Okay, many teen dress oddly. It’s natural. They’re in the process of discovering themselves; they’re trying out new clothes, new roles, and new social groups. They’re trying to figure out where they belong.
And it’s a natural part of this stage in life. Normal psychological tasks for adolescence include finding their independence, their uniqueness, and the role they will play in life as an adult.
In the meantime, however, is the excruciating struggle of bearing with a teen’s confusion and growing pains. During this stage, an adolescent is growing immensely physically, emotionally, and mentally. The brain is literally still undergoing transformation, a growth that won’t complete until about age 24. During this time, teens might behave in odd ways. They might choose to wear something that makes you question the sanity of children these days.
However, there’s a line a fine line that a child can cross which might begin to indicate that he or she has a mental illness. Oddness – dressing or behaving oddly – can be a nonspecific sign of a teen mental health problem. It’s a different than the sort of oddness described above where teens are acting out their adolescent adversities. Instead, the oddness of a psychological disorder usually begs the question of whether that person is “normal”.
It’s hard to think that way about your own child, but if he or she is exhibiting the following behaviors, a psychological evaluation might be in order.
- Mumbling to him/herself
- Sobbing out of the blue
- Having panic attacks
- Difficulty engaging with others
- Challenges with maintaining eye contact
- Possessing odd beliefs and interests
- Having unusual perceptual experiences
- Having unusual emotional reactions
- Being easily suspicious of others
- Tendency to be a loner
- Tend to be seen by others as strange
- Avoidance of others and social interactions
- Difficulty picking up social cues
- Holding peculiar postures
- Walking strangely
- Having fixed preoccupations and obsessions
These unusual behaviors and personality traits likely won’t all be found in one person. This list is a collection of odd behaviors and tendencies of a variety of different illnesses, such as Asperger’s disorder, Autism, Schizophrenia, Schizotypal Personality Disorder, and Schizoid Personality Disorder.
These disorders represent a wide range of mental illnesses of varying different classifications. For instance, Asperger’s syndrome and Autism are both neurological disorders that include impairments in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behavior.
Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that often includes the frightening experience of psychosis. Psychosis is a symptom of mind that typically shows up in late adolescence – if it’s going to show up at all. Psychosis is considered to be an experience of the mind (psyche) characterized by the loss of contact with reality and including either hallucinations or delusions. Schizophrenia affects thinking, feeling, movement, and behavior. It is a severe mental illness that can significantly affect a teen’s life.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder and Schizoid Personality Disorder are classified as personality disorders. These are considered to be teen mental health problems in which there are long-lasting unhealthy behaviors, thought patterns, and inner experiences, which seem to hold true across many areas of an adolescent’s life and are not usually well accepted in the culture. These patterns tend to develop early and are typically unchanging or inflexible, bringing about significant distress in life. Those who have Schizotypal Personality Disorder and Schizoid Personality Disorder don’t usually experience psychosis (a break from reality) but tend of have traits similar to those seen in schizophrenia.
The oddness that an adolescent displays is, in most cases, quite natural for their age, their exploration of self and life, and the social groups they spend time with. However, if the oddness they carry is similar to the ways listed above, seeing a psychiatrist for a psychological evaluation could be warranted. It’s important to note that if this is the case, the onset of psychosis, should it affect a teen, usually takes place during late adolescence.
Once a psychological evaluation is complete, you’ll have a direction in which to pursue treatment if needed.
Hicks, J.W. (2005). 50 signs of mental illness: A user-friendly guide to psychiatric symptoms and what you should know about them. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press