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Signs Of Mental Illness In A Teenager

Teenagers are notorious for many things, including their moodiness, impulsivity, and newfound need for autonomy.

teen going through pubertyNavigating the challenges associated with supporting a teenager through his or her adolescence is par for the course when it comes to parenting. It is highly common for a parent of an adolescent to have feelings of defeat, as raising a teenager can, at times, seem like an impossible task. Adolescence is a time of incredible growth and maturation. 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. Mental illness can present in a variety of ways. Every person is different, and those struggling with mental illness will likely exhibit its associated symptoms in a nuanced and unique manner. 

What Is Mental Illness?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses are defined as “health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these).” It is widely known that teenagers are highly emotional human beings, often fraught with big feelings that are seemingly impossible to integrate and/ or process. As such, it is imperative to note that not all teenagers have a mental illness. Mental illness greatly interferes with a teenager’s ability to function in his or her daily life. Mental illness is an umbrella term that encompasses a myriad of diagnosable mental health ailments, disorders, diseases and conditions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the manual that is most commonly referenced and used by mental health clinicians for the assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders, as it is a compilation of all recognized mental disorders (aggregated and regularly updated over the past decade). 

Signs and Symptoms

By nature of adolescence it can be challenging to identify the presence of a mental illness in a teenager. Due to the fact that there are so many different types of mental illness, there is no universal way mental illness is expressed by those suffering from it. There are, however, several warning signs of teenage mental illness of which to be aware, including the following examples:

  • 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 

The above examples could manifest in any combination. The signs exhibited will likely vary, as they will depend on the specific condition as well as the teenager. Simply because a teenager exhibits some or all of the above examples, it is not a forgone conclusion that he or she is suffering from a mental illness. A mental health clinician looks at specific criteria to determine if a teen has a mental illness. In order to secure the appropriate treatment for his or her mental illness, a teenager must be properly diagnosed. 

Common Types of Teenage Mental Illness

Although the DSM-5 is filled with approximately 297 disorders, there are three types of mental health illnesses that are most common amongst adolescents. They include:

  • 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

Mental illness in teens is, unfortunately, highly prevalent. Teenage mental illness is also highly treatable. The earlier a teenager obtains treatment for his or her mental illness is sooner he or she is able to learn to manage its symptoms through the new, healthy coping mechanisms. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of 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 for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. 

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