As children transition to adolescence/ teenage years, several changes can impact their mental health. Many teens may find it challenging to adapt to the newer demands of life, such as increased schoolwork, finding a job, and making new friends. Additionally, their bodies face numerous physical and emotional changes that occur throughout these years. These increased levels of stress can sometimes lead to the development of a mental illness such as an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, or ADHD.
Eating Disorders Eating disorders most frequently arise in adolescence during a time of physical, mental, and social change. Some common eating disorders that may develop are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Each disorder has a negative impact on the body and is characterized by harmful eating habits. Eating disorders show the physical effects of personal struggle that often accompany the myriad changes that occur during the adolescence years. As many teens struggle with body image, self confidence, and the general demands of life, such as school and relationships, they may develop an eating disorder as a coping mechanism. While every eating disorder is different, some warning signs of an eating disorder can include excessive preoccupation with calories, restriction or binging of food intake, compulsive exercising, and significant rapid weight loss or gain.
Anxiety Disorders While everyone will experience some degree of anxiety throughout their lifetime, anxiety disorders are a little different. Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that can affect an individual both psychologically and physically. It becomes a problem when it gets in the way of daily life and causes distress that hinders rather than protects. Anxiety looks different for every individual, but common symptoms include panic attacks, sleep problems, and a constant feeling of restlessness. As many teens are in a transitional period of their lives, anxiety may develop due to changes and uncertainties. According to an article from the New York Times, factors such as bullying, excessive social media use, and academic pressure contribute significantly to the development of anxiety in teens, especially those in lower-income households. Anxiety Canada also lists factors such as peer pressure and other social issues as common causes of anxiety in teens. There are various kinds of anxiety disorders, and they show themselves in different ways.
Depression Depression is an extremely complex mood disorder that is, according to Healthlink B.C., “linked to a problem with activity levels in certain parts of the brain as well as an imbalance of brain chemicals that affect mood.” In some cases, depression can take away the joyful years of a teen’s life. There are many stages and levels of depression, all of which are different for each individual. In the developmental years, teenagers may easily develop depression to some degree. Factors such as school, family issues, and traumatic events may be the cause of depression. According to Dr. Khadijah Booth Watkins, a psychiatrist and associate director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, depression can lead to a “loss of function” in teens. This means that they may be closed off from social interaction, perform poorly in school, and even experience physical pain. Depression, as a condition, has no true cure. However, there are ways to treat it and to avoid letting it inhibit teens from living their lives. Things such as antidepressants, therapy, and other coping methods may help prevent extreme consequences. Guardians and other adult figures need to provide a safe space where suffering teenagers can feel comfortable to reach out about their struggles.
ADHD Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Although ADHD is primarily known to affect children, many of the symptoms continue to persevere throughout adolescence and adulthood. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the three main symptoms associated with ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. This can lead to organizational difficulties and the inability to stay focused on tasks. People with ADHD may also be unable to stay seated in a classroom or workplace for long periods of time, and may find it difficult to wait their turn in line or when speaking. Due to the increased workload in the teenage years, many people with ADHD can experience difficulties with completing school and homework assignments, resulting in a decrease in academic performance. Because of this, teens diagnosed with ADHD may qualify for classroom accommodations. This can include extra time during tests, additional academic or organizational support, and completing tests and assignments in a separate location.