As an age group, adolescents (10-19) can be overlooked in discussions about mental health treatment, with problems often dismissed as growing pains or typical angst. But according to the World Health Organization, suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19 year-olds, and depression is one of the primary illnesses and disabilities for adolescents across the globe.
Brianna and her family were shocked when Brianna’s younger sister attempted suicide. As Brianna explained, they never thought something like that would happen in their family. The family was unsure about what would happen next and were very emotional when Brianna’s sister was brought to our facility. Now Brianna works with us to carry out our mission of filling unmet needs.
Emotional disorders and other mental health conditions are usually things that can catch a family off guard. We understand that these conditions aren’t always apparent and are often very unexpected when they surface. The good news is that there is help available. Adolescents can receive care for these issues and families can once again look forward to a healthier future.
The Relationship Between Adolescents and Mental Health
It’s known that half of all mental health conditions appear by the age of 14, yet most of them remain undetected and go untreated. Identifying and treating these conditions earlier in life will improve the future physical and mental well-being of an adolescent into adulthood.
Treating mental health issues early can help prevent it from growing in severity and will allow an adolescent to develop important management skills and coping techniques that will benefit them in the long-run.
Genetics is often misconstrued as being the largest determining factor in developing a mental illness. Many external factors can contribute to the development of a condition, and many variables also make an adolescent more vulnerable and at-risk of illness.
A number of environmental factors are important for adolescents to maintain a healthy mental state. These factors include: getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, properly developing social and interpersonal skills, and managing stress and emotions. Supportive families and communities are also highly beneficial for developing adolescents.
Factors that put youth into a more vulnerable state include:
- Increased stressors (desire to fit in with peers, wanting more independence, exploring sexual identity, increased access and use of technology)
- Bullying, abusive household, sexual violence
- Socioeconomic worries
- Unequal access to services or quality services
Common Mental Health Disorders in Adolescents
There are a multitude of mental health conditions that adolescents can develop. We have compiled a list of some of the most common ones and their symptoms. In order to get your adolescent the care they need, identifying potential red flags can be helpful in getting them a diagnosis and proper treatment.
Depression is one of the most well recognized mental illnesses in adolescents. It causes an individual to feel persistently sad and can cause a loss of interest in activities and lead to social isolation. Depression can affect physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Repeated feelings of sadness
- Frustration over small things
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Often leads to a drop in grades
- Lack of interest in interacting with family and friends
- Often accompanied by social isolation that amplifies feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Low self-esteem
- Sleeping a lot
- High sensitivity to failure
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Thoughts of death
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Ex.) Sarah comes home from school often exhausted and naps for several hours. She’s been more tired lately and keeps to herself more. Her mom finds a stash of bandages and razor blades under her bed that seem to point to self-harm.
Depression is also classified as an emotional disorder, but due to its notoriety in the mental health sphere, depression has been given its own listing. An emotional disorder can include depression and anxiety, but it can also include episodes of excessive anger, irritability, and frustration.
- Excessive worry about everyday things
- Overreactions of anger or frustration with minor happenings
- Excessively irritable with people or circumstances that seem relatively minor
- Extreme mood changes
- Frequently experiencing fatigue
- Excessive anger or violence
- Difficulty coping with stress or emotional control
Ex.) Noah gets overly frustrated when he gets a math problem wrong. When he erases his answer the paper rips and in a fit of anger he rips the workbook page out and begins tearing up other pages.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a condition that causes excessive and constant worry about numerous matters. An individual could worry about school, work, family, health, money, and more. Worry is something that is very difficult to control with this condition, and individuals often feel like they are losing control over situations.
- Inability to stop or control worry
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating or experiencing a blank mind
- Being unusually nervous or jumpy
- Constantly feeling anxious or jittery
- Inability to relax
- Overthinking situations and circumstances, especially small, every day matters
Ex.) Nina has trouble getting to sleep at night. Her mind is constantly thinking about something and she feels like she can’t shut off her mind to rest. She constantly has a feeling of dread and fear lingering in her head.
Individuals with a social phobia experience extreme feelings of self-consciousness, insecurity, and anxiety in a social setting.
