teen mental illness

How Does Mental Illness Affect Teenagers?

November 27, 2018

The teenage years should be the best time in a child’s life. Sleeping late and hanging out with friends is what this time is all about. However, mental illness is becoming more prevalent amongst the younger age group, and it’s affecting their quality of life. The increased pressure to fit in and get good grades, along with genetic influences, may be a recipe for disaster for some. As the parent of a teenager, you must be vigilant in watching for signs of a mental disturbance.

Does Your Child Have A Mental Illness?

Many parents don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental illness that is staring them right in the face. It’s because many don’t realize that their child can be a victim of such a cruel condition too. Everyone is busy with the daily grind and some things go unnoticed. Here are some of the more common mental illnesses that affect children and the signs that there is a problem:


Depression is one of the biggest concerns for parents. Most people expect their children to always be pleasant and if they act out its because they are unruly. Well, behavior is a big key to discovering an underlying mental illness. When it comes to depression, your child is unable to control the chemical change occurring in their brain. Now, depression is quite different from “the blues.” It’s perfectly normal for a child to experience down times in their life, but when they cannot seem to shake this low feeling, then it’s a cause for alarm.

Some of the signs of childhood depression include:

  • Loss of interest in things they once enjoyed
  • Isolating themselves
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Binge eating or starving themselves
  • Overly emotional – crying a lot
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Thoughts of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Complex moods or personality changes

A study found that at least 30 percent of all adolescents have experienced at least one episode of depression. While some depressive states can be circumstantial, others are because of genetics, and they require therapy and or medication to treat. Any gloomy mood that lasts more than two weeks needs to be evaluated.


Anxiety is constant worry or tension. The difficult part about anxiety is that your child needs some to function in life. Additionally, they can have angst that is good and bad. While it’s normal to be worried about a test or quiz coming up, or friend troubles at school, it becomes a problem when the constant fear interrupts their day. Here are some common signs of anxiety in children;

  • Panic attacks
  • Chewing on fingernails
  • Constant picking at skin
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Isolation
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances

Mood Disorder or Other Serious Disturbances

Depression and anxiety are pretty much commonplace today, even among children. However, as a parent, you must be on the lookout for some mental health issues that are more serious in nature. Bipolar and mood disorders, as well as Schizophrenia, are genetic conditions that can be dangerous. These illnesses cause impulse control issues, one to hear voices, and they tend to be on the darker end of the spectrum. Signs that a more serious mental illness is at play include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Drug use
  • Ruminations on death or dying
  • Constant mood swings
  • Destructive behavior
  • Irrational thinking
  • Violence
  • Trouble with the law
  • Hearing voices
  • Paranoia

One thing that you must consider is that drug use can bring on many of the symptoms listed above. Children are apt to self-medicate rather than to tell their parents that they need help. In fact, a study found that children begin smoking marijuana, their drug of choice, by the time they are in sixth grade. Since drugs are readily available in the schools, it’s not hard for them to locate methods in which to ease their pain.

Signs Your Child Needs Help

As with any medical condition, you cannot judge one day. Evaluate their mood and any troubling signs and see if there is an improvement or if the problem is worsening. The first step is to get them help from a counselor or doctor. Counseling and medication are both great starts to overcoming mental illness.

Another component that you must consider is that your child is using substances that can alter and affect their moods. Behavioral health and addiction issues almost always run concurrently. There are treatment centers that focus on teens and their needs such as the Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center in Malibu, California. If you suspect that your child is using a prescription or illegal drugs to ease the sting of mental illness, then you need to get them help.