If you recognize symptoms of mental illness in your teen, you may be wondering whether or not to have your teen seen by a mental health provider. In most cases (if not all), seeking assistance for a mental or psychological illness is just as important as getting help from a physician or hospital for a physical illness.
For instance, disorders such as diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure are serious illnesses that require immediate attention of a physician. In the same way, there are certain psychological illnesses that can be life-threatening and also require immediate attention. Depression can lead to a successful suicide attempt. A teen with anorexia nervosa may eventually starve herself to death. Because of the stigma of mental illness as well as many misunderstandings about the health of the mind in general, it may be easy for parents to dismiss certain symptoms. However, seeking mental health support can provide assistance to you as the parent as well as your teen.
A mental disorder is a pattern of behavior or thought that is not reasonable or easily understood. It is associated with significant distress or impairment in coping with the environment. Mental disorders by definition include some sort of abnormality of some kind. That is, a teen may be thinking unhealthy or destructive thoughts, may be engaging in risky behavior, or may be withdrawing from social situations for long periods of time.
Today there are manuals and references for clinicians to compare a list of symptoms their client is having with a list provided. After these comparisons and some research, a clinician can come up with an appropriate diagnosis which can then determine the treatment plan. However, prior to the use of any manuals, the mental health field determined whether a client was experiencing something abnormal through the following four means:
Statistics: Does the behavior, thought, or other symptoms fall outside of a particular statistical range considered normal. For instance, someone who exhibits behavior that most of the population does not exhibit might be looked at as having a mental disorder.
Distress: Does the behavior, thought, or other symptom cause any significant distress? If an individual feels depressed, anxious, fearful, or suicidal, then his or her behavior and thought pattern may be distressful and therefore may be considered abnormal.
Inability to Cope: Does the behavior or thought pattern lead to an inability to adapt or cope with circumstances? If so, then these symptoms might also be considered abnormal or a mental health concern.
Societal Acceptance: And finally, abnormal behavior is any pattern that goes outside of what society sees as normal. For instance, in most societies, shouting in public to your deceased relatives might be considered abnormal. It’s important to consider cultural differences because in some societies talking to your ancestors, even though they are deceased, might be a part of spiritual tradition.
This criteria might also be useful for parents when reflecting on the psychological health of their teen. For instance, if you have a teen that is frequently sad which interferes with their ability to concentrate at school or have close peer relationships, then this may be cause for concern. However, it’s important to remember that meeting just one of the above points may not indicate that there is a problem. For instance, being statistically abnormal does not immediately equate to having a disorder.
Yet, if you have any concerns about the mental health of your teen, don’t hesitate. Seek psychological professional support today.