Treatment of Teens with Depression, Anxiety, and Bipolar Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), research indicates that all lifetime cases of mental illness begin at the age of 14. Evidence points to the presence of a psychological illness in these teens even before symptoms develop.


Through more and more thorough research on the brain, scientists are learning about parts of the brain that reveal early stages of mental illness that appear later in life. Some of these mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, ADHD, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Eating Disorders, and Schizophrenia.


The following addresses some common questions received by NIHM and aims to provide some helpful answers:


How are mental Illnesses diagnosed in children and teens?


When a child or teen visits a psychologist with presenting symptoms, that mental health professional will assess those symptoms as well as take an inventory of past experiences, history of the family, impairments in functioning, and other relevant information. He or she will then compare that to the list of symptoms required to make a particular diagnosis.


Although arriving at a diagnosis may be difficult, doing so can lead to the right treatment plan, which can directly address the symptoms and possibly heal the illness altogether.


Will a teen get better with mental health treatment?


Some adolescents will get better with the right treatment. There are very few psychological illnesses that will simply get better with time. In most cases, therapy and/or medication is required to treat illnesses such as teen depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.


Are there forms of treatment aside from psychotropic medication?


Yes, there are many forms of therapy that can address a teen’s mental state. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), and others are commonly used for depression, anxiety, and teen bipolar disorders. Although this isn’t always the case, medication combined with therapy can provide a greater chance of arriving at and maintaining mental health.


How should psychotropic medication be used in the treatment of teen mental illness?


Medication should not be used alone. NIMH indicates that medication should be used in conjunction with other treatment forms such as therapy, educational classes, and/or behavior management techniques.


Are there certain medications to use with certain illnesses?


Yes. Psychotropic medication includes stimulants, mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and antipsychotics. Dosages are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and depend on a child’s age. NIMH has created a booklet that describes types of medication appropriate for various age ranges.


What resources are available at my teen’s school?


If your child or teen is experiencing challenges with his or her education and you feel it is a result of a mental illness, you can request a psychological evaluation. Once a teen is evaluated, he or she may be eligible for special education services. However, not all mental illnesses are eligible for these types of services. However, there are other options for children and teens who do not meet this eligibility and who may need additional support in school.


Where can parents and families get support?


If a child or teen has a mental illness, it can be very difficult on parents and on the family unit as a whole. The stress of a mental illness in the family can lead to missed work, strain on family relationships, physical and mental exhaustion, and poor physical health. It’s common that when parents and caregivers are stressed, a child or teen may tend to steer away from the treatment plan. Local support groups for families, parents, and for a teen with particular illnesses can be helpful resources.


For additional information on how to get support for a teen with mental illness, visit the NIMH website. It is a great resource for teens and parents alike.




Treatment of Children with Mental Illness. NIMH. Retrieved on June 23, 2014 from