Teens go through emotional ups and downs all the time. Hormones are changing, life can seem overwhelming, and without much life experience, a young adult can feel misguided. When parents are busy working, or a natural separation from family occurs, teens may turn to friends instead of parents.
Peer support can be helpful for certain issues. But when the symptoms of a mental illness are present, more than a good friend is needed.
The problem is, teens may not understand what the feelings they experience mean. As a parent, it’s important to stay connected so that you notice any changes or any symptoms of a mental illness in your child.
Mental illness includes depression; anxiety; bipolar disorder; schizophrenia; borderline personality disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); attention-deficit disorder (ADD); attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and many more disorders that can interfere with your teen’s daily life.
In an effort to self-medicate — to control the symptoms of the undiagnosed and untreated mental illness — a teen without help may turn to drugs, alcohol, or eating disorders to feel better, to escape, to numb out, or to feel in control.
Below are some ways to tell if your teen may need mental health treatment.
- Mood swings.How can you decipher a moody teen from a true set of mood swings that indicate mental illness? You know your child better than anyone else. Trust that you can recognize a shift in mood that is out of character for your son or daughter.
- Behavioral changes.The same thing goes for your child’s behavior. Of course behavioral choices change as your teen gets older, but if your son or daughter is presenting as a different person to you, this may indicate a mental illness or substance abuse.
- Consequences in school and among friends.A mental illness can distract from concentration, which can affect school performance and the ability to sustain relationships with peers.
- Physical symptoms.Decreased energy, changes in eating and sleeping, frequent stomachaches, headaches, and backaches, and neglect of personal appearance and hygiene (such as showering less often and not keeping up on grooming) can be signs that mental health treatment is needed.
- Self-medicating.If you find any indicators of drug or alcohol use, self-harm, an eating disorder, or other forms of escape, the link to mental illness may be direct. An effort to make oneself feel better can show a great need for mental health treatment.
If you see any of these signs, seek help for your child. With appropriate assessment, identification, and intervention, all mental illnesses can be treated and managed.