- Intense fear of being judged by others in public
- Belief that one will be viewed very negatively by others
- Avoiding social situations in an attempt to avoid embarrassment
- Avoidance of social interaction due to the belief that stuttering, blushing, or making a fool of oneself will occur
- Interruption of daily routine due to desire to avoid particular situations
Ex.) Aiden and his friends stop at an ice cream shop together. Aiden wants a milkshake but says he’s fine without one in order to avoid having to speak with the employee at the register.
There are a variety of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. These conditions affect women more than men and can often co-occur with anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder.
- Skipping meals or making excuses to not eat
- Very restrictive focus on healthy eating
- Heavy focus on checking one’s image in the mirror for flaws
- Constant mention of being fat and discussing weight loss
- Eating large amounts of sweets and fatty foods
- Going to the bathroom during or right after meals
- Tooth enamel decay due to excessive vomiting
- Calluses on the knuckles due to induced vomiting
- Eating excessive amounts of food
- Eating in secret
Ex.) Once a week, Emily eats a lot more food than necessary in one sitting, even eating lots of junk food or fattening foods. After eating, she takes laxatives, even when she doesn’t need them, and exercises in a way that seems over the top and unhealthy.
When Is Treatment Necessary?
Oftentimes, mental health issues, and usual teenage behavior can be tricky to differentiate. They often share many of the same symptoms including aggression, periods of feeling down, and low self-esteem.
If you notice any of the symptoms that we mentioned above and notice significant changes in your child’s behavior and routine, it can be very beneficial to seek a consultation with a medical professional. So many cases of mental illness are undiagnosed and untreated, leading to more physical and mental health problems in adulthood. Those unmet treatment needs can carry many burdens, so it is usually best to defer to medical care at the first signs of mental illness.
Seeking professional medical assistance will ensure that your child can receive the care they need earlier rather than later and fulfill their emotional health needs. Because of how useful therapy can be with mental illness, it’s always best to get an official diagnosis. Even if there’s a chance your child does not have a mental health condition, you can receive reassurance knowing they are developing normally in their adolescent phase.
What Happens During Treatment?
At SUN Behavioral Columbus, we focus on treating our patients using evidence-based practices that have been shown to be effective in treating mood disorders. We use a combination of psychopharmacology and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Psychopharmacology refers to the use of medication to help manage symptoms of a mental or behavioral disorder. The use of psychopharmacology does not mean an instant recovery will happen. Medication is a tool used to allow an individual to better focus and engage with our therapists during CBT.
CBT is a therapy that focuses on helping our patients uncover the deeper psychological issues that can affect their mental health. CBT works by helping patients identify unhelp thought patterns and ideas and empowers them to change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in reaction to a situation.
We believe that empowering our patients to be the expert in their life and identify their needs and obstacles is an important part of therapy. In collaboration with our psychiatrists and our dedication to continued, long-term recovery, we can fulfill our patients’ unmet needs and help them live out a healthier future.
At SUN Behavioral Health Columbus we look forward to fulfilling our community’s unmet needs. You can find quality support and treatment for your child here. We look forward to empowering all our patients to know their own lives and assist them in overcoming obstacles. Contact us today at 614-706-2786 to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is adolescent therapy?
Adolescent therapy focuses on identifying the underlying psychological issues that influence mental health and emotional distress. Once any emotional issues are identified, a therapist works with the adolescent to identify and enact healthy methods of coping and managing emotional distress.
How do I find a therapist for my teenager?
At SUN Behavioral Health Columbus, we have trained psychiatrists and trauma-informed staff members who are all able to assist with treatment.
Your child’s pediatrician can also recommend and refer you to qualified therapists.
How do I know if my child needs counseling?
If your child exhibits some of the symptoms of the various mental health illnesses addressed above, you may consider consulting a medical professional. If symptoms are exhibited, it does not necessarily guarantee that your child has a mental or behavioral health problem, but checking the issue to make sure it can be treated if it is a mental health issue is beneficial.
What is the most common psychological problem in adolescence?
Anxiety, depression, and eating disorders are some of the most common conditions in adolescence. If your child experiences any of these conditions, it’s advisable to seek treatment. Treatment can prevent the conditions from growing in severity and allow for better physical and mental health in the future.