Teenage Angst Or Something More Serious?

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Warning Signs Of Mental Health Issues In Teens

BY AMANDA HALE

Adolescence is a confusing and difficult time for both young people and their parents and families. Trying to juggle school, friendships, developing sexuality, and fitting in and figuring out identity in the middle of a hormonal storm is an overwhelming task. The unique nature of our world today with ever present technology, mass media pressure, terrorism and cyberbullying complicate the picture even further. Changes in personality, increased conflict within the home, boundary pushing and challenging behaviour are all products of this transitional journey.

Would you know if your teen was anxious or depressed?

Would you know if your teen was anxious or depressed?

Some teething issues are normal, but how do you know when your teen’s problems are teenage angst versus a more serious underlying problem. With 1 in 4 Australian teens now developing mental health issues, it’s important to know the difference.

Teens are notoriously uncommunicative and few will be open about how they’re feeling which means it’s often up to parents to look for behavioural cues that may indicate struggles with coping. Signs you should be on the lookout are:

• Withdrawal from normal social events and other activities
• Absence of friends and socializing outside the family
• Prolonged and persistent sadness
• Uncharacteristic irritability
• Sudden personality change
• Decline in academic performance
• Weight loss or gain
• Trouble sleeping
• Extreme obsession with appearance or food
• Unexplained headaches, stomachaches and other pains

Some parents may notice changes but dismiss them as normal teenage behaviour, believing them to be ‘going through a phase’. However, mental illness is genuine, serious and treatable. The earlier it’s detected and the earlier treatment is accessed, the more favourable the outcome. Help your child get early psychological treatment when you notice warning signs and you could save them a lifetime of unhappiness.

Amanda Hale is a registered psychologist and a Doctor of Psychology (Clinical) Candidate at the Australian National University. She enjoys working with children, adolescents and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, eating disorders, weight management and interpersonal and adjustment difficulties.


 

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