It’s common for teenagers to be moody, but how can you tell if those mood swings are a sign of something more? When the symptoms start to interfere with daily life to the point where school, work, and relationships with family and friends are affected, it may be time to seek treatment.

Mental illness affects teenagers more than you may think. 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses develop by age 14, and75% develop by age 24. The most common diagnoses are anxiety, mood disorders, behavioral disorders, and ADHD.

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Recognizing signs of mental health issues in teenagers

Sometimes it’s hard for parents and caregivers of teens to tell what is typical teenage behavior and what could be cause for concern. Some things that may be possible reg flags are ongoing irritability and incidents of unprovoked rage. Most teens bicker with their family, but are the conflicts happening more frequently? Are they more intense?

Withdrawing from close relationships or favorite activities is another warning sign. If your teen is usually texting with friends multiple times a day or hanging out with friends every weekend and suddenly they’re not, it might be a red flag. If they’re dropping out of extracurricular activities or finding excuses not to go, it could be a warning sign.

Another sign of distress may be a sudden slip in grades or a noticeable lack of effort or interest in schoolwork. Skipping school or frequently pleading to stay home when they’re not sick can also be a sign that something isn’t right.

Depression and anxiety can also present as a wide range of physical symptoms, such as:

  • Insomnia or chronic fatigue
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Stomach issues
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness

Risk factors for mental health disorders in teenagers

Some teens have risk factors that would make them more susceptible to developing a mental health condition. The most common ones are :

  • History of a mental health diagnosis
  • Family history of a mental health disorder
  • Loss of a parent or primary caregiver
  • History of trauma such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • History of substance or alcohol abuse
  • History of a conduct disorder or other antisocial behaviors
  • Living with a chronic illness
  • A stressful living environment such as living poverty, or domestic violence
  • Limited support systems
  • History of suicidal ideation

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people aged 15–24 years. Any talk of suicide should be taken seriously, and you should seek help immediately. If you’re worried about your teen in this situation, it’s crucial to remove any weapons and ammunition from home and lock up any prescription medications.

Talking to Teens about mental health

Teenagers may feel embarrassed to talk about their issues or be afraid of worrying their parents. Parents and caregivers need to listen as much as we speak during these conversations. Like everyone else, teenagers want to feel heard and validated rather than minimized or judged. They may resist because that’s what teenagers do, but sometimes just asking about their day can open the door for a meaningful conversation.

If your teen is struggling, contact Serene Health to speak to one of our therapists. We offer individual and family therapy, and we’re here  Monday through Sunday with late evening availability. Schedule an appointment today by calling us at (855) 256-5517 or visiting our website.