Phoenix Teen Counseling: Mental Health 101: Teen Troubles

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.

Mood Disorders

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.

Anxiety Disorders

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.

Eating Disorders

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.

Suicidal Tendencies

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.


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