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Mental Health Disorders in Adolescent

Adolescent mental health issues have been growing in recent years, and being mindful of them can help teenagers get the support they need.

What Is Adolescent Mental Health?

The adolescent stage is a formative time for most young people. Emotional, social, and physical changes can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems. It is estimated that 49.5% of adolescents have or will have a mental health issue at some point in their lives.1

As a young person battling mental health conditions, adolescents may be vulnerable to discrimination, social exclusion, and stigma. According to the World Health Organization, mental health disorders in adolescents aged 13 – 19 contribute to 13% of the global burden of disease for this age group.2

Adolescent Mental Health

Adolescent Mental Health

Factors that Influence Adolescent Mental Health

Multiple factors affect mental health in adolescents and dictate one’s mental health as they grow up. Many factors of adolescence can impact one’s mental health. For adolescents with a greater risk for mental health conditions, their emotional and mental wellbeing is very important to take note of. Factors contributing to stress may include:

  • Pressure to match peers
  • Feeling the need to conform to gender norms
  • The influence of the media.
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Living in fragile conditions
  • Family issues

Let's look at a few mental health disorders in adolescents.

Common Mental Health Disorders in Adolescents

There are many different types of mental health disorders that impact adolescents, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, ADHD, eating disorders, and many others.


Depression is a mental health disorder where people experience persistently depressed moods and develop a disinterest in normal activities. Depression often causes significant impairments to daily life and leads to isolation and apathy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 3 high school students experienced feelings of hopelessness and sadness, and 1 in 6 experienced feelings of suicide in 2019, which is a 40% increase since 2009.3

The causes of depression include a combination of psychological, biological, and social causes of distress. Researchers state that these factors may lead to changes in brain function. Anxiety and depression share common symptoms like unexpected mood swings and rapid heartbeats.

When not treated, depression may lead to a major depressive episode with various physical and behavioral symptoms. These may include changes in energy levels, concentration, sleep, self-esteem, or daily behavior. Depression may also cause suicidal thoughts to the mental health of adolescents. 

ADHD: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Most children diagnosed with ADHD still battle with the condition in their teens. Adolescents may experience distractibility, disorganization, poor concentration, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD symptoms often get worse during teen years due to hormonal changes.

ADHD oftentimes causes problems with school grades due to poor concentration. Students may forget assignments, become bored with classwork, and lose textbooks. ADHD also makes adolescents excessively inattentive and interrupt classmates and teachers. It may cause students to forget various tasks due to lack of attention.

Emotional Disorders

Emotional disorders are chronic and recurrent mental disorders that impair the quality of life, functionality, and productivity of adolescents. There are two broad categories of emotional disorders: anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Both mood and anxiety disorders are umbrella terms for more specific disorders affecting mental health in adolescents.

Anxiety Disorders

Studies show that women are more prone to develop anxiety than men. While researchers are still studying why this is so, some believe that the risk is associated with hormones found in women, whereas men have testosterone, which is proven to ease anxiety. Since men have more testosterone than women, it’s suspected they’re not as prone to have anxiety as women are.

Anxiety disorders happen when someone remains in a constant state of extreme worry for a long time. Anxiety makes it hard to go through a day without panicking and it often includes feelings of nervousness and fear. Anxiety makes a person experience much more dread and worry in response to certain events and situations. Physical symptoms of anxiety include sweating, rapid heartbeats, and the inability to breathe well. Anxiety disorder goes beyond the typical feeling of nervousness and fear.

Both environmental and genetic factors may increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. Someone may be at a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder if

  • They had or have certain physical conditions like heart or thyroid problems.
  • Their family has a history of anxiety disorders.
  • They experience a traumatic event

Mood Disorders

Mental health in adolescents may include mood disorders. These can range from major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder, along with emotional and behavioral problems that affect academic performance and social health. 

Bipolar disorder (BPD) comes with episodes of mood swings with manic highs and depressive lows. Manic episodes may cause symptoms like insomnia, high energy, and being out of touch with reality, while depressive episodes include symptoms of low energy, lack of motivation, and a disinterest in daily activities. Those with BPD may experiences days or months with associated suicidal thoughts when the mood episodes kick in.

Dysthymia disorder is a low mood condition that may last for at least two years. The condition also manifests as other symptoms of depression. Symptoms of dysthymia include hopelessness, disinterest in daily activities, low self-esteem and energy, poor concentration, and sleep changes.

Supporting Adolescent Mental Health

Adolescent Mental Health

Adolescent Mental Health

For those experiencing mental health issues, there are many places they can go to for help. Some mental health disorders include adolescents feeling isolated and alone, so it can be important for these systems to reach out to students and children to let them know they have support if they need it.

Importance of Support Systems

Schools are one of the biggest institutions for supporting teenage mental health services. Many schools have counselors and programs in place in order for students to get the help they need, as many triggers for mental illness in adolescents are found in school. Whether it’s anxiety from trying to fit in or depression from family issues at home, most schools have programs set up to help students with these issues. Healthcare providers often work together with schools to allow adolescents to get the care they need, including inpatient care and medication. 

Parents and families are another good resource for adolescents. If kids are uncomfortable talking to those they don’t know, oftentimes talking to trusted family and friends is more beneficial to them to get the support they need. 

Treatment for Adolescent Mental Health Disorders

There are both adolescent outpatient and inpatient treatment programs. The type of treatment program needed will vary based on the severity of the mental health issue being experienced. Inpatient treatment tends to be more intensive, and can include therapy, medication, calming exercises, and family visits to help tend to the adolescent who needs support. Outpatient care is generally more relaxed, but it still generally integrates medication and some form of therapy to help the teenager ease their anxiety, depression, or mood disorder.  

Anew Treatment Center helps and advocates for adolescent mental health disorders as well.

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