Mental Health and Teens: Know the Signs

Oftentimes, it can be a struggle to acknowledge the sneaking suspicion that your teen may be dealing with mental illness. But ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will more than likely make the problem worse. An undiagnosed mental illness can lead your teen down a dangerous path of self-medicating with drugs, alcohol or other unhealthy habits. Knowing the warning signs of various mental health conditions can help parents better recognize when it’s time to get their teens professional help.

Unfortunately, mental health disorders are common among teens, with approximately 1 in 5 teens suffering from some type of mental illness. Seen most often are generalized anxiety disorder, social phobias and depression.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is marked by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday matters for no apparent reason. It’s estimated that 8% of teens suffer from an anxiety disorder, and of those 8%, fewer than 1 in every 5 get the mental health treatment they need to recover. This is why it is all the more important to be able to identify the warning signs before conditions worsen.

Signs that your teen could potentially be dealing with an anxiety disorder:

  • Out of character irritability
  • Changes in sleep patterns, difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Difficulty keeping worry levels under control
  • Feeling restless, wound up, or on edge
  • Being easily startled
  • Unusual trembling/twitching
  • Becoming fatigued easily
  • Struggling with concentration
  • Excessive Nervousness

Social anxiety disorder, also referred to as social phobias, are severe feelings of self-consciousness or insecurity in social settings. These often present themselves between the ages of 11-19, the teenage years. While it is not uncommon for teens to experience social anxiety in various situations, there is a line between what is normal and what may be the result of an undiagnosed disorder. These warning signs can help determine the difference.

  • Avoiding situations in which you’re the center of attention
  • Intense fear of interacting with strangers
  • Feeling anxious for days/weeks before a social event
  • Struggling to make or keep friends
  • Avoiding places where others are likely to be
  • Blushing, sweating, trembling or nausea around others
  • Over analyzing/critiquing behavior after a social interaction

Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or emptiness. It’s often coupled with significant loss of interest in life’s activities. Approximately 20% of teens will deal with depression before they reach adulthood, but only 30% get the proper treatment. Below is a list of potential warning signs you can look out for that signify your teen may be dealing with a depression disorder.

  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Unprovoked irritability
  • Struggling with concentration, memory, or decision making
  • Changes in grades (grades dropping)
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling persistently sad, angry or empty
  • Experiencing hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Unexplained aches or pains that won’t go away with treatment
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

While these lists do not encompass all the signs and symptoms for these disorders, they provide guidance on noticeable warning signs and changes in behavior to cue parents that deeper issues are present.

If your teen is struggling with any of these issues and would benefit from a change, purposeful removal may be the answer. For some teens, the ability to leave their current home environment plays a crucial role in their healing process. The everyday routines, pressures, and trappings of home can be inextricably linked to the beliefs and behaviors that trigger and perpetuate adolescent mental health disorders. Turning Winds, located on 150 beautiful Montana acres, is a residential treatment facility that offers teens the purposeful remove with which to develop the self-agency necessary for leading a fulfilled life. With individualized programs using evidence-based care, academic support, inspirational experiences, and human connection, Turning Winds teaches young people to understand themselves, cope with their challenges and get the most out of life. Let us help you help your teens, call 800-845-1380 for more information!


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John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden Jr is the father of seven inspiring children, and he is married to Kara, the love of his life. Together they have created a family-centered legacy by leading the way with early childhood educational advancement. John loves to write and is an author of a children’s book, An Unlikely Journey and plans to publish additional books. Show More

John is a visionary in his work and applies “outside-the-box” approaches to business practice and people development. He is the Founder of Turning Winds, along with several other organizations. He has extensive experience launching and developing organizations. His skills include strategic planning, promoting meaningful leader-member movement, organizational change, effective communication, project management, financial oversight and analysis, digital marketing and content creation, and implementing innovative ideas through influential leadership. As a leader, John seeks to empower others and brand success through collaborative work. His vision is to lead with courage, grit, truth, justice, humility, and integrity while emphasizing relational influence rather than focusing on the sheens of titles, positions, or things.

Finally, John is passionate about life and promoting equity among those who are often overlooked because of differences that frequently clash with the “norm.” He lives in Southern Idaho and loves the outdoors and the life lessons that can be learned in such an informal environment.

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