While mental health challenges might seem like a uniquely adult problem, children and teens can struggle with complex emotions like sadness, shame and jealousy. These often begin in early childhood and can persist for years if left untreated. As we observe Children’s Mental Health Week, should you be concerned about your son’s well-being?
Teen Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety, depression and ADHD are the three most common mental and behavioral health disorders diagnosed in children and adolescents. For teenagers, substance use, self-harm and suicidal thoughts are additional mental health concerns. These issues frequently co-occur, which can complicate a diagnosis.
Children living with long-term mental health disorders may normalize their condition because they don’t realize there is any other way to feel. That’s why it’s essential for parents, teachers and other adult authority figures to familiarize themselves with warning signs like these:
- Sleeping or eating more or less than usual
- Difficulty concentrating
- Withdrawing from previously enjoyable hobbies
- Excessive worry about everyday situations
- Avoiding activities that seem frightening or intimidating, such as social events
- Persistent sadness, hopelessness or emptiness
- Irritability and mood swings
- Headaches and body aches due to muscle tension
- Nausea and vomiting
- Struggling to make and keep friends
- Extreme self-consciousness and fears of embarrassment or rejection
- Secrecy and solitude
When to Have a Conversation About Teen Mental Health
Even if you know the warning signs of teen mental health issues, you may still be unsure whether the symptoms you spot are part of the physical, biological and emotional changes all adolescents experience, or something more. As a parent or caregiver, you should know when to talk with your son and his doctor about mental health.
Remember, disorders like anxiety and depression will not resolve by themselves. If you try to ignore the problem out of denial and shame, you will allow it to worsen. If your son seems out of sorts or you spot noticeable changes in his mood and activity levels, start by asking him how he feels. His unusual behavior may not necessarily mean a psychiatric diagnosis like depression or anxiety, but it could still signify that he is stressed and needs extra support.
Mental illness is treatable, usually with a combination of therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. If you’re worried that your son might be struggling with his mental health, schedule an appointment with your family physician. A doctor can perform diagnostic screenings to rule out symptoms of other health conditions that can mimic mental illnesses. They can also prescribe medications like antidepressants and refer you to a qualified therapist.
How We Treat Teen Mental Health and Substance Use
At ARCH Academy, we understand adolescence can be a challenging and confusing time, and some teens need extra support getting through it. Our caring staff can help enhance your son’s self-esteem, encourage him to take control of his life and openly share his emotions without turning to self-destructive behavior.
Often, mental illness and substance use disorder develop in tandem and contribute to one another. For example, your son might self-medicate anxiety with alcohol, but a worsening alcohol addiction can make him even more anxious. We understand how to address both facets of a co-occurring disorder, allowing our clients to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives. Contact us to learn more about our treatment methods and how we can help your family heal.