‍How To Identify Mental Health Red Flags In Teens

How To Identify Mental Health Red Flags In Teens

It’s normal for teenagers to be moody at time, but when are a teen’s mood swings a sign of something more? Physicians define “mental illness” differently than most of us and look at specific criteria to determine if a person has a mental illness. For a person to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, physicians generally look for depressed mood or a lack of interest in hobbies or recreational activities. In teens, these warning  signs vary depending upon the condition, but might show up as:

• Decline in grades
• Pulling away from school, friends, and activities that he/she has enjoyed participating in previously
• Feeling restless, wound up, or on edge
• Becoming fatigued easily
• Struggling with concentration
• Having difficulty keeping worry levels under control
• Struggling with sleep, such as difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, or not feeling well-rested
• Feeling very anxious at the thought of being around others and struggling to talk to other people
• Experiencing extreme self-consciousness and fear of humiliation, embarrassment, rejection, or offending people
• Worrying about being judged
• Feeling anxious days or even weeks ahead of a social event
• Avoiding public or crowded places
• Struggling to make and keep friends
• Blushing, sweating, or trembling around others
• Experiencing nausea around other people
• Feeling persistently sad, anxious, or empty
• Experiencing hopelessness or pessimism
• Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
• Moving and/or talking more slowly than usual
• Experiencing unexplained changes in appetite or weight
• Having thoughts of death or suicide
• Unexplained aches or pains that don’t go away when treated

While at least some of these symptoms generally have to be present for several weeks or months before an accurate diagnosis can be made, sometimes, even just 2 weeks’ worth of symptoms is enough to consider a diagnosis. If your teen has occasional episodes of anger or stays out late sometimes, it’s probably not a reason to be worried. On the other hand, if those feelings persist and there are other unusual symptoms, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor.

Seeking Help

Concern about an adolescent’s mental health should first be addressed with the teenager. Fostering open communication goes a long way toward fostering sound adolescent mental health habits.

If the concerns are serious, discuss them with the pediatrician or family physician. Because many mental health issues display physical manifestations, the doctor can offer both initial medical assessment and can also make a referral to appropriate mental health organizations and professionals for counseling and treatment.