Recognizing Mental Health Issues In Teenagers

Mental health is a term that encompasses the emotional, psychological, as well as social well-being and influences how a person feels, acts and thinks. These aspects determine how we handle everyday stresses of modern life, how we relate to other people, and how we make decisions in everything we do. Just like our physical health, our mental health should be one of our primordial concern, so we have to take care of it also. Good mental health means a person is generally able to think and react in ways needed to live a more productive life.


“There is an ongoing debate about whether or not teenagerhood is a cultural phenomenon or whether it is a description of a transformation that occurs mentally and emotionally during adolescence.” That is according to Richard Zwolinski, LMHC. As children undergo a transition into the adolescent stage, a lot of changes occur in their bodies. These changes may include physical, emotional, social and behavioral changes. Teenagers become detached from their families during this time as their outside their family develops.

Often, people in our society consider these changes as part of the normal developmental growth of children brought about by hormones secreted during these formative years. But what if a friend or a family member starts to manifest signs or behaviors extremely different from what is perceived to be the norm? Although it is difficult to diagnose, there are times when teens exhibit feelings or actions that become difficult, or even impossible to cope.  It is when mental health problems set in. “Our teens are taught just by observing their world that they need one too, and they get that message very early on.” says Susie Raskin MA, LMHC

Mental health problems in teenagers from all walks of life are on the rise. Experts say that one out of five teens suffers from this disorder. It may range from the more common forms such as anxiety, anger, depression, phobias, hypomania and mania, aggressiveness, self-harm, eating and sleeping disorders to the less common ones that include schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoia, and bipolar disorders.

Factors That Affect Your Mental Health

Several causative factors may contribute to the rising prevalence of mental health issues in teens. These factors include:

  •     Social Media influence
  •     Quality of home life
  •     Relationship with peers
  •     Violence including harsh parenting, bullying, and sexual assault
  •     Traumatic experience
  •     Socio-economic problems including poverty
  •     Biological factors such as brain chemistry
  •     Family history of mental illness passed on through the genes

Characteristics Of People With Mental Health Issues

The common symptoms observed from this disorder include changes in a person’s personality, thought processes, and social interactions. If you suspect someone may be struggling with a mental health problem, look out for one or more of these symptoms that are reliable indicators that the person needs help.

  1. Disruptive changes in behavior like challenging authority (yelling or fighting with family members) and above-normal level of aggressiveness and excess anger that seems to have no root cause;
  2. Social withdrawal from family and friends or lack of interest in socializing with people;
  3. Poor concentration on tasks and difficulty with memory, attention, or focus;
  4. Unexplained changes in mood with abrupt changes in energy levels such as an active child suddenly becomes quiet and withdrawn;
  5. Smoking, drinking or using drugs more than usual;
  6. Thinking of self-harm like deliberately cutting or hitting oneself or hurting others;
  7. An unexpected or dramatic decline in school performance resulting in failing grades;
  8. School absenteeism due to loss of interest or lack of motivation in going to school;
  9. Hearing voices or believing things that are not true;
  10. Easily becomes suspicious of others;
  11. Feelings of sadness or loneliness, hopelessness, and fear;
  12. Loss of desire to participate in previously enjoyed activities like hobbies and favorite pastime;
  13. Started avoiding places or situations;
  14. Sleep issues including excessive sleeping, difficulty in sleeping, insomnia;
  15. Showing signs of increased anxiety or worry;
  16. Inability to tell the difference between reality and fantasy;
  17. Loss of appetite that results in noticeable weight loss due to bulimia and anorexia nervosa or excessive weight gain due to overeating;
  18. Neglect of personal appearance and hygiene;
  19. Having unexplained body aches or pains like headaches or stomaches;
  20. Talk of suicide or shows suicidal tendencies.

“When a child is diagnosed with mental illness, it can overwhelm the family. On the one hand, many parents feel that they finally have answers for behaviors that are confusing and often scary,” says Katie Hurley, LCSW. However, mental health issues that affect teens are treatable. Do not ignore these signs. Everybody’s goal is to spread awareness to young people the importance of early detection of these warning signs for the healthcare professionals to institute appropriate interventions, medications, counseling, and support groups thereby achieving a faster recovery that can improve the lives of these adolescents. Let us all help these teens struggling with mental health illness.

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