The life that teenagers face is synonymous to a roller coaster that seems to last for many years. With so many ups and downs, the young adults can feel like that they are on the verge of anything and this can happen long after they have entered puberty. The early adulthood is the time when it is marked with various changes and also with growth emotionally, mentally and physically. It is also the time when mental health disorders can affect them. These are illnesses that can have that severe impact on the daily life of an individual in the years to come.
First of all, it is widely understood that the young adults can get moody, angst-ridden and cranky even without the influence of a mental health condition. It is simply part of them growing up. Teenagers hate or love things and just out of the blue one day; it can make them feel like the world is falling on them. Since young adults are prone to such mood swings and can sometimes seem to be out of control, it can be difficult to identify what are normal growth pains apart from mental health illness. However, some indicators make you identify the young adult’s bad mood might be a little serious:
- Dramatic changes in their appetite or they have sudden weight gain or weight loss
- Continual anger, depression or irritability
- Socially withdrawn
- Grumpiness or bad mood keeps on persisting, which lasts longer than a couple of days
Overview of mental health problems with teenagers
According to ChildTrends.org, approximately 1 in 5 adolescents comes diagnosed with a mental health problem. Some of the common ones are autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, and other behavioral and personality disorders. It is also the same time for young adults where mental illnesses can be recognized when you live or spend time with them. There are about half of all mental health problems and substance abuse having roots all the way from age 14. The number goes up by a third at age 24.
Family situations and genetics also play a role in mental health issues with the adolescents. Males usually develop autism spectrum and behavioral disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD. Females, on the other hand, are prone to eating disorders and depression. People that were raised in families wherein abuse is rampant, either emotional, sexual or physical, or whose parents have low levels of education or they have mental health problems of their own tend to be predisposed to mental health issues of their own.
Common mental health problems
According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, an estimate of 3.7 percent among children from age 8 to 15 are diagnosed with depression in the US alone. It is the most prominent mental health problem in this age group wherein at least 25 percent of the high school students show one or two mild symptoms. One citation in the British Medical Journal states that from 8 – 10 percent of them display severe symptoms of depression. When it comes to depression among adults, it is also almost the same with depression among teenagers is sometimes marked with the same overwhelming melancholy, anger, and sadness. However compared to adults, teenagers have more irritability than with sadness. It even comes with hostility. Teenagers that are experiencing depression may even become hypertensive and sometimes complain about stomachaches or headaches, as per record from HelpGuide.org. Added to these signs and the general symptoms as stated above, you might also want to look out for the following symptoms as well:
- Frequent crying
- Extreme disinterest or fatigue
- Problems concentrating
- Feelings of helplessness, loneliness or worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts or often get preoccupied with death
Followed by depression is anxiety disorder and it has struck a lot of teenagers that often leads them to suicide. These anxiety disorders include panic disorder, phobias, PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder. Around 10 percent of teenagers suffer from at least one of the aforementioned anxiety disorder. Again, just like with the adult mental health problems, the aforementioned variants of anxiety problems can get similar. OCD in teenagers is marked by the continual thinking of the same impulse or image. Traumatic events in the life of a child can also trigger PTSD, which is just the same with extreme fears, things or places that can signal phobias. Teenagers that are suffering from anxiety may even appear withdrawn, fearful or highly uneasy. They can also display behaviors that are overly emotional, unrestrained or unresponsive.
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and body dysmorphia are three of the common eating disorders that affect 5 percent of the teenagers, and this can lead to very serious complications on the body. They are way more than just exercising or dieting just to maintain weight. Bulimia is a kind of purging disorder wherein the person may binge on eating and purge out the food right after, while anorexia is about eating small amounts or not eating food at all. This kind of mental health problem is very common among teenage girls and the young women, too. The culprit, according to studies, is due to social pressures that are placed upon them by their peers, standards set by beauty magazines and even the entertainment industry. Signs of these disorders may include frail or thin appearance, dramatic weight loss or going straight to the bathroom right after they have eaten. They are also unhappy almost all the time, especially when it comes to their appearance. They also fear the thought or see that they have gained weight.
ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
It is another one of the common mental health issues that affect adolescents from age 8 to 15 years of age, estimated 8.6 percent in this age group. As the year progresses, the number gets higher at 9 percent among the teens from 12 – 17 years of age. ADHD is marked by its short attention span, hyperactivity, disorganization, and impulsiveness; it is a disorder that has become prevalent all over the US. Based on the records of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the cases of ADHD can be identified before reaching adolescence. Teenagers that have this disorder become bored so easily, they fail with focusing or concentrating for short periods of time, and they tend to be disruptive. This kind of mental health issue is evident in both school and at home, but it presents a lot more in school. The parents can identify this since their child may not entirely be cognizant of her or his actions. When ADHD is treated early, the symptoms can decrease at least by 50 percent when they reach adulthood.
Drug Abuse in Teens
A lot of teens try tobacco, alcohol or even drugs. Some of them try substances for just a few times and then stop. Others have difficulty controlling their urges. The latter is what is referred to as substances or drug abuse.
Teens love to try some substances such as household chemicals, prescription drugs and OTC medicines and even illegal drugs. Teenagers go more with alcohol than any other substance. The most-used illegal drug that teens get into is marijuana.
The reason why teens get into substance abuse because of the following:
- They love the way it feels in the body
- They have the desire to fit in certain groups or with their friends.
- They feel that it makes them cool and more like a grown up.
Teenagers love to try new things and love to take risks, so there is the tendency that they drink alcohol or take drugs excessively because of the love the thought of it, which makes them very excited.
The ones that are more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse are those that are not valued or connected with their parents. Teenagers are also likely to follow a family member that has such problems. Young adults that have very poor self-esteem, mental health or emotional problems like depression, are at more risk than others without.
The treatment for teenagers when facing various mental health problems depends on what they are diagnosed with.
In this section, the doctors will determine what kind of treatment that the young adult has to go through. Sometimes when the severity level of depression is too low, the doctors will likely just assign a therapist to the teenager and have to follow through the sessions. When the severity is high, the doctor will combine medication and talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, which is the most effective on teens that are suffering from depression.
Here are the medications that are likely be prescribed to teens diagnosed with depression: escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac). Parents or guardians are to ask the doctor about the medication options and the side effects that are likely to happen with it since depression medication usually comes with a side effect. You should also weigh the benefits and its risks.
Parents have to watch out for antidepressants because they are not to be taken lightly. They should be followed according to the prescription of the doctor, too. There are some cases wherein children, teenagers and young adults under age 25 may have increased thoughts of suicide or intense behavior when they are taking antidepressants, especially with the first couple of weeks after starting to take it or when the dosage is changed. Anyone taking antidepressants is to be closely monitored for any unusual behavior or worsening depression. But on most teens, the benefits outweigh the risks of taking antidepressants.
The treatment of eating disorders for teenagers is different from adults. Those that are suffering from eating disorders need these three major treatments:
- Love and car
- Safe place with safe relationship
Since eating disorders sometimes start during adolescence, and even in childhood, those that are suffering from eating disorders are likely to get emotional developmental delays that may trigger addition, which then slows down the emotional development.
Anxiety can be chronic when it is not treated properly. Most teens find that they need guidance from a professional so that they will be able to manage their anxiety successfully and at the same time overcome it.
There are some scientifically proven and very effective treatment options made available for teens suffering from anxiety. These two treatments are CBT and medication.
This is a kind of talk therapy that has been proven scientifically to treat anxiety disorders. CBT teaches the child techniques and skills that he or she can use in reducing her or his anxiety.
The child will be able to learn in identifying patterns of negative thinking and replace them with positive ones, including their behavior. He or she will also learn to make a distinction of unrealistic thoughts from the realistic ones. They will also receive “homework” wherein they get to practice what they have learned during their therapy. They are the techniques that the child can use right away and in the long-term.
The therapist can also work with parents to ensure the progress of their child in school and at home. Or the therapist can also provide advice on how the whole family can manage the symptoms of their child the best.
CBT is usually short-term, which lasts for around 12 weeks, but its benefits are for long-term.
- DBT or dialectical behavioral therapy is the emphasis of taking responsibility for one’s problems and aids the children to examine on how they can deal with intense negative
- ACT or acceptance and commitment therapy – this therapy makes use of strategies of acceptance and with mindful It teaches children to live in the moment and go through experiences without judgment. It is taught as a way for them to cope with unwanted sensations, feelings, and thoughts.
The medications for anxiety only depends on when the patient needs it, but they are similar in patients that are diagnosed with depression.