Defining Adolescent Emotional Health Disorders
Adolescent emotional health disorders are as complex and varied as teenagers themselves. With that being said, emotional disorders can appear or form in a wide-ranging number of ways, presenting themselves as any number of the World Health Organization's (WHO's) recognized emotional disorders. What makes emotional health-related illnesses even more severe is that they often come in pairs, rarely manifesting as a singular disorder within a child.
To make matters even more confusing for parents, emotional disorders, at face-value, can appear or even mimic what would be considered "normal teenage behaviors and emotions." However, parents can suss out whether or not their child's self-destructive, or overly emotional responses are nothing more than common teenage peculiarities or something more serious by simply paying close attention to their child's day-to-day behavioral patterns and emotions.
In the following article, we will further discuss what emotional health disorders are, how they can be recognized, and what parents of afflicted teens can do in terms of locating the most suitable treatment option for their emotionally-distressed son or daughter.
Further Understanding Emotional Health Disorders in Teens
As anyone who has personally gone through it can tell you, the time of adolescence is stressful and even nightmarish at times. With our brains still developing and newly introduced hormones seemingly dictating our lives at any given moment, with any thought given to this turbulent phase, every adult can relate to teens plagued by emotional health disorders - at least on some level.
However, those of us who never experienced what it's like to live with an emotional health disorder as youth cannot relate to the day to day struggles and extreme responses to said struggles that oftentimes occur in the lives of teens diagnosed with an emotional-related illness.
That said, parents of afflicted teens need to approach their child's condition with a certain level of respect and empathetic understanding. Moreover, parents who suspect their child has an emotional disorder but are uncertain, seeking to understand their behaviors and emotional well-being is a crucial first step in verifying a diagnosis.
For example, in the case of an emotional disorder like depression, teens with this illness may display emotions that are inherent to the moodiness of an average teenager.
Though, teens who suffer from an actual depressive or anxiety-related diagnosis will repetitively display these emotions on a near-constant or more than regular basis. It is only after parents are able to pay attention to their child's day-to-day emotional and behavioral patterns that they will be able to suss out the difference.
Another part of understanding teenage emotional illness is knowing the unique qualities of such a disorder. For instance, most emotion-related disorders, like that of anxiety and depression, occur in tandem and even fuel each other's symptoms. Additionally, emotional sickness will oftentimes result in a co-occurring disorder or a mental illness that is accompanied by a behavioral disorder, most commonly, substance abuse or addiction. This notion is further proven by WHO's latest data that finds teens who experience a major depressive episode are more than twice as likely to experiment and become addicted to a harmful substance, such as alcohol, marijuana, or opiates than those who don't experience emotional distress.
The Most Common Emotional Disorders Found in Today's Youth
With mental illness reaching epidemic numbers - according to the latest data, 30% of teens experience symptoms of mental illness during adolescence - it's crucial for parents to at least be able to recognize the most common and severe emotional-related illnesses.
Below is a list of the most common and potentially dangerous emotional health disorders:
Anxiety - among the most obviously distressing and traumatic illnesses, anxiety disorder is also one of the most dangerous, fatal, and rather distressingly, the most common of its clinical classification. Parents who suspect their child might have an anxiety disorder should be on the lookout for symptoms such as insomnia, digestive issues, and stress-related weight loss. While there are medications that help with anxiety, teens with extreme cases or co-occurring conditions typically require some form of residential treatment.
ADHD - while often overlooked in terms of being life-altering, teens with ADHD experience extreme emotions and lacking abilities that may lead to them feeling isolated from their peers. Teens with attention deficit-related illnesses, of course, have extreme difficulty with paying attention, focusing, or following directions - all abilities that tend to be crucial when developing relationships with others. This potential separation from other people can easily cause a co-occurring illness or behavioral dysfunction such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse and/or addiction.
Conduct Disorder - Although not as common as the rest on this list, conduct disorder is among the most severe and potentially life-destroying. Beginning with seemingly innocuous behaviors such as having a general disrespect for those around them or displaying a general disregard for the feelings of anyone besides themselves, left untreated, teenage conduct disorder typically culminates in criminal behaviors that range from stealing and destroying property to acting out in extreme acts of violence.
Depression - Along with anxiety - and most likely due to their synchronistic nature with one another - depression is the most common emotional illness among American teens. It is also the most fatal (suicide is the second leading cause of death). While moodiness and even isolating oneself from others is inherent to the teenage condition, it is when these behaviors become constant and last for extended periods of time that parents should take notice and most importantly, take immediate action.
