|Counseling and Psychiatric Services for Adolescents and Young Adults
Archive for June, 2012
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Do you know when your teen needs more help than you can provide? (Photo credit: kevinthoule)
The teenage years can be troublesome and traumatic. Faced with a myriad of pressures from every direction, teenagers often feel that they need twist and morph themselves into someone else in order to fit into other people’s molds. This is made more difficult because they are only beginning to discover who they are and what they want. They feel pressured to look a certain way, get good grades, fit in with friends, make the team, get the part, and be popular and sometimes that pressure can be too much. Teens also have to deal with other issues like family financial problems, divorce, and illness. Although the majority of teenagers make it through these tumultuous times to become well-adjusted adults, some teens struggle enough that they need professional help.
For parents, understanding when a teenager’s behavior is normal teen angst and when it is not is one of the biggest challenges. In order to get teens the help they need to successfully navigate whatever challenges they are facing, parents need to know what to look for, what to expect, and when to seek help. Here is a list of the most common mental health issues teens experience to help parents know when it’s time to seek outside help.
Bipolar Disorder – A teen with bipolar disorder has periods of mania and periods of depression. When they are in a manic period, they may be extremely happy, hyperactive, and/or irritated. They get by on very little sleep, get involved in multiple projects and activities, and may participate in risky behavior. When they are in a depressive period, they display the signs of depression.
Depression – When teens are clinically depressed, they experience feelings of sadness and irritability along with several other symptoms that can include changes in appetite or sleep, rapid weight loss or gain, fatigue, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, problems concentrating, feeling hopeless, and suicidal thoughts.
General Anxiety Disorder – Feelings of anxiety are common in teens, but in some cases these feelings can rise to the level of a disorder. Teens may worry excessively about situations, events, or activities to the extent that it interferes with their normal life. Symptoms include feeling restless, having trouble sleeping, being irritable, and being unwilling or unable to participate in everyday activities.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Teenagers dealing with OCD have distressing thoughts or impulses that occur over and over and repetitive behavior patterns like hand washing, counting, and hoarding that interrupt their ability to live their life normally.
Anorexia Nervosa – Teens with anorexia nervosa do not eat enough to maintain a healthy body weight. Signs and symptoms include being significantly underweight, dry skin, low blood pressure, depression, moodiness, and unwillingness to eat around others.
Bulimia – Teens with bulimia participate in a cycle of bingeing and purging, eating a large amount of high calorie food and then inducing vomiting. Bulimics may also use laxatives, exercise, diuretics, and diet pills to prevent weight gain. Signs of bulimia include obsessing over weight, exercising hours at a time, eating in secret, spending time in the bathroom directly after eating, and low self esteem.
Trauma and Abuse
Teens who have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused or who have lived through a traumatic event may need assistance to overcome the lasting damage these circumstances can cause. Teens may experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, and self harm.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst teenagers. Warning signs include depression, frequent thoughts of and conversation about death, substance abuse, previous attempts, and traumatic events.
Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
Who: Parents of students transitioning from Junior High to High School. Open to the public.
What: Topics include bullying, self esteem, the Internet communication skills and conflict resolution.
When: Teen transitions to high school or college: Seminars will take place Wednesdays, beginning weekly on September 12 through October 3 at 6:45 p.m.
Led By: staff from Doorways Arizona
Where: Resurrection Lutheran Church (map it), 4930 E. Greenway Rd. Scottsdale, AZ 85254
How: Call Trina or Denora at Doorways, (602) 997-2880, or email us at Trina@doorwaysarizona.com.
Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
New study reveals alarming information about young children inflicting self harm. (Photo credit: Kentucky Country Day)
The study, just published in the journal Pediatrics, found nearly 8 percent of third-graders admitted to intentionally hurting themselves. About two-thirds told researchers they had done it more than once.
Researchers discovered that children, even those as young as 7, found that causing physical pain helps them cope with emotional stress. The study found 4 percent of sixth-graders and nearly 13 percent of ninth-graders reported harming themselves.
By ninth-grade, girls were three times more likely to self-injure than boys with cutting and carving of skin the most common method for girls. The findings are based on interviews with 665 kids in the Denver area and central New Jersey.
“Depression, anger and anxiety can lead to self-injury,” explains Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Jan Hamilton. “Parents need to pay attention and ask their children about cuts and bruises.”
