Facts Parents Should Know About Mental Illness in Teens

It is common for teenagers to be moody, but it is important to know when they are showing signs of mental illness. Stressors such as school, work, relationships, and sports can become overwhelming during middle and high school.

Everyday life can be stressful for teens and may cause them to be emotional. But, at what point should your teen be evaluated? Our specialists at Paradigm Treatment in California and Texas

 are here to help through our tools and resources, including our evidence-based treatment programs.

Physicians May Define Mental Illness Differently Than Us

Physicians have a different definition of mental illness than most of us. If your teen has a random angry outburst, they may not have a mental illness. However, you should seek a diagnosis from a physician if symptoms persist regularly over time.

Physicians have to look at specific criteria to determine if a person has a mental illness. Generally, physicians look for a lack of interest in activity or intense mood swings to diagnose people with a mental illness. For teens, physicians may look for a decline in grades or out-of-character behaviors.

There are 7 symptoms that physicians use to determine whether a person has a mental illness. A person must exhibit at least 5 of the following symptoms to be diagnosed with a mental illness. The 7 symptoms include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of energy

Mental Illness in Teens is More Common Than You Think

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, 49.8% of adolescents aged 13-18 suffer from a mental illness. Many teens do not receive a diagnosis until months after their symptoms begin because their parents are in denial. You never think it’s going to happen to your child, but it can affect anyone.

Adolescence is one of the most transformative times of a person’s life. The brain begins developing habits and attitudes that are crucial for emotional well-being. During this developmental stage, a teen’s brain is extremely impressionable. Negative behaviors such as substance use can become ingrained in a person’s mind.

Mental Illness is Preventable

It is important to talk to your teen if they seem stressed or are exhibiting irregular behavior. Communication is vital. If teens are constantly dealing with stressors in their lives, they may develop a mental illness such as anxiety or depression.

It can be hard for a teen to fit in socially and they can begin to isolate themselves. As a parent, it is important to be a positive force in your teen’s life. Constructive criticism and encouragement are essential.

Substance Use Can Cause Mental Illness in Teens

teen family therapy

Drugs and alcohol can severely affect a person’s mental health. Substance use is especially dangerous for teens because it can affect their brain development. When drug and alcohol use begins early, it is much easier to fall into a cycle of addiction.

Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Substance use creates a short-term high in the brain and leads to a severe depressive low. However, people experience feelings of anxiety and depression following substance use. Teen substance use and addiction exacerbate mental illness and can throw a person’s life into dysfunction, and vice versa.

Types of Mental Illnesses in Teens

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that depression, anxiety, and other behavioral disorders are one of the leading causes of illness in adolescents.

Teens may experience any kind of mental illness, but the most common include

  • General anxiety- Excessive worrying about everyday life
  • Depression- Overwhelming feelings of sadness or despair
  • Social anxiety- Insecurity and self-consciousness in social situations

Warning Signs of Mental Illness May Vary

Depending on the mental illness, the signs and symptoms may vary. One of the most common signs of a mental illness is a decline in grades and school performance. Other signs that your teen may exhibit are social isolation and loss of interest in recreational activities.

General anxiety, depression, and social anxiety have certain symptoms as well. Symptoms exhibited by teens suffering from anxiety include

  • Restless feelings
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • Constant worry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating

Teens who are struggling with depression may exhibit signs such as

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Feeling worthless
  • Guilt
  • Slow movements or speech
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Lack of energy
  • Aches and pains

For teens who have social anxiety, they may experience symptoms such as

  • Anxious thoughts around others
  • Difficulty talking to others
  • Blushing or sweating when talking to people
  • Worrying about being judged
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Self-consciousness
  • Feeling nauseous around other people
  • Struggling to make friends

If your teen is exhibiting signs of a mental illness, do not hesitate to contact a physician. If left undiagnosed, symptoms of mental illness may worsen. Make sure to regularly check in with your teen to make sure they are okay.

Your Teen’s Primary Care Provider Can Make a Diagnosis

Your teen’s primary care provider has an understanding of your child’s medical history, which makes it quicker and easier to make a diagnosis. They will likely ask a few mental illness screening questions during the first appointment. These questions may include

  • What symptoms are the teen experiencing?
  • Are the parents worried? What about?
  • What concerns might the teen have?

If your primary care provider is not comfortable diagnosing your teen for a mental illness, they will recommend a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Treatment Options are Available to You

Mental illness is a treatable condition. People who receive treatment from a professional care facility find that they can return to normal life. Treatment facilities provide you with the means necessary to healthily cope with mental illness instead of turning to substance use and addiction.

If your teen is struggling with addiction or mental health, please give us a call today!

