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Adolescence is both an exciting and challenging time. Children are growing into teens, gaining autonomy, and figuring out who they are. However, adolescents face a lot of pressure to fit in and conform to society’s expectations. Furthermore, their bodies and brains are still growing, which may have side effects and interfere with other parts of their lives.
Unfortunately, many adolescents experience mental health challenges but don’t always know how to get help and support. Here are the most common mental health challenges that adolescents experience as well as some tips on how to help them during this confusing and distressing time.
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of deep sadness, negative thinking, or loss of interest in hobbies and activities. It is one of the most common mood disorders that teens may experience. Some common symptoms of depression include:
- Intense feelings of sadness or despair
- Apathy or boredom
- Change in appetite
- Sleeping issues
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness
- Thoughts of suicide**
**If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.**
Like some other disorders in this list, keep in mind that teenagers are bound to experience feelings of sadness or depression from time to time. Experiencing a few bad days or moodiness does not necessarily mean that your teen has clinical depression. Depression is officially diagnosed if the person has experienced it for at least a few weeks. A therapist or psychologist will be able to make an accurate diagnosis.
Anxiety is characterized by feelings of terror or dread. There may be an obvious cause of the anxiety, or teens may experience these feelings consistently without a clear cause. The anxious thoughts and painful feelings of fear are difficult to control. Depending on the type of anxiety experienced, the affected teen may experience either anxiety attacks or panic attacks, which result in painful physical symptoms.
There are multiple anxiety disorders that teens can experience. They include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A counselor or psychologist will be able to accurately determine which type of anxiety your teen is living with.
Common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Restlessness and nervousness
- Sense of impending danger or doom
- Feelings of panic, dread, or intense fear
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Feeling weak
- Difficulty concentrating
- Uncontrollable anxious thoughts
- Sleeping difficulties
Unrealistic beauty standards and pressure to look a certain way have encouraged the increase of eating disorders, especially among youth. Eating disorders are characterized by persistent irregular eating habits combined with distressing thoughts or feelings. Teens with these disorders often live with low self-esteem and negative thoughts and perceptions about their body image.
Symptoms will vary depending on the eating disorder. Some teens will eat very little while others will binge. Therefore, if you witness your teen exhibiting any unusual eating behaviors, it is best to discuss the issue with a counselor or psychologist for an accurate diagnosis.
Some of the most common eating disorders include:
- Binge eating disorder
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder among adolescents characterized by hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. It can make it difficult for teens to succeed in school and may affect their personal lives and relationships.
Some common signs of ADHD include:
- Doesn’t pay attention to details
- Makes careless mistakes
- Struggles to remain focused on lectures, conversations, or extended reading assignments
- Has difficulty organizing tasks or work (ex. bad time management skills)
- May not follow through on instructions or forget to complete homework
- Misplaces items often
- Forgets daily tasks such as chores or homework
- Talks quickly and too much
- Inability to stay put for very long
- May finish people’s sentences or blurt an answer to a question before it was finished
- Interrupts others
Keep in mind not every teen who struggles to focus has ADHD. Some teens may not respond well to the traditional education model or may just not be interested in the subject matter. Only a psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose if your child has ADHD. Therefore, it is important to discuss the subject with them if you have concerns about your teen’s education and concentration issues.
Adolescents act out from time to time. This is a normal part of growing up (though it may be frustrating) as it is a way to assert independence and autonomy. However, if your adolescent shows consistent disregard for rules or laws, they may have conduct disorder.
Conduct disorder is a behavioral disorder characterized by antisocial behavior and delinquency. A teen with this disorder has no respect or regard for laws, rules, or social norms. Though normal teens may disregard these occasionally, a teen with conduct disorder will show consistent disregard, disrespect, and even violence.
Some consistent behaviors that may be a sign of conduct disorder include:
- Frequently skipping school
- Ignoring house rules or curfews
- Property damage
- Harming or abusing animals or people
- Frequent pranks
- Running away
Conduct disorder is a serious condition as it may not only harm the affected teen but everyone around them as well. If you suspect your adolescent has this disorder, discuss the condition with a counselor or psychologist as soon as possible.
Though these five conditions are the most prevalent, this is not a comprehensive list. If you believe that your teen is experiencing a mental health condition that is not mentioned, then talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist about your concerns.
How To Support Teens With Mental Health Conditions
Teens have an awful lot of pressure put on them these days. They are often forced to conform to societal standards while in a phase where they desire to be free and independent. They are also expected to make pretty big decisions about their lives before their brain has fully developed, such as what career they should choose. With so much going on, it is no wonder that many live with mental health conditions.
Luckily, there are many ways you can support your teen through this time. Below are a few tips that you can utilize to support your teen’s mental health.
- Take them to a counselor.
- Discuss other treatment options with their counselor, such as other forms of therapy or medication prescribed by a psychiatrist.
- Educate yourself and know the warning signs of mental health conditions.
- Be supportive but don’t enable all behaviors.
- Have open conversations about their challenges and mental health
- Avoid being dismissive.
- Encourage social interactions and healthy hobbies.
It can be heartbreaking to watch your teen live with a mental health condition. However, with treatment, support, and self-care, they can still experience a rich life filled with happiness and satisfaction. For more information on how to support and help your teen, head on over to BetterHelp.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.