The American Psychiatric Association defines a mental disorder as “a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or development processes underlying mental functioning.” Although mental illness can develop at any age, studies have shown that it is not uncommon for dormant mental illnesses to surface or new mental illness to emerge during one’s adolescence and into one’s young adulthood. 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.” In many cases the pervasive symptoms associated with a mental health illness can be debilitating and interfere with a teenager’s ability to function optimally in his or her everyday life. According to findings from the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative half of all mental health conditions start by age 14 but most cases go undetected and untreated. To secure proper treatment, it is imperative to obtain an accurate mental health diagnosis as one’s diagnosis will greatly inform subsequent treatment recommendations.
What To Expect
The diagnosis process for mental illness is comprised of several components. The initial steps normally include undergoing a thorough physical exam as well as conducting various lab tests, such as blood work, a urine test, or a brain scan (e.g., to check thyroid function, screen for alcohol and drugs, etc.) to ensure symptoms are not being caused by something else. If no signs of physical illness are determined, the process continues with an assessment conducted by a mental health professional that specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illness.
The diagnostician conducting the psychological evaluation will ask in-depth questions about one’s reported symptoms (e.g., how long they last, how intense they are, etc.), how the symptoms interfere with one’s daily life, will make observations of one’s attitude and behavior, and may use psychological questionnaires to help determine a diagnosis. Mental health professionals also closely adhere to the criteria provided in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This manual contains descriptions, symptoms, diagnostic criteria as well as statistics concerning which sex is most affected by the illness, the typical age of onset, the effects of treatment, and common treatment approaches. 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. It is generally best to err on the side of caution when it comes to one’s mental health and when in doubt, pursue professional guidance to ensure proper treatment.
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.
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