Adolescent Mental Health

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Adolescence can be a difficult time for both the teenager and the parents. Many changes are taking place in the body which can be confusing and disturbing for the youngster and yet at the same time there is an increased pressure from outside. Pressure to do well in school, peer pressure, pressure to be liked and accepted by others.

During this period it would be considered perfectly normal if your adolescent son or daughter were to be feeling sad at times, to display emotion or to become frustrated. It is when changes in your child’s behaviour is particularly extreme or persists that there may be cause for concern.

When someone develops a mental health problem the effect on personal life can be severe. In the case of an adolescent it can mean poor performance in school, social isolation, conflict within the family and at the same time your child is in terrible torment.

So how do you recognise the early warning signs of a mental health problem in your teenage son or daughter?

Changes in a teenager’s behaviour and emotions and the symptoms of a mental health problem can appear suddenly or they can develop over a period of weeks. Signs to watch out for can include:

•    Displays of emotion and anger
•    Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and guilt
•    Levels of anxiety and stress that is greater than normal
•    Becoming excessively fearful or worried
•    Overly concerned about physical appearance or other details
•    A feeling of being out of control of one’s life
•    A drop in performance at school
•    A loss of interest in social activities
•    Avoidance of friends and social contact
•    Disorganised in their personal life and school work
•    Poor concentration and difficulty sticking to a task
•    Constant fidgeting or restlessness
•    Feelings of paranoia
•    Obsessive behaviour
•    Mood swings
•    Experiencing hallucinations and/or delusions (hearing voices)
•    Abuse of drugs and alcohol
•    Changes in eating habits
•    Altered sleeping patterns
•    Destructive behaviour
•    Talk about suicide

One of the main problems with mental health problems in adolescence is failure to seek help, mainly because many of the behaviours and emotions displayed are put down to being a “typical teenager”. This is not so, yes teenagers have difficulties to deal with but if the symptoms are severe or persist this is not typical at all.

The most important thing is to seek professional help as soon as you suspect that any changes in your adolescent’s behaviour might be the result of an underlying mental health problem. Teenage depression is treatable but the longer that treatment is delayed, the worse the long term outlook is likely to be.

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