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Teen Therapist: 10 Things Parents Should Know About Teen Mental Health

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When it comes to mental health and mental health issues, it can be difficult to keep track of it all. Conflicting information and misinformation can stand in the way of feeling confident in the way you talk about mental health with your children and the rest of your family members. In the process of trying to say the right thing, oftentimes, we lose track of the basics of emotional support and coping skills. Here are the top 10 things parents should know about teen mental health.

What is mental health?

It’s important for parents to understand what mental health is, and how talking about and treating mental health differs from talking about and treating physical health. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is as important as, and sometimes more important than, physical health.

Just like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life. Teens are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems because of the many changes they go through during adolescence. These changes can be exciting but also stressful. Teens are also more likely to take risks. A good mental health state allows teenagers to think clearly, manage their emotions, make good decisions, cope with stress, and relate to others.

Another way to look at it is mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual is able to cope with everyday life stressors and demands. A person with good mental health has the ability to

• Think clearly and make decisions

• Communicate effectively

• Manage emotions (such as anxiety and anger)

• Handle stress

• Maintain healthy relationships

• Get through tough times (such as a death or divorce in the family, illness, or job loss)

On the other hand, a person with poor mental health may have difficulty with some or all of these things.

What are some common mental health disorders in young adults?

There are many different types of mental health disorders that can affect teens. Some of the more common ones include:

Anxiety disorders: These involve feeling excessively worried or scared, even when there’s no real danger. Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias (such as fear of flying, heights, or dogs).

Depressive disorders: These involve feeling very sad, hopeless, and worthless. Teens with depression may also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue and aches and pains. Types of depressive disorders include major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder (formerly known as dysthymia).

Eating disorders: These involve having extreme and unhealthy attitudes and behaviors related to food and weight. Types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): This involves having trouble paying attention, focusing on tasks, and staying organized, as well as being overly active.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): This involves having obsessive thoughts (fixating on certain ideas) and/or compulsions (repeating certain behaviors over and over).

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): This can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or child abuse.

Psychotic disorders: These involve having abnormal thoughts and perceptions (psychosis). Examples include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

What are the signs of teenage mental health problems?

There are many different signs of mental health problems in teenagers. Some common ones include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and activities they used to enjoy
  • Problems at school, such as declining grades or skipping class
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or being excessively involved in activities
  • Excessive worry, sadness, anger, or irritability
  • Expressing a desire to hurt oneself or talking about suicide
  • Substance abuse
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in eating habits, such as overeating or undereating
  • Being easily agitated or angered
  • Experiencing hallucinations or delusions
  • Unusual or inappropriate behavior

How can parents tell if their teen is experiencing a mental health problem?

There are many different ways to tell if your teen is experiencing a mental health problem. As a parent, you may notice that your teen:

  • Is uncharacteristically withdrawn, irritable, or sad
  • Has lost interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Is skipping school or having problems with grades
  • Appears to be using alcohol or drugs
  • Has changes in eating habits
  • Has difficulty sleeping or is sleeping too much
  • Is easily agitated or angered
  • Is behaving in a way that is out of character for them

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to talk to your teen about what you’re seeing and why you’re concerned. It’s also a good idea to consult with your teen’s doctor or a mental health professional to get their opinion and discuss your concerns.

The Top 10 Things All Parents Should Know About Teen Mental Health

Now that you know some of the warning signs of mental health problems in teens, what can you do as a parent to help your teen if you think they may be struggling? Here are 10 things all parents should know about teen mental health:

1. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Just like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life. Mental health problems can range from mild to severe and can impact a person’s ability to function in daily life.

2. Mental health problems are common among teenagers.

It’s estimated that 1 in 5 teenagers experiences a mental health problem. That means that there are probably many teens in your life who are dealing with mental health issues, even if you don’t know it

3. Mental health problems can be caused by a variety of factors.

There is no single cause of mental health problems. Rather, they are usually the result of a combination of factors, including biological factors (such as genes), family history, and life experiences (such as trauma or stress).

4. Mental health problems can be treated.

Mental health problems are treatable. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most people with mental health problems can experience significant improvement in their symptoms and overall functioning.

5. Early intervention is key.

The earlier a mental health problem is identified, the better. Early intervention can help prevent the problem from getting worse and can make treatment more effective.

6. Social media could be contributing to depression and anxiety in teenagers.

Studies have shown that there is a correlation between social media use and depression and anxiety in teenagers. It’s thought that this is due to the fact that social media can give teens a distorted view of reality, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and comparison.

7. Parents should talk to their teens about mental health.

Parents should talk to their teens about mental health in an open and honest way. This can help foster a sense of trust and understanding between parent and child and can make it more likely that teens will feel comfortable coming to their parents with any problems they may be experiencing.

8. Parents should be aware of the warning signs of mental health conditions.

Some warning signs that a teen may be developing a mental health problem include withdrawal from friends and activities, drastic changes in mood or behavior, difficulty concentrating, sleeping too much or too little, and engaging in risky behaviors.

9. There are many resources available to parents of teens with mental health problems

There are many organizations, websites, and books that offer support and information to parents of teens with mental health problems.

Some of these include:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF)
  • The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
  • Mental Health America (MHA)

10. You are not alone.

You are not the only parent who is dealing with a teen with mental health problems. There are many other parents out there who understand what you are going through and can offer support and advice.

If you think your teen may be struggling with a mental health condition, the first step is to talk to them about it. If they are open to talking, try to listen without judgment and let them know that you are there for them. If they are not ready to talk, that’s OK too. Just let them know that you are available when they are ready.

When to Seek Professional Help

It can be difficult to know when to seek professional help for a child’s mental health problem. In general, it’s a good idea to consult with a mental health professional if you are concerned about your teen’s mental health and well-being.

There are several routes of treatment available, some that can be done at home and some that can be guided by mental health services and health care providers. Oftentimes, it’s a combination of both. Here are some things to keep in mind when seeking professional help for your teen:

1. Trust your instincts. If you feel like something is wrong, it just might be.

2. Don’t wait for the problem to go away on its own. Mental health disorders tend to get worse without treatment.

3. Be persistent. If you don’t get the help you need from one professional, don’t give up. Keep looking until you find someone who can help.

4. Seek out a mental health professional who has experience working with teenagers.

5. Make sure the treatment plan is tailored to your teen’s specific needs.

Bottom line

Mental health is a vital part of every teenager’s overall health and well-being. If you are concerned about your teen’s mental health, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Early intervention is key to treatment success.

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