details in a teen’s life to help determine whether seeking professional support is necessary:
- a teen’s environment at home and school
- whether a teen has friends
- how well they are doing in school
- whether a teen has had a mental illness in the past
- experimentation with drugs and/or alcohol
- how much a teen is sleeping – too much or too little
- whether a teen is eating too much or too little
- engaging in risky behavior
- avoiding social situations
- beginning to not care about appearance
- losing interest in school
- absenteeism from school
- talking about death or having a fascination with death
- staying up all night for two or more nights in a row
Certainly, teens are at a vulnerable stage in life. They are growing emotionally, physically, and psychologically. And because of this they may be prone to emotional swings, impulsivity, and risky behavior. Although some teens might experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other disorders, not all teens are vulnerable to mental illness. If you’re a parent and you know that there is mental illness in the family, you may want to watch out for any signs of a psychological disorder, such as those listed above.
In addition to looking for these signs, it’s possible to get more information about the influence of genetics by talking to a genetic counselor. These counselors are familiar with the ways that genes affect a person’s physical and psychological health. Genetic counselors also know ways to minimize the chances of someone in the family developing an illness if in fact there is psychological disorder in the family genes. Sadly, there are no genetic tests that can indicate whether a person will develop an illness. This is because environment, conditioning, and experiences play a significant role.
However, if you have any concerns about the psychological health of your teen, contact a mental health provider. This is the first step in ensuring that your teen remains psychologically healthy.