Oppositional Defiance Disorder - Similar and typically a precursor to that of conduct disorder (but much less serious), ODD is a serious condition that is most associated with the behavioral term 'troubled teens.' This behavioral association and classification are due to ODD's symptoms that include being deliberately uncooperative or constantly argumentative and displaying a general sense of opposition to any type of authority figure. Due to obvious reasons, this type of disorder can easily lead to more destructive and out of control behaviors if left untreated. Parents of a child diagnosed with ODD should seek out the most appropriate residential treatment options.
What Causes Emotional Disorders in Adolescents?
Like most mental health illnesses associated with adolescents, there is no 'one' known cause of an emotional health disorder. Rather, the development of an emotional-related sickness is generally caused by a variety of circumstances, including trauma or negative environments, and (oftentimes combined with) uncontrollable factors such as genetics. These factors, thus, contribute to a teen's ability to appropriately respond to and process stress.
While there are plenty of factors that are left out of a parent's control, effective or ineffective parenting can play a pivotal role in a child's development of emotional illness. For example, even how a parent deals with their own stress can teach a teenager how they are to respond to similar situations. This learned behavior plays more of a crucial role during an adolescent's late-teens when life's challenges become increasingly more difficult and critical.
With that in mind, while a parent may not be able to prevent the development of an emotional disorder in their son or daughter, they can lead by example and set out a blueprint for their emotionally disturbed child to utilize during their path to recovery.
Recognizing Symptoms Most Likely Related to an Emotional Disorder
Symptoms of adolescent emotional issues can be rather difficult to discern. Since teens have a tendency to shield their emotions from parents and other authority figures, it is imperative to look out for defining symptoms of a clinical emotional disturbance.
Some key symptoms that may indicate an emotional disorder include:
- Digestive issues and stomach pain
- Sore muscles
- Trouble sleeping or still feeling exhausted despite sleeping for long periods
- Worry that can lead to nausea and difficulty sleeping
- Lack of desire to socialize with others, including close friends
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Anger, irritability, and/or aggression towards others
- Lack of control in one’s life
Locating Effective Forms of Treatment
Considering the countless variables and wide-ranging nature of the classification, emotional illnesses have many forms of treatment, the effectiveness of which depends on the individual teen, the severity of their issues, and whether or not said issues can be treated with one-on-one therapy sessions.
However, when residential treatment such as a therapeutic boarding school is required, it's crucial for parents to do their due diligence in researching and locating the most appropriate treatment facility that is within their budget. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Even after a simple search on any search engine, a parent can even become overwhelmed by the number of treatment options at their disposal. That said, parents can narrow down their search by simply reading a program's website, most notably, the programs listed services, credentials, and details such as parent testimonials.
After finding a program whose website seemingly offers what they are searching for, parents should then call said program's listed number, and if possible, fill out a simple questionnaire provided by the website. Parents who commit to this basic act of researching prospective programs for their teen will quickly be able to tell the difference between a legitimate top-tier facility and one whose interests are wholly financial.
Although rare, there are some therapeutically motivated programs, like that of Family First Adolescent Services, that will go above and beyond in assisting parents in locating the most optimal treatment option for their child - even if it that particular facility is not their own.
Family First Adolescent Services: A Balance Of Treatment, Education, & Community for Teenage Boys
Family First AS is a program that understands that only a balance of treatment, education, and community enable young men to make lasting changes. Furthermore, at Family First Adolescent Services, we are made up of a highly-skilled clinical staff dedicated to providing cutting-edge programs and services for teenage boys diagnosed with an emotional disorder.
What's more, it is our staff's shared mission to help parents overcome the fear, frustration, and anxiety that comes with watching their child struggle. In fact, at Family First, we have a shared belief that the very same feelings that may have caused parents to feel isolated and alone in their struggles can be a powerful, unifying force in an environment that validates and supports parents in pain.
The Long Term Solution
Residential treatment is not a “quick fix” for your son or your family. As an ethical and reputable treatment provider, Family First Adolescent Services helps teenage boys and their families gain valuable insight on how to begin treating the emotional, mental, and behavioral patterns that have disrupted the family system.
Our clients learn to process emotional issues and early childhood traumas that have been blocking personal growth. In this way, our families begin the individual and collective healing process. Providing a space for families to gain new tools, awareness, and stronger relationships, the journey toward long term success is then sustainable.
We provide one year of free follow up care through the Family First Alumni Program in order to be a part of that journey and assist where we can.
To read more about our program click here.
For immediate assistance, please call us today at (561) 328-7370.