Clues Your Teen May Be Facing a Mental Health Challenge

Clues Your Teen May Be Facing a Mental Health Challenge

The researchers found that only half of parents were “very” or “completely” confident that they could tell the difference between normal adolescent challenges and a mental health condition, and over a third (35%) were only “somewhat” confident. Almost half of parents (47%) thought their child would not be fully comfortable talking to them about their mental health struggles.

“As many parents of teens know, your kids may stop confiding in you. Yet, the [survey] shows how vital mental health conversations are,” Mark Pollack, MD, chief medical officer for mental health at Myriad Genetics, says in a press release. “If you suspect your child’s mental health is suffering, talk to them and talk to a health care professional about your concerns.”

Red Flags and Clues

Debbie Thomas, EdD, a Louisville, KY-based child and adolescent psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, says parents can look out for certain clues that their child might be struggling with mental health issues and the red flags showing these issues have reached crisis level.

“A lot of things parents should tune into are in major domains of functioning — school, family, friends, activities, and grades,” Thomas says. “Is your child having fun, or do they just seem kind of ‘blah?’ Is your child acting out or ‘acting in’ — meaning, being sullen or withdrawn? Have you seen changes in appetite, sleep, energy level, motivation, or joy?”

These can all be warning signs that trouble is afoot.

The survey showed that almost a third of parents believed that “worry” and “anxiety” were the same thing, but they are actually different, Thomas says.

“Worry can be a component of anxiety, but oftentimes, worry is incidental and transient,” she says.

For example, a youngster can be worried about a biology test, but when the test is done, the worry disappears. Anxiety, on the other hand, is often felt in the body. It can take the form of headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or sleep disturbances. It is more pervasive and can be a mental health problem.

Similarly, there is a difference between “just feeling down” or “having the blues” versus being depressed. A state of “blues” — feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, apathetic, or not feeling pleasure in usually enjoyable activities — that lasts for 2 weeks or more can be depression.


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