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Is it Just Adolescence or is it Mental Illness?

The adolescent years are crazy! Mood swings, emotional tirades (remember Katie Ka-boom?), hormonal surges, DRAMA.  Sometimes, adults look at the behavior and just chalk it up to being a normal teenager–a little crazy, but normal.  But in reality, 20% of teenagers (ages 12-17) have a diagnosable mental disorder–the rates for teenage depression are surging, and self-harm and suicide rates are rising.  Yet, only about 20% of those kids receive help.  In the words of Time magazine, “The kids are NOT alright.”

So, how can you tell the difference between “normal teenage angst ” and a more serious mental health issue? Here are some things that you may observe in a teen that will help to decipher the difference between mental illness and normal teenage behavior. Some concerning behaviors:

• Decrease in enjoyment and time spent with friends and family
• Significant decrease in school performance
• Strong resistance to attending school or absenteeism
• Problems with memory, attention or concentration
• Big changes in energy levels, eating or sleeping patterns
• Physical symptoms (stomach aches, headaches, backaches)
• Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, crying often
• Frequent aggression, disobedience or lashing out verbally
• Excessive neglect of personal appearance or hygiene
• Substance abuse
• Dangerous or illegal thrill-seeking behaviour
• Is overly suspicious of others
• Sees or hears things that others do not

It’s important to remember that no one sign means that there is a problem. It’s important to examine the: nature, intensity, severity and duration of a problem. Source

16_Average-warning-signs3

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