The world of a teenager can be tricky for us parents, especially knowing the difference between normal teen behavior and sings of a mental illness. If your teen is displaying behavior, such as being moody or acting out, it can be easily assumed it’s because of their physical, hormonal, and social changes they are experiencing through puberty. There are many difficulties and pressures teenagers experience during this time of their life that can overwhelm them.
It is normal for teens to be short-tempered towards you and try to separate themselves from their parents to be more independent. However, if your teen is involved in an unhealthy group of friends or isolates themselves from you, this may be a red flag for something deeper that’s going on with them.
As a parent, seeing and knowing the warning signs of mental illnesses in your teen can be difficult. If you are worried about your teen, then here are some signs for you to look out for.
As your teen goes through physical changes, they might start to feel social pressures and develop body-image concerns. Sometimes they can progress into severely unhealthy obsessions, such as anorexia and bulimia.
Anorexia is avoiding food or exercising too much that results into extreme loss of weight. If your teenager is not taking an interest in eating, such as not eating at all or very little, and is losing weight, they may have anorexia.
Bulimia is when a person forces vomiting after eating. Usually a bulimic person will have lost a lot of weight without a change in their eating habits.
Sudden trips to the bathroom after eating a meal are a sign of bulimia.
While your teen might face some hard times with social pressure or other problems, depression can become onset for them. Here are some signs to keep an eye out for:
- Excessive isolation
- Low self-esteem
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Unexpected crying
If your teen is experiencing any of these signs, you should talk to a professional to see if your teen has developed depression.
Those who have mental problems can sometimes result in self-medicating themselves with drugs and alcohol.
Here are some ways to be aware of physical and behavioral signs of substance abuse.
- Slurred speech
- Any suspicious paraphernalia
- Prescription drug misuse
General red flags to look out for
Apart from the symptoms of specific mental illnesses mentioned, there are some common warning signs to look out for in teenagers.
- Excessive sleeping
- Dramatic personality shifts such as excessive anger or aggressiveness
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Unexpected academic performance decreasing
How can you help your teen?
Your teen is going through a lot of transitions and this likely isn’t easy to be a parent, but there are some ways you can help your teen. Be attentive to their behavior and keep communication open. Keep an eye out for any abrupt changes in their behavior and talk to your child about anything that might be going on with them.
It’s good to let your child know that they can come to you with anything. You can be open about sharing your own struggles and experiences when you were a teenager. Make sure you reassure your child that you are there for them and that they are not alone.
As well, make sure you talk to your teenager’s health care provider about any concerns you might have.