Wednesday, June 20th, 2012
Do you know if your teen struggles with BDD? (image via chiesADIbeinasco on Flickr)
Everyone has days when they just don’t feel attractive. Call it a bad hair day or a fat jeans day or whatever you want; it happens to all of us. Now imagine feeling that way, all day, every day. This is what it is like to have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is an all-consuming preoccupation with some perceived flaw or defect in personal appearance. People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder cannot turn off the voice in their head that is consistently criticizing how they look, making them feel unattractive, and damaging their self worth.
The unrelenting nature of Body Dysmorphic Disorder can lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior. It can also lead to serial cosmetic surgery that is both unnecessary and does not offer relief. The all-consuming nature of this condition is elevates it to the level of a mental illness. Everyone has a bad hair day once in awhile, but for people with BDD there are no good days.
Like other chronic anxiety disorders, Body Dysmorphic Disorder has a broad range of symptoms and those with the condition may experience all, some, or any combination of them. Common symptoms include:
- Preoccupation with physical appearance or any specific aspect of physical appearance
- Spending significant amounts of time looking in the mirror
- Belief that there is a deformity or defect that doesn’t exist
- Avoidance of mirrors
- Constant need for others to provide assurance on attractiveness
- Serial cosmetic surgery
- Unwillingness to have picture taken
- Avoiding social situations
- Wearing clothes or makeup specifically to cover perceived flaws
People with BDD can obsess over their appearance as a whole or any specific body part. There are some areas of the body that are more commonly the object of the obsession including:
- Skin/Complexion including obsessing over wrinkles or acne
- Hair and Baldness
- Breast Size and Genital
- Muscle Size
It is not uncommon for the obsessive thoughts to shift from one body part to another over time as the disorder centers on obsessive thoughts rather than actual physical attributes. In some cases, these thoughts can become so powerful that they result in delusional behavior.
There is nothing specific that is known to cause Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Experts in the field agree that, similar to other mental illnesses, it may be caused by a combination of factors like chemical or structural differences in the brain, negative life experience relating to body image, and genetics.
Like any anxiety disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder can make it difficult to live life to the fullest and lead to other problems. People with BDD may also experience Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD), Depression, eating disorders, social phobia, and other anxiety disorders. They may have to spend time in the hospital to treat their disorder and choose to undergo unnecessary medical procedures to fix the imagined flaws and defects. They can become socially isolated, lack close personal relationships, and their disorder can make it difficult to go to work or attend school. This disorder can also result in suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Body Dysmorphic Disorder can be diagnosed by a doctor or mental health provider using a series of tests including a physical exam, blood tests, and a psychological evaluation. However, BDD can be difficult to diagnose if the person with the disorder does not fully participate in any testing by sharing feelings and thoughts openly. Diagnosis can also be complicated because BDD shares symptoms and traits with other mental illnesses which must be ruled out in order to get to the right diagnosis. The diagnostic criteria for BDD include extreme preoccupation with some aspect of physical appearance that causes problems in other areas of life.
Treatment of BDD is most successful when the person with the disorder is engaged and willing to participate in the process. BDD is commonly treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and may also include the use of medication. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required in order to protect the wellbeing of the person with the condition.
Monday, June 18th, 2012
Eating disorders affect the entire family (image via kippster on Flickr)
One of the best things about being part of a family is having other people to stand by you and support you so that you don’t feel like you are facing the trials and tribulations of the world on your own. When there is trouble, the family circles the wagons, pools the resources, devises a plan, and focuses all their energy, attention, and resources on getting through whatever situation they are facing. For the short term, they are stronger individually than as a group because they can band together. But this dynamic can create serious problems if a family gets stuck there for the long term, especially if the challenge they are facing means all the attention and all the energy are focused on a single family member. This is how an eating disorder in one child can impact the lives, behavior, and future of any other children in the family.
In the Beginning
As with any family crisis, most family members have no problem pitching in, taking a back seat, and fending for themselves in the days and weeks immediately following the start of the crisis. For families that are dealing with eating disorders, this event may be diagnosis, hospitalization, or any point in time when the focus of the family shifts to the child with the disorder. Siblings understand that their brother or sister is ill and needs help and generally step up to help out however they can. In most cases, siblings of someone who is struggling with an eating disorder will do all this willingly and without complaint, in the beginning.
