A guide to knowing if a young person may have a mental health problem.
We all know that adolescence is a time of life full of changes and that, in many cases, problems and difficulties can arise.
Many adolescents present changes and alterations in their state of mind, in their body and in their daily behaviors and habits, but these are not the only factors that can explain the appearance of certain mental health problems.
Adolescence and mental disorders
It should be borne in mind that adolescents who have some type of mental health problem do not usually express their concern about it directly, so it can be complex to come to notice that something bad is happening to them.
As part of the biochemical alterations inseparable from this life stage, adolescents often suffer severe changes in their mood, as well as the effects of volatile social relationships. It is at this time when we begin to disassociate ourselves from parental protection to start looking for links with friends of our own age, and welcoming references in other areas of life: teachers, television idols, musicians …
A convulsive life stage
Although abrupt mood swings are quite common during adolescence, we must be vigilant, since they can warn us of an underlying mental health problem. If these mood swings are extreme, with violent behaviors or frequent crying, we could be facing a case that requires professional intervention.
20% of adolescents, according to official figures, develop psychopathology. Most of them, moreover, debut before the age of fifteen, but are not referred to a mental health professional until years later, when the problem may have become entrenched and is more difficult to treat.
The 10 signs that a teenager has a mental health problem
In the words of Dr. Aaron Krasner, a psychiatrist specializing in adolescent behavior and director of the Life Service at Silver Hill Hospital in New Cannan, Connecticut, explains:
“Only one in five adolescents with mental health problems is detected and referred to the appropriate professional (psychiatrist or psychologist) to treat their need. There are cultural elements that hold us back from providing the necessary help to adolescents, and we must improve this. “
One of the ways to improve the detection of behaviors, habits and specificities of young people that can warn us that they have a psychological condition is to describe the 10 signs that can indicate that something is wrong.
1. Self-harm, suicide attempts, or self-destructive behaviors.
2. Frequent changes in your physical health, or appearance.
3. Aggression, frequent anger and poor impulse control.
4. New groups of friends not recommended.
5. Changes in your body weight.
6. Neglect of your personal hygiene.
7. Inability to cope with problems or daily activities.
8. Flirting with alcohol or other drugs.
9. Episodes of threats and problematic relationships.
10. Frequent nightmares.
Other signs and observations to consider
There are also other signs that, although they are not conclusive, can make us see that the adolescent may be suffering from some complicated situation. For example, if your school performance or behavior at home or school has undergone a major change.
Another obvious sign is depressive symptoms, especially when the mood and grief last for more than three weeks. This can also go hand in hand with poor appetite, sleep disturbances or problems, and recurring thoughts about death, according to Krasner.
The importance of the family context
It should always be borne in mind that mental health problems during adolescence tend to have a negative impact on family dynamics, and can cause tensions between several of its members. It is vitally important that the family stay together and do everything possible to improve the adolescent’s mood, both by promoting good harmony at home and by seeking professional help if circumstances require it.
If you know a teenager who is having a bad time and has some of the symptoms and signs described above, keep your communication open with him and consult a mental health professional.