A teen displaying behaviors and mannerisms that seem uncharacteristic or unhinged is sometimes assumed to be experiencing normal teenage behaviors. But there is a difference between teens going through a somewhat rebellious, angsty phase and instead battling with a mental health disorder.
It is important during this time of change and transition in your teen’s life to not overwhelm them with unneeded panic about a mental health condition. Instead, if you begin seeing signs that could indicate more than just teenage-related behaviors, it could be time to have a conversation with your teen.
Teen anxiety and depression
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health disorders a teen may develop. According to the CDC, 4.4 percent of children ages 3-17 displayed signs of depression, while 9.4 percent of the same age group showed symptoms of anxiety. This could be the result of a number of factors, including:
- A stressful home life
- School-related stress
- Trouble with friends
- Complicated emotions related to changes in their body
- Experiencing some form of abuse, including emotional, physical or sexual
- Being the victim of discrimination
The teenage years are particularly challenging due to peer pressure, increased difficulty of school work and potentially confusing/overwhelming physical changes. While not every single teen will develop a mental health disorder as a result, knowing what signs indicate mental illness can be helpful to parents seeking to provide for their child’s wellbeing.
Signs of teen depression and anxiety
If you are concerned about your teen’s behavior changes, it is important to know the difference between normal teen behavior and mental illness signs to make sure you are properly understanding and addressing any signs you’re seeing.
Changes in personality/mood
Mood swings happen, but they aren’t always harmless. Your teen may be suffering from depression if he or she seems to spend most of his or her time in a mixture of these emotions and states of mind:
- Irritability or anger: These emotions can lead to hostile and destructive behavior toward family and even friends; a previously peaceful child who displays uncharacteristic anger is likely experiencing internal turmoil of some kind
- Sadness or loneliness: It’s not uncommon for anyone who suffers from depression to live in a state of sadness, feeling alone, as if no one understands them. There may be an underlying problem if your teen begins withdrawing themselves from the people they once valued
- Feeling like a failure: It’s easy for a teen who is suffering from anxiety or depression to feel as if he or she isn’t living up to people’s expectations. But perpetually feeling like a disappointment can lead to negative behaviors and worsening mental health
- Insecurity, guilt: Profusely apologizing for insignificant mishaps may also indicate struggles with depression in your teen. It’s often accompanied by feeling as if he or she is a failure. Separation anxiety can also be attributed to depression
If you notice an increase in behavioral signs, it may be time to speak with your teen about their experiences and see if therapy is a viable option for helping them navigate this stage in life.
To some extent, rebellious behavior is not too concerning during teenage years – some exploration is to be expected, considering the fact that teen years are the first time, for some, where increased freedom occurs.
However, as with all things, there should be a balance, and rebellious behavior that is dangerous, illegal or puts lives in danger needs to be addressed as a serious concern. These kinds of behaviors include:
- Tobacco, alcohol and/or drug use: If you come across evidence of substance use, it’s important to address it with your teen immediately. These substances can have severe, long-lasting consequences for your teen, not to mention negative effects on their mental and physical well-being
- Promiscuity: In some cases, teens struggling with mental health will seek attention from others sexually in order to temporarily relieve themselves from their emotional struggles. However, this can lead to many unwanted consequences, not to mention a worsening of current mental health concerns
- Drop in academic performance: If your child is suffering from depression, they may be frequently tardy or even absent on a regular basis. A severe and sudden drop in grades may also be evidence that your teen is struggling with a mental disorder
If you notice these signs, there is no need to panic and rush your child to the nearest treatment center. What you should do, is sit your child down at a time when you can both have an honest conversation and talk with each other about what’s going on in your teen’s life. Allow them – without interruption – to express their thoughts, feelings and stresses. Provide them with a safe space in which to vocalize whatever challenges they are facing.
This conversation may not happen right away and may take a few attempts to get the full picture from your child. Be patient, open and caring with them, and have a game plan in place for providing them with whatever mental health care they may require.
Looking for teen mental health services?
Whether you’re seeking mental health treatment for your teen, or you as the parent need additional support navigating the needs of your child, High Focus Centers is here to help.
To learn more about our treatment programs for teens and families, contact us online or by calling our offices at 800-877-3628 to get in touch with someone today.