When Weeks Become Months and Months Become Years
The real danger to siblings of teens with eating disorders is that unlike many other family crises, there isn’t usually a quick resolution. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), it can take years to recover from an eating disorder. To siblings, this means that the sacrifices they so willingly made in the beginning may be required for a significant chunk of their childhood or teenage years.
Let’s pretend there is a family with 3 children, Sarah who is 16, John who is 10, and Max who is 7. Sarah is diagnosed with anorexia and the family rallies around her to provide love and support during her treatment and recovery. Over the coming months, as Sarah struggles to overcome her disease, John and Max will be struggling too. They accept getting less attention from their parents because they know Sarah needs them more right now. They give up activities, sports, and clubs to help ease financial strains and because there is no one around to take them. They learn to take care of things around the house like dishes and laundry and meals so that they have what they need even when no one is around to provide those things for them. They may begin to act out or rebel as a way to get their parent’s attention. They may become resentful of their sister and lose the ability to be sympathetic toward her. They may pull so far away from the family unit in an effort to protect themselves, that when Sarah is better and the family shifts its focus back to the center, they may find it irreparably broken.
How to Help
The most important thing to understand is that eating disorders don’t just impact the person with the diagnosis and in most families, everyone is going to need assistance, attention, and support to get through the process. Approach the problem as a family and rally the troops but realize that the battle you are fighting is more like a siege than a head to head fight and plan accordingly.
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Teens at a swimming party in the late summer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Teenagers start looking forward to summer vacation as soon as they come back from Christmas break, but parents often start longing for the first day of school within days of school getting out. One of the most common summer struggles is finding enriching activities that teens are interested enough in doing that they will get out or bed or off of the computer. While most parents want their teens to enjoy their school break, they don’t want them sleeping all day and staying up all night playing video games or using the computer. The key to a successful summer is finding the balance between the two extremes. Here are 10 things for teens to do this summer to help achieve that balance.
1. Make a Movie
This can be a great activity for teens to do with their friends and it offers a wide range of learning and enrichment opportunities including writing the script, designing the shots, sets, as well as costumes, filming, editing, and working together as a team. Once their movie is done, they can upload it to YouTube for all their friends to see.
This offers enrichment opportunities and physical activity while giving your teen something fun to do with their friends. Let your teen design and set-up a Frisbee golf course in a local park and then invite friends over to play in a tournament that lasts all summer long. Offer a cool prize to the winner at the end of the summer as extra incentive.
3. Grow Something
While it may not seem like a ton of fun, growing something green can be very rewarding for teens and once the green shoots peek through the dirt, many teens will be hooked on helping it grow to full size.
4. Have a Movie Marathon
Let your teens plan an all night movie marathon for their friends and neighbors. Feature teen favorites like the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movies and put your teen in charge of the details. They will learn valuable lessons in planning, budgeting, and logistics.
5. Organize an Event for Charity
Give your teen the opportunity to learn new skills, have fun with their friends, and give back to their community by organizing an event for charity. Make it more worth their time by letting them split the proceeds with the charity which can give teens who have had trouble finding summer jobs a way to earn a little money.
Let your teen host a water balloon war with the other kids in the neighborhood. You can even turn this into a neighborhood block party and have a cookout for everyone after the war.
7. Learn How to Cook on the Grill
Summer is a great opportunity for your teen to learn to cook on the grill. Work together to try different recipes. You never know; you may create a new family favorite!
8. Organize a Summer Long Board Game Tournament
Encourage your teen to organize a tournament at a local park or community center that features favorite family board games. By including games for different age groups, the tournament can appeal to all ages and give families something to do together each week. Your teen will learn important skills like planning, advertising, organizing, and working with people.
9. Learn the Stars
Challenge your teen to learn about the night sky over the summer. Connect them with resources for learning how to use a telescope, to identify the constellations, and any other things that interest them about astronomy.
10. Have a Photo Scavenger Hunt
Encourage your teen to explore an interest in photography by creating a photo scavenger hunt for them to do over the course of the summer. Make a list of interesting, unusual, and creative pictures to take over the summer and then turn their best shots into a memory book for the family coffee table.
It isn’t hard to find fun and interesting activities for your teen to do over the summer. Start with things that your teen is already interested in and provide them with opportunities to explore those interests in ways that expand their skills and enrich their lives.