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Adolescent Mood Disorders and Mental Health

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Summary

Teens sometimes need extra help getting through rough patches of adolescence. As they transition from childhood to adulthood, teens undergo many changes and tremendous growth. Their bodies and brains change, and the circuits in the brain that carry important emotional information are still developing in adolescence. In addition, all teens develop at slightly different ages and levels.

Expanded Overview

There is a great deal of social pressure on teens and some have trouble dealing with all of the changes in their bodies, emotions and everyday lives. Teens who have to deal with chronic illnesses, such as asthma, juvenile diabetes or arthritis, have an added layer of pressure and responsibility. They are more likely to have  and other mood disorders. After all, if you’re a teen with a chronic illness, it’s natural to notice that your disease sometimes affects your ability to do the same activities as your friends. Another difference is the extra attention you might need at home.

Mood disorders, most often anxiety disorders and depression, can set a teen back in school or in developing important social skills. Specialists in adolescent medicine can help you deal with these issues so you cope with and manage your illness better and have better well-being in general.

Symptoms

Anxiety and depression are the most common mood disorders in all adolescents, regardless of their health. Other mood and mental health disorders can affect teens. With bipolar disorder, the brain causes major shifts in mood and activity levels. A teen might be unusually energetic and happy and then show signs of depression. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families.

Sometimes anxiety or depression are temporary, and may be brought on by trauma, a family event or a setback in your health. If signs of depression or anxiety continue, teens should seek treatment.

Symptoms

You know that as a teen, your emotions often are chalked up to typical teen moodiness. That means many adolescents with anxiety or depression don’t receive the treatment they need. Symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Worry about social situations or other areas of your life, such as tests or being on time
  • Signs of panic, such as a racing heart, trouble breathing and feelings of impending doom
  • Other physical signs, such as dizziness, nausea, stomach pain or headaches     

Teen depression can be chronic or it can come and go. Signs of teen depression include:

  • Fatigue or sleepiness for no explainable reason
  • Bursts of anger or sudden irritability
  • Over sensitivity to criticism
  • Headaches, abdominal pain and other physical complaints with no illness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Withdrawal from family, friends or activities
  • A drop in grades or school attendance

Treatment

If you’re wondering if your symptoms are normal, don’t be afraid to ask. Our adolescent and young adult team of health professionals can evaluate and treat mood disorders or mental health issues in teens who have chronic illnesses. Teen health is our specialty. Our counselors and doctors keep your information confidential.

Usually, teens who have mood disorders or mental health issues receive counseling or therapy first. Also called psychotherapy, this treatment approach helps teens talk about their disorder and learn ways to deal with anxiety, depression and causes or triggers of mood disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on your moods and behaviors, and helps find new ways to approach problems. Each teen or young adult with a mood or mental health disorder requires a personalized approach to therapy.

Medications cannot cure mental health issues, but they can help manage symptoms. Sometimes, the doctor recommends taking medication for a short period of time until you feel better, or until the combination of therapy and medication has helped you learn to manage your mood disorder. Some teens require medication for longer periods of time. Antidepressants and other medications used to treat mood and mental health disorders can cause side effects. Parents and teens should work closely with their doctors to monitor side effects and how well medications are working.

Resources

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