Teens with Mental Illness Need More Than Just Medication





When teens struggle with symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses, medication can help ease their challenging symptoms. Medication can balance the mood swings in bipolar disorder, lessen their anxiety, and prevent periods of depression. However, underneath those symptoms there may be underlying issues that led to the anxiety, depression, or mood swings in the first place. A teen might also have needs for better coping with their illness, an emotional outlet for expressing their frustrations, and types of support that medication cannot provide.


In fact, it has become clear among mental health professionals that medication alone is not a complete treatment for mental illness. Research indicates that the combination of both medication and therapy leads to the best results. Research also points to the fact that with both medication and therapy, illnesses such as depression and anxiety can heal over time. For some parents, having their teen on medication might be the only answer. They and their teen may see that the symptoms have, in most cases, gone away. Yet, with deeper reflection, parents might identify that their teens have greater mental health needs than simply taking away symptoms. Frequently, therapy and other forms of psychological and emotional support are necessary in order to make the necessary lifestyle changes that will bring long lasting psychological health.


For instance, in therapy, a mental health provider can explain why medication or other forms of treatment are necessary as well as provide a clear explanation of a teen’s diagnosis. Most teenagers are opposed to medication, and some don’t want to participate in other forms of treatment, such as group therapy or rehabilitative services. Yet, a therapist can assist in outlining the benefits of treatment and facilitate an ongoing open dialogue about these topics. Also, teens need relationships in which they feel seen and understood. They need authentic connection and healthy guidance. In some cases, parents simply cannot do this for their teens. They may not have the time or the parent-teen relationship may be impaired in some way.


However, parents can secure a therapist for a teen to work with. And out of this there are many benefits for teens. With the right medication combined with therapy, a teen’s mood can stabilize and he or she can return to a healthy level of functioning at school, home, and work. Below you’ll find a list of the types of psychotropic medication often used with adolescents as well as types of therapies that adolescents might participate in:



  • Anti-Anxiety
  • Anti-Psychotic
  • Antidepressants
  • Mood Stabilizers
  • Antic-Convulsant
  • Psycho-stimulants
  • Central Nervous System Depressants


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)
  • Psychoanalytic Theory

These are types of medications as well as types of therapies your teen may participate in while receiving mental health treatment. When medication is combined with therapy, there is a greater chance of arriving at and maintaining mental health.