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Mental Health During the Teen Years

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Teen years, also termed as adolescence, are ages between 10–19 years. This period is crucial and formative wherein children develop various emotional and social habits. Some of these habits include regular exercise, emotion management, interpersonal skills, problem-solving attitude, developing coping methods and sleeping patterns. In this phase, family, school and community play a vital role. 

They also undergo a transition in terms of mental and hormonal development. While most adolescents tend to have good mental health, certain factors in the environment can cause imbalance. The factors may be social changes, physical and emotional changes, poverty, violence and abuse. These factors can make children vulnerable to mental health disorders.

At this age, adolescence should be protected from risk factors and adverse experiences as it can impact their core potential to succeed, along with mental and physical health in adulthood.

Some adolescents are highly vulnerable to mental health conditions due to societal stigma, exclusion, living conditions, lack of support from parents and quality services. This category of adolescents includes orphans, adolescents with the neurological disorder, discriminated groups and adolescents belonging to minority ethnic groups.

Further, adolescents with mental conditions face educational difficulties, discrimination, low-confidence, stigma and do not show any risk-taking behaviours.

According to WHO, 10–20% of adolescents are affected by mental health conditions though remain undiagnosed and under-treated. The signs and symptoms of mental health condition remain undiagnosed because of the lack of awareness or knowledge about mental health. Sometimes, people do not reach to doctors due to stigma.

Doctors at Virinchi Hospital Banjara Hills have come across following mental conditions among teens:

  • Psychosis – Hallucinations and delusions are some of the symptoms of psychosis. The disorder can impair the ability of an adolescent to participate in the day to day activity and education. 
  • Childhood behavioural disorders – In adolescence, teens tend to revolt against limitations, rules and boundaries put for them. Though, repetition of such behaviours may signify childhood behavioural disorder. Some of the symptoms noticed in this disorder include- destructive behaviour, hyperactivity, challenging behaviour and inattention. If not addressed at the right time, it can interfere with the education of the adolescent.
  • Emotional disorders – The disorder arises during teen years and the symptoms experienced by the adolescent are anxiety, frustration, depression, excessive irritability, anger, sudden mood swings, and emotional outbursts. Emotion-related physical symptoms such as headache, stomach ache or nausea may occur in younger adolescents.
  • Eating disorder – The disorder usually occurs during teen years and young adulthood, and it tends to affect females more than males.  It causes harm to health and often co-exists with anxiety, depression and/or substance misuse. One can need to consult from health expert. It is categorised in the following categories: anorexia, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. Certain cases are addressed and treated in teenage, though relapses later if not taken care properly. In other cases, the disorder remains undiagnosed which affect in old age resulting in osteoporosis and risk of early deaths.
  • Self-harm and suicide – According to the report of WHO, it is estimated that 62,000 adolescents died in the year 2016 as a result of self-harm. It is found to be the third leading cause of deaths among adolescents (15–19 years). Among 62,000 adolescents, 90% belonged to low- or middle-income countries. Suicide attempts can be impulsive or people commit due to loneliness or feeling of hopelessness. There are multiple risk factors which include- abuse in childhood, use of alcohol and stigma against help-seeking.

Addressing these issues at adolescence can help them overcome such difficult situations. While educating them about the physical, hormonal and emotional changes can help adolescence become resilient about the changes and deal with them in a positive manner.

Leaving mental disorders unnoticed and undiagnosed can make people feel adolescents lonely and discriminated. This can result in depression and suicidal tendency in adulthood.

The best thing to cope with such issues is to talk to the adolescents, spend time with them and if some problem is experienced, feel free to talk with psychologists. They can give the best possible solution.

Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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