While it is common to think of children and teenagers as being more carefree than adults, their lives also face a lot of ups and downs that can potentially cause teenage mental health the suffer. Underneath their general teenage moodiness, many teenagers are struggling with their mental health.
As their parents, it can be hard sometimes to determine if your teen is eating more because of a growth spurt or depression or if they are snippy because of their age or mental health. Since it can be difficult to spot, sometimes mental health disorders are missed until later in life. In this article, we will look at the facts, causes, symptoms, and treatments for teenage mental health.
Facts About Teenage Mental Health
Teenagers can face pretty much all of the same mental health conditions that adults can. However, there are a few that are more commonly seen in teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the following teenage mental health conditions affect children between the ages of three and 17:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 9.8 percent.
- Anxiety 9.4 percent.
- Depression 4.4 percent.
- Eating disorders 2.7 percent, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Many of these mental health conditions can impact their physical and mental development and, if left untreated, can continue into their adulthood and potentially the rest of their lives.
What about substance abuse?
Substance abuse is another issue entirely, and it is common among teenagers. It can especially be a problem when it is combined with a mental health issue, as it usually makes them worse. According to the CDC, 15 percent of high school students have reported ever using drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and methamphetamines. Another 14 percent have misused prescription drugs. About 29 percent of high schoolers also drink alcohol, and 14 percent say they binge drink.
What causes mental health issues for teenagers?
There is a surprising amount of pressure placed on teenagers today, which can lead to their mental health suffering. Let’s take a look at some of the most common things that can hurt a teen’s mental health.
Biological Factors for Teen’s Mental Health
There are also biological factors at play when it comes to a teen’s mental health. These include:
- Brain injury
- Infection or disease
- Prenatal damage
- Substance abuse
Academic Pressures Hurting Teens’ Mental Health
School is a huge pressure on teens that can hurt their mental health significantly. There are a lot of things related to school that can impact them mentally. Let’s take a look at the school-related pressures teens face:
- The need to get good grades.
- Pressure to get into a good college or university.
- Needing to be a superstar in school sports, the performing arts, or other extracurriculars.
- Busy school schedules and homework that does not let them have enough time for rest, relaxation, and fun.
Teens tend to face more social pressures and stresses than their parents might realize, and these can have a significant impact on their mental health as well.
- The need to fit in with others.
- Peer pressure to perform well in sports and other extracurriculars.
- Bullying, both online and in person.
- Discrimination based on race, gender, disabilities, religion, or sexual orientation.
- Needing to dress right to fit in.
Home Stresses on Teenagers
Their home life can also be a big impact on a teenager’s mental health.
- Feeling unsafe with parents or siblings.
- Having to care for younger siblings.
- An unstable or dysfunctional home environment.
Other Things That Can Hurt a Teen’s Mental Health
There are many other things that can hurt a teen’s mental health. These are some of the common ones:
- Trauma from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- Loss of a close loved one.
- Chronic illness.
- Car accidents.
- Acts of violence, like a school shooting or fear of one.
- Natural disasters.
- Witnessing another person’s traumatic event.
- Low self-esteem.
Signs Your Teenager’s Mental Health is Struggling
Teenagers can be difficult to read sometimes, so it can be hard to tell if they are struggling with their mental health or if they are just moody. However, as their primary caregiver, you should have a sense of what their normal looks like, which can help clue you into their struggle.
Let’s take a look at some of the signs that your teen is struggling.
- Mood swings.
- Irritability or quick to anger.
- Crying a lot.
- Changes in sleeping habits.
- Changes in eating habits.
- Suddenly lose interest in something they love or quit an activity they love, like dropping out of a sports team.
- Withdrawing from friends or family.
- Frequently canceling plans with close friends.
- Changes in their academic performance.
- Seeing to worry about certain things.
- Suddenly getting an entirely new set of friends.
- Seems like something is bothering them, but they will not open up to you at all.
- Obsessing over certain goals, potentially believing they will never be the dame if they do not achieve it.
- Signs of self-harm.
- Signs of alcohol or substance abuse.
How to Support Your Teen’s Mental Health
If you are worried about your teenager’s mental health, it is important to look into it as soon as possible. There are a few things you can do to help a child going through a mental health crisis.
