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Teenagers are inherently programmed to make decisions and react from an emotional standpoint, not a rational standpoint. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain is not yet fully formed until a person reaches age twenty-five, at the earliest. This is the area of the brain that reigns rational thought, impulse control, executive planning, problem solving, decision-making, and more. Since the pre-frontal cortex of teens is underdeveloped, teenagers innately rely on the amygdala. The amygdala is the area of the brain that governs one’s emotions, impulsivity, emotional behavior, and motivation responsible for emotions. Although mental illness can develop at any age, studies have shown that it is not uncommon for dormant mental illnesses to surface and/ or for new mental illness to emerge during one’s adolescence and into one’s young adulthood. 

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is an umbrella term that encompasses distinct diagnosable mental health ailments, disorders, diseases, and conditions, that involve changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). The Mayo Clinic explains that mental health disorders in children are “generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills or regulation of emotions. These problems are distressing to children and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations.” The three the most common diagnosed mental health illnesses in young people are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): characterized by excessive and debilitating worry about everyday matters
  • Depression: characterized by persistent and intrusive feelings of emptiness, sadness, and/ or anxiety 
  • Social phobias: characterized by severe feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity in social settings

Although the exact cause for the development of a mental health disorder remains unknown, research has deduced that it likely involves a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

Warning Signs

Teenage mental illness is remarkably common. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) asserts that in the United States “at least one in five youth aged 9-17 years currently has a diagnosable mental health disorder that causes some degree of impairment; one in ten has a disorder that causes significant impairment.” Mental illness can present in a variety of ways. The highly emotional nature of teenagers can make it difficult to distinguish between typical teenage behavior and an indication that something may be awry. Although each specific mental illness has distinct characteristics, there are several general warning signs of which to be aware, including, but not limited to the following examples, provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Irritable
  • Easily fatigued
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed pastimes
  • Changes in energy level
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Changes in appetite
  • Agitated 
  • Lack of motivation
  • Academic challenges
  • Poor personal hygiene practices
  • Despondent 

Children are unique and will show symptoms differently, often in direct relation to age, biological makeup, and type of mental health disorder. There are many treatment options for teenagers struggling with mental illness. Ample support and a tailored treatment plan will provide a young person with the highest potential for a successful, long-term recovery. 

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.

OUR KNOWLEDGEABLE ADMISSIONS TEAM CAN BE REACHED 24/7 AT INFO@PACIFICRTC.COM OR CALL: 800-531-5769 We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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