How to Recognize An Adolescent Mental Health Disorder

If genetic mental health disorders run in your family, you might be waiting with bated breath to see if your teen begins showing symptoms of them. Several mental health disorders tend to rear up during adolescence, and some of these are genetic in nature. It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between a adolescent mental health disorder and general teenage angst and typical behaviors. If you have any questions as to whether your teen is dealing with a mental health disorder, it’s best to approach his or her doctor with your concerns. In the meantime, take a look and become familiar with the following symptoms that may indicate an adolescent mental health disorder.


Symptoms of Mood Disorders

Two common mood disorders that can show up during adolescence are depression and bipolar disorder. If someone in your family has either of these conditions, your teen might be at a greater risk than average of also developing them. One of the main symptoms of both of these are periods of sadness lasting longer than two weeks, though in teens, bipolar depression can last as little as a few hours at a time. While teens might be described as moody at times, the low moods that go along with depression and bipolar disorder are more intense and last longer than typical blues caused by hormone fluctuations or problems with friends, romantic partners, or school.

A teen who is depressed or in a depressive state of bipolar disorder might be apathetic. He or she might sleep more than usual or, conversely, not be able to sleep much at all. You might notice your teen crying, isolating him- or herself socially, and dealing with major changes in appetite. One of the most serious signs of depression is suicidal ideation; if you think that your teen might harm him- or herself, seek emergency care right away.


Symptoms of Psychotic Disorders

Another type of potentially genetic mental health disorder is a psychotic disorder. With this type of adolescent mental health disorder, a teen might begin perceiving things that are not there and having various delusions. One disorder that can start to present during adolescence is schizophrenia.

Some types of delusions that are common among those with schizophrenia include:

  • thinking that others are out to get you
  • that you are being harmed
  • that you are famous

If your teen is having these types of unrealistic thoughts, it’s important to seek help. Other symptoms of a psychotic disorder include:

  • disorganized speech
  • hallucinations
  • abnormal movements

One hallmark of these types of disorders is that the victim doesn’t realize that anything is out of the ordinary and think that their thoughts are normal.


Symptoms of Personality Disorders

Some teens may exhibit signs of maladaptive personality disorders. Some of these can be genetic, though they can also be brought about by life events. If you have someone in your family who has a personality disorder, it’s wise to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Examples of personality disorders include:

  • paranoia
  • narcissism
  • fear-related disorders

The signs of various personality disorders differ depending on the specific condition. Usually, the symptoms are a part of the person’s everyday personality and not part of an acute episode of a mental health condition. For example, someone who is paranoid might always think that others are untrustworthy or that there are always hidden, nefarious meanings in events or statements that other people would judge to be neutral or even positive.


Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are another type of mental health condition that can run in families. Many times, life events contribute to or cause these disorders, but if you have people with anxiety in your family, it’s possible that your teen will be more likely than average to develop one, too. Anxiety disorders can range from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorder.

If your teen needs to do things a certain way or with a specific ritual, or if he or she seems more afraid of events or objects than other teenagers, they might be suffering with anxiety. Another sign that your teen has anxiety is if he or she starts to have panic attacks. These are characterized by short periods of a racing heartbeat, breathlessness, a feeling of doom or dread, sweating, nausea, and sometimes chest pain. While a panic attack is scary for your teen and for anyone witnessing it, it’s not physically dangerous and will pass within a few minutes.


What To Do If You Suspect An Adolescent Mental Health Disorder

If you recognize symptoms of an adolescent mental health disorder, the best place to start is with his or her primary care physician. The doctor can run a psychological evaluation as well as a physical exam. He or she will probably want to do bloodwork to rule out physical causes of behavioral disturbances, mood issues, or anxiety symptoms. Bring a list of any mental health disorders that run in your family or in the family of your teen’s other parent; this can help narrow down what the problem might be in some cases. If the physician suspects that a mental health condition is responsible for the symptoms, you’ll likely be referred to a mental health professional for further treatment, which might include medications, counseling, or both.

Dealing with an adolescent mental health disorder is overwhelming and stressful for both you and your teenager. The good news is that even if someone in your family has a mental health issue, your teen has a good chance of having the disorder treated effectively because you are catching it while he or she is young. Impress upon your teen the importance of keeping up with therapy and/or medication; in some cases, these types of disorders require lifelong treatment. You’re in the position now to oversee your child’s treatment, but at some point, he or she will need to take responsibility for it. Counseling might help you, as his or her caregiver, to learn strategies to cope with the changes that mental health treatment might bring about in your child.