Take the time to learn the basics of the mental health conditions that your teen might suffer from. Learn the warning signs and watch for them. If your teenager is diagnosed with a mental health condition, spend time researching it so that you can gain a better understanding of what they are going through. You can even spend time researching the condition together, so your teen also gains a better understanding of what they are going through. This shows them that you want to “get it” and understand them a little better.
Teach Your Teen Coping Mechanisms
It is absolutely crucial that you teach your children coping mechanisms at an early age. They will face a lot of emotional challenges as they grow up, and they need to know how to cope and handle these things. Something like not getting a good grade on a test they studied hard for, not getting a role in the school play, or fighting with their best friend, can impact their mental health significantly, and if they are not equipped to deal with it, they can suffer. Coping mechanisms are basically a first aid kit for mental health, so by teaching your child better coping mechanisms, you are teaching them how to apply a band-aid to their mental health.
Teach your teenager that it is okay to talk about upsetting experiences with you and others.
Encourage them to keep a diary to vent their emotions in, but always respect their privacy on this and do not ever peek at it.
If your teen already suffers from an anxiety disorder, try an anxiety or panic attack relief app to help them when something triggers their anxiety when they are not at home.
You can also try breathing techniques, meditation, or even yoga as a way to help your child relax and release their tension.
If your teenager’s mental health is truly suffering, it might be a good idea to consider taking them to therapy so they have someone neutral to talk to about their troubles. A therapist can also help diagnose any mental health conditions they might have and potentially prescribe medications to help manage their condition. However, keep in mind that if your teenager is adamant that they do not want to go to therapy, do not force it. They will not get anything out of it until they are ready to do it themselves.
Creating a Sharing Home
Children learn by example, so if you want them to feel comfortable sharing things with you, create a home atmosphere where they feel comfortable sharing. Talk about your days at the dinner table at night. If you had a bad day at work or you are fighting with a friend, talk about it; share those feelings with your children. This will show them that they are not alone, and they can bring up their issues and feelings to you as you share yours with them. Make your home an environment that has open communication so any member of your family can safely talk about their troubles with you.
When anyone is sharing, do not react emotionally. Instead, listen and ask questions. If you begin to react emotionally, which you may want to, they might stop sharing because they do not want to upset you. Be caring but try to avoid getting overly emotional.
Model Conflict Resolution
When sorting out conflicts with your teenager, try to remain calm. Avoid discussing things when you are angry, and try to avoid power struggles. Teach them positive ways to handle conflict. This can be a big help in supporting their mental health because they will learn how to handle conflict in a healthier way instead of stressing and constantly worrying about something that is going on in their life.
Talk Openly About Mental Health
Part of creating that sharing atmosphere with your teenagers is to talk to them openly about mental health conditions. If you personally suffer from depression, for example, do not try to hide it like it is something to be ashamed of. Children learn from you, and they will think they also need to shamefully hide their own mental health issues. Instead, speak openly and honestly about mental health. Show them that it is okay for them to suffer from a mental health condition, and they can share those feelings with you. Also, teach them that needing medication to control their condition is okay. It is not shameful to need antidepressants or medication for anxiety. There is nothing wrong with them for needing these medications. It is just a tool to help them control their mental health like a band-aid is a tool to stop a cut from bleeding.
Spend Time with Your Teenager
While teenagers are learning to be independent from their parents and do things on their own, that does not mean that they do not need your support sometimes. Make a point of spending time with your teen and start building the relationship you will have with them when they become adults. They may want to be left alone a lot of the time, but that does not mean that they do not need you or want to spend time with you sometimes. Find a common interest you can bond over and spend time together.
When spending time with your teenager, also try to share some of your life experiences with your children. This can help you bond and help them to understand that maybe you have been through similar things to them, showing your teen that you might truly understand them.
Encourage Body Positivity
Eating disorders are fairly common for teenagers, and a poor self-image can make their mental health suffer. Try to teach your teens that they are beautiful as they are. Encourage healthy eating habits and exercise but try to avoid dieting or negatively commenting on your own body. It is also important to make sure you do not only comment on your child’s physical attributes; praise them as a whole, not just as a beauty or being brilliant. This can be hard to do, but it is important to make an effort for the sake of your teen’s mental health.
Anyone can suffer from a mental health disorder at any age, but most long-lasting mental health conditions manifest by the time someone is in their mid-teens. It is important to make sure that if your teenager is suffering from a mental health condition that they are treated as soon as you discover it. If left ignored and untreated, it can cause lasting damage to their mental health and possibly physical health for the rest of their lives.