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If there is an age stage that brings the most amount of issues and conflict, it has to be the teenage stage of life. The changes the body goes through during adolescence bring with it a variety of changes that are bound to bring conflict between parents and their children.
Because of the speed of all these changes, your child no longer wants to be close to you, and you might wonder if your child is being normal or they are developing mental illnesses or turning to drugs such as alcohol or cocaine abuse. Because of their moodiness and feelings of wanting to establish their independence, it is hard to know if the changes are due to hormonal changes or something else.
What makes diagnosing teen mental health challenging?
Getting to a conclusive diagnosis for children and teens is difficult, as they may not completely understand what their feelings mean. That means that as a parent, it is very important to have a good and strong connection with your child so that you notice any unusual changes in them easily.
These mental conditions include schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and so on.
When a teen is trying to self-medicate, since they are either not getting any help, or they do not understand what is happening to them, they are more likely to turn to drugs or eating disorders.
Signs of mental illness
Most teenage cases of mental health problems have a very clear link to performance in school. If you see your adolescent is coming home with poor grades when they had a history of performing well before, it might be a sign that they need help in mental treatment.
Usually, the functions that are affected the most include their concentration ability, their relationships to school staff and peers, clear thinking, memory, planning, processing information, organizational ability, as well as their ability to complete tasks and solve challenges.
If these functions are impaired due to the illness, it can affect their ability to do well in school and even extra-curricular activities. However, it is important to note that failing grades is not always a sign of mental illness, but it is usually among the first signs to appear.
Changes in emotional behavior are a normal part of a teen’s life as their body adjusts to all the physical and emotional changes that is happening to them. However, that also means you should keep a close eye on them and monitor them for any unusual changes that are concerning.
This may seem confusing, but the general signs of mental illness in your teen will include overly aggressive tendencies, out of character behavior, debilitating and destructive, out of control, unusual or odd, and dangerous behavior.
It is also important to consider the whole picture as well, as emotional changes might not be caused by mental illnesses.
Moodiness is a normal aspect of the teen years, since the brain is developing, and there is also the tendency of a teen to be more emotional in their thinking instead of logical thinking processes. In fact, try to think of your own days as a teen – you were more impulsive in your responses, and you wanted to get away from your family; instead wanting to go and hang out with friends and explore the world.
However, it is important to note that the characteristic of impulsivity and emotional thinking and responses can also be because of mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, depression, and ADHD. How to tell whether theyare suffering from a mental condition is to observe if they exhibit self-harming tendencies, extreme mood changes, out of character behavior due to mood swings, dangerous and risky behavior from the mood changes, and having very intense and rough relationships with others including their peers.
Changes in their eating and sleeping patterns
If there is one thing all teens enjoy, it is sleep. Much more than the typical adult, and you might be wondering what they are doing in their bedrooms for hours at a time. In fact, teens actually need about nine hours of sleep daily.
However, be on the lookout for any unusual sleeping patterns. Apart from a drastic change in sleeping schedule and patterns, it is also important to note if the teen has lack of energy, having frequent nightmares, Stomachaches, drastic changes in eating patterns (overeating or under eating), headaches, backaches, and neglecting their personal hygiene.
Persistent and excessive need to escape
It is normal to want to escape the stresses of life sometimes, but some teenagers may take this desire to the extreme – they may want to run away from the symptoms of the mental illness they are going through, because they feel it is too difficult to manage.
Look out for drug and alcohol abuse, refusal to eat or controlling their food intake, self-harming tendencies like cutting their skin, excessive engagement in exercise or sports, excessive eating, and any other behavior that can cause harm to their bodies. These tendencies can also lead to suicides or drug overdoses.
Problems with their peers
When a teen is struggling with a mental illness, it can easily affect their relationships with their peers and school staff. For instance, they may see a classmate as their best friend one day, and the next day they are their worst enemy.
Look out for tendencies such as the teen acting out in school, frequent outbursts of aggression and anger, lacking the desire to go out with their friends, suddenly deciding to spend time with new peers, sexually acting out like engaging in risky sexual behavior, threatening to harm others, opposing authority, and a strong resistance to go to school.
Even though it is difficult to pinpoint normal teen behavior and contrast it to teen mental illness, the signs might shed some light and give you better knowledge on what to do. It is important to observe the teen carefully, so that you are able to see the signs early enough and help them navigate the illness.