Teen's Guide to Mental Health

When you hear someone refer to mental health, this generally involves a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. Your state of mental health determines how you feel, think, and act. As a teenager, you have a variety of stresses in your life that may impact how you feel, including school, sports, family, friends, peers, and planning for your future. If you feel like you’re struggling with any of these areas, counseling may help you learn techniques for managing stress. Reaching out for help from parents or other adults is the best course of action, especially if things seem overwhelming.

Addiction and Substance Abuse

When you use substances such as alcohol and drugs repeatedly, your brain actually changes in the way it functions. What begins as casual drug use can become habitual and compulsive over time, driving you to continue using the substance. Teenagers who experiment with drugs or alcohol can put themselves at risk of addiction. This can be even riskier for some teens, who may have factors that make them more likely to develop an addiction. For example, if you have experienced some type of abuse or if you have family members with addiction problems, you may have a higher risk of addiction. If you struggle with addiction, counseling and treatment can help you overcome it.

Anxiety

You probably know what anxiety feels like. When you feel stressed or nervous about something such as a sporting event or a test, you are feeling anxious. Anxiety is a natural response to stress, but people typically work through these feelings and they subside. If anxiety feels overwhelming, if you can’t attribute the feelings to a specific event, or the feelings don’t go away, you may be experiencing unusual anxiety. Treatments are available to help reduce anxiety. Sometimes just talking to someone about your feelings can help. Some teenagers need a little more help, which may include taking a prescription medication to help reduce anxiety.

Depression

Teenagers often feel moody, irritable, and sad. With changing hormones, these feelings are not unusual for teenagers. However, if feelings of sadness become overwhelming, lasting for more than two weeks, a teenager may be experiencing depression and not just typical unhappiness. Sometimes teenagers may become depressed due to social situations, academics, or family matters. Depression usually involves marked changes in behavior such as sleeping, eating, and school work. Some teens begin rebelling or have physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches. There is help for depression: Counseling and medication are two treatment options that can have positive results.

Eating Disorders

Although girls are more prone to eating disorders, boys can also develop these problems. Eating disorders usually involve a preoccupation with food, and many people have a phobic fear of becoming fat. Anorexia nervosa involves severe dieting and calorie-counting, usually accompanied by weight loss. Bulimia involves secretive binging and purging. Some people struggle with compulsive overeating, which involves a preoccupation with food and binging. These types of eating disorders are treatable, usually with counseling and nutrition monitoring. Some people respond well to medication, which helps alleviate anxiety that accompanies the food-related issues.

Suicide

Suicide is the third most prevalent cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Research shows that at least nine out of ten teenagers who commit suicide suffered from some type of mental illness, such as substance abuse, anxiety, depression, or another type of behavioral problem. Teenagers don’t tend to spend a long time thinking about suicide. Generally, a specific event seems to push a teenager over the edge, leading to this decision. Anyone feeling overwhelmed with life can get help by reaching out to a friend or an adult such as a family member or teacher.

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