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Facts Parents Should Know About Mental Illness in Teens

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Lucy Nguyen

Lucy Nguyen, LMFT
Medical Reviewer

Lucy Nguyen is the Executive Director at Paradigm Treatment, overseeing all clinical treatment programs across the organization's southwestern region. Her extensive experience includes working with young adults in private practice, serving as a therapist for children and teens with emotional and behavioral needs, and acting as a behavior interventionist for teens with developmental disorders. Lucy integrates cognitive-behavioral approaches with mindfulness and compassion in her work, and she is also EMDR-trained. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling from California State University, Fullerton, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine.

It is common for teenagers to be moody, but it is important to know when they are showing signs of mental illness. Stressors such as school, work, relationships, and sports can become overwhelming during middle and high school.

Everyday life can be stressful for teens and may cause them to be emotional. But, at what point should your teen be evaluated? Our specialists at Paradigm Treatment in California and Texas

 are here to help through our tools and resources, including our evidence-based treatment programs.

Physicians May Define Mental Illness Differently Than Us

Physicians have a different definition of mental illness than most of us. If your teen has a random angry outburst, they may not have a mental illness. However, you should seek a diagnosis from a physician if symptoms persist regularly over time.

Physicians have to look at specific criteria to determine if a person has a mental illness. Generally, physicians look for a lack of interest in activity or intense mood swings to diagnose people with a mental illness. For teens, physicians may look for a decline in grades or out-of-character behaviors.

There are 7 symptoms that physicians use to determine whether a person has a mental illness. A person must exhibit at least 5 of the following symptoms to be diagnosed with a mental illness. The 7 symptoms include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of energy

Mental Illness in Teens is More Common Than You Think

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, 49.8% of adolescents aged 13-18 suffer from a mental illness. Many teens do not receive a diagnosis until months after their symptoms begin because their parents are in denial. You never think it's going to happen to your child, but it can affect anyone.

Adolescence is one of the most transformative times of a person’s life. The brain begins developing habits and attitudes that are crucial for emotional well-being. During this developmental stage, a teen’s brain is extremely impressionable. Negative behaviors such as substance use can become ingrained in a person’s mind.

Mental Illness is Preventable

It is important to talk to your teen if they seem stressed or are exhibiting irregular behavior. Communication is vital. If teens are constantly dealing with stressors in their lives, they may develop a mental illness such as anxiety or depression.

It can be hard for a teen to fit in socially and they can begin to isolate themselves. As a parent, it is important to be a positive force in your teen’s life. Constructive criticism and encouragement are essential.

Substance Use Can Cause Mental Illness in Teens

teen family therapy

Drugs and alcohol can severely affect a person’s mental health. Substance use is especially dangerous for teens because it can affect their brain development. When drug and alcohol use begins early, it is much easier to fall into a cycle of addiction.

Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Substance use creates a short-term high in the brain and leads to a severe depressive low. However, people experience feelings of anxiety and depression following substance use. Teen substance use and addiction exacerbate mental illness and can throw a person’s life into dysfunction, and vice versa.

Types of Mental Illnesses in Teens

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that depression, anxiety, and other behavioral disorders are one of the leading causes of illness in adolescents.

Teens may experience any kind of mental illness, but the most common include

  • General anxiety- Excessive worrying about everyday life
  • Depression- Overwhelming feelings of sadness or despair
  • Social anxiety- Insecurity and self-consciousness in social situations

Warning Signs of Mental Illness May Vary

Depending on the mental illness, the signs and symptoms may vary. One of the most common signs of a mental illness is a decline in grades and school performance. Other signs that your teen may exhibit are social isolation and loss of interest in recreational activities.

General anxiety, depression, and social anxiety have certain symptoms as well. Symptoms exhibited by teens suffering from anxiety include

  • Restless feelings
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • Constant worry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating

Teens who are struggling with depression may exhibit signs such as

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Feeling worthless
  • Guilt
  • Slow movements or speech
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Lack of energy
  • Aches and pains

For teens who have social anxiety, they may experience symptoms such as

  • Anxious thoughts around others
  • Difficulty talking to others
  • Blushing or sweating when talking to people
  • Worrying about being judged
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Self-consciousness
  • Feeling nauseous around other people
  • Struggling to make friends

If your teen is exhibiting signs of a mental illness, do not hesitate to contact a physician. If left undiagnosed, symptoms of mental illness may worsen. Make sure to regularly check in with your teen to make sure they are okay.

Your Teen’s Primary Care Provider Can Make a Diagnosis

Your teen’s primary care provider has an understanding of your child’s medical history, which makes it quicker and easier to make a diagnosis. They will likely ask a few mental illness screening questions during the first appointment. These questions may include

  • What symptoms are the teen experiencing?
  • Are the parents worried? What about?
  • What concerns might the teen have?

If your primary care provider is not comfortable diagnosing your teen for a mental illness, they will recommend a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Treatment Options are Available to You

Mental illness is a treatable condition. People who receive treatment from a professional care facility find that they can return to normal life. Treatment facilities provide you with the means necessary to healthily cope with mental illness instead of turning to substance use and addiction.

If your teen is struggling with addiction or mental health, please give us a call today!

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