Teenage mental health, an often-overlooked topic, may deserve more attention than parents and caregivers believe. When we discuss mental illness today, it’s usually thought of as an adult problem; however, new research shows that more than half of mental and emotional problems first manifest during childhood or the early teen years.
Today, 15 million children in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder; 4 million of these cases are considered serious. Despite this staggering statistic, only 20 percent of those children will be diagnosed and treated, and disorders in adolescent and teen girls are the most frequently overlooked.
The Importance of Early Identification and Treatment
Left undiagnosed and untreated, mental illness in kids and teens can profoundly affect their future. Mental and emotional problems can lead to a variety of complex consequences. For example, half of kids 14 and older who suffer from mental illness will drop out of high school. A full 75 percent of incarcerated teenage girls have at least one mental or emotional challenge. Of those children and adolescents who commit suicide, 90 percent have struggled with mental or emotional illness.
For girls and young women, problems of this nature are often missed. Teens can be creative when it comes to hiding their symptoms, but more often, parents and caregivers simply are unaware of common symptoms that may signal a problem.
Mental Disorders Affecting Adolescent and Teen Girls
The most common issues affecting adolescents and teens involve ADHD, mood disorders, depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, substance abuse and addiction, developmental problems and social dysfunction. For girls, