One out of five teenagers suffers from a mental health condition. That’s according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), but the actual number is probably higher. Teens have the perfect storm for developing mental health challenges. Changing bodies and brains paired with social stress, hormone changes, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies from poor diets, drug and alcohol use, environmental/family issues, and genetics make teens quite susceptible to mental health issues. Throw social stigma and peer pressures in the mix and you can get the picture why I feel that the reports skew low.
Early intervention, especially with adolescents, is simply the best thing you can do to help them decrease severity and overcome mental health challenges. 13-25 is the most common age for the onset of both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Other common mental health disorders in teenagers include anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. By being attentive to the warning signs, we as parents can get our kids the help they need when they need it.
So what are these warning signs? And how do you as a parent distinguish between normal teenage angst and moodiness versus an oncoming mental health disorder? In all honesty it’s difficult, which is another reason I believe that 1 in 5 statistic is low. I use the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 (the book that describes the diagnostic criteria for all mental health conditions), but I also rely heavily on my clinical experience, medical training, and understanding of the unique life and story of each child I see. That last piece is where we as clinicians really shine and can make the distinction between the normal emotional trials of growing up and a medical issue that needs to be addressed. This is also where we can determine the best interventions and resources to help your child thrive.
Common warning signs that your child might have a mental health disorder include:
· feeling anxious or worried often
· frequent tantrums or irritability
· trouble sleeping
· loss of interest in things he or she used to enjoy
· low energy
· poor performance in school
· periods of heightened energy and creativity
· impulsive behavior
· risky or destructive behavior
· self injurious behavior
· thoughts of suicide
· alcohol or substance abuse
· hearing voices
· extreme restlessness
· disengaging from friends and family
· frequent physical symptoms with no apparent cause: stomach aches, headaches, etc.
· excessive worry about weight, constant dieting and/or excessive exercise
Now that we have gone over some common warning signs I hope you have some better insight into whether your teenager is being a normal teen or if your family is facing an oncoming mental health challenge. If you think it’s the latter, give me a call and I will be happy to discuss options with you.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, patients seek my help because they either want to avoid pharmaceutical medications, reduce their dependence or side effects, or eliminate their need for pharmaceuticals that have not been effective. Homeopathy can help in these situations. Homeopathy is a gentle, yet powerful form of medicine that works to stimulate healing and restore healthy balance to the body and mind. Homeopathy is a very individualized form of medicine. This individuality is why it is so effective at treating mental health disorders, because the way one person experiences anxiety or depression is different than the way another person experiences those feelings.
More importantly, the use of homeopathic medicine and other natural treatments can prevent or delay the use of conventional medication use. The human brain does not fully develop until a person is 25 years old. The use of medication before this time can negatively interfere with proper development. Sometimes this can’t be avoided and medications are necessary to stabilize a mental health disorder. But, think of how nice it would be to help your child achieve mood stability without potentially damaging or halting their brain development. It is possible, and homeopathy might just be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Regardless of the treatment plan that is best indicated for your child, early intervention is still the best thing you can do to keep your child safe and help them feel better. If you notice any of the signs we discussed in part 1 in your child, consult a medical professional. The first step in helping your child heal is talking with a properly trained mental health professional to get the right diagnosis and treatment plan.