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Normal Teenage Behavior or Mental Health Issue? Know When to Seek Help


Teens are halfway between children and adults – they're still finding themselves and learning to live in their own skin.

As a result, it's common for teens to exhibit unusual behavior such as lashing out, isolating, or making risky decisions.

But when does normal teen behavior cross the line into teenage mental health issues?

It's not always easy to tell.

Mental illness in adolescence is remarkably common because this is often when symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other conditions first emerge.

That's why it's important for parents, family members, and loved ones to understand the signs and symptoms of teen depression and mental illness in teens.

Teens and Mental Health: What's Normal Behavior?

Growing up is hard, increased responsibilities are stressful, and emotions are difficult to manage.

You'd be hard pressed to find an adult who manages their responsibilities, emotions, and relationships in a positive way 100 percent of the time.

For teens, these pressures are magnified and they haven't learned how to manage aspects of life quite yet. Plus, their brains are still developing so it's very common for teens to act unreasonably or engage in risky behavior.

Signs of Mental Illness in Teens to Watch Out For

Instead of explaining what qualifies as healthy behavior, it may be easier to explain which behaviors indicate teenage mental health issues.

If your teen's behavior wades into the symptoms below, talk to them about what they're going through or find a trusted adult to take on the task.

  • Missing days in school or poor school performance
  • Avoids friends or forming a social life
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • No motivation for fun or interesting activities
  • Sleep disturbances including insomnia and nightmares
  • Can't sit still or focus on a task
  • Seems chronically anxious or worried
  • Lack of energy or oversleeping
  • Bounces between moods of no-energy and hyperactivity
  • Self-harm including cutting, picking, burning, biting, or hairpulling
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Constantly irritable or always reacts in an unreasonable manner
  • Manic and risky behavior such as car races, unsafe sex practices, or dangerous thrill-seeking activities
  • Feels like an external entity is controlling their thoughts or actions/hearing voices
  • Smoking, taking drugs, or drinking

Although experimenting in drugs or alcohol isn't an encouraged or healthy activity, it may not necessarily suggest a substance abuse condition, either. If substance use is combined with other issues on the list, this would absolutely indicate a red flag.

Keep an eye on the warning signs listed above and find a trusted adult to talk to them about their activity. This way, you can decide if their behavior warrants a concrete treatment program.

Common Types of Mental Illness in Adolescence

Many types of mental illness first emerge in adolescence such as teen depression, anxiety, and even ADHD. Schizophrenia, for example, often first appears in young adulthood or the late teen years.

Although mental health conditions often hold a genetic factor, environmental conditions can also contribute to many symptoms. In many cases, ADHD doesn't manifest until puberty while minor forms of autism may not become apparent until the early teen years.

Like adults, teens are often exposed to many forms of trauma so PTSD is another common mental illness in teens. Here are some common types of mental illness in adolescence to familiarize yourself with.

  1. Teen depression: isolation and lack of interest in activities
  2. Anxiety: constant worries and always on-edge
  3. Bipolar disorder: periods of extreme highs and lows
  4. Substance use disorder: using drugs or alcohol
  5. Borderline personality disorder: insecurity, feelings of worthlessness, trouble forming social relationships
  6. Schizophrenia: disorganized speech, out of touch with reality
  7. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): avoiding people or places, drastic change in behavior, risky behavior
  8. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: constant irritability, reacts unreasonably to virtually all situations
  9. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): compulsive behavior, extreme yet limited interests, self-harm, compulsive or repetitive speech or actions
  10. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): inability to focus on one task, falling behind in school, forgetfulness

Where and How to Get Help for Teen Mental Health Issues

Teens and mental health together form a touchy subject.

Many people – including adults – may not be willing to express their feelings and emotions if they don't think you'll greet them with complete support. This is even more evident in teens who are naturally distrusting of parents due to their role as authority figures.

If you're worried your teen may not open up to you, find an adult they can trust to engage in a meaningful conversation. From there, you can together talk about seeking treatment at teenage mental health facilities.

Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute understands that mental illness in teens requires a comprehensive approach and group effort from family members.

An effective – and personalized – recovery program should include a variety of the following

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy for managing thoughts, actions, and emotions in a positive way
  • Healthy outlets for self-expression, realization, and recreation
  • Group support and one-on-one therapy
  • Coping skills for managing daily tasks and activities
  • Family group therapy

Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute Teenage Mental Health Facilities in Austin, Texas

At Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute in Austin, Texas, we understand that teenage mental health issues are complex. That's why we offer a comprehensive treatment program specifically designed to treat mental illness in adolescence.

Our programs focus on building empathy, self-reflection, mindfulness, and other useful traits for recovery. These personalized patient-centric plans include a variety of techniques such as individual and group therapy, family therapy and support, as well as expressive recreational therapy in either an intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization setting.

If you know a teen struggling with mental health concerns, contact Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute today to learn more about our teenage mental health facilities and programs. You can also call at 877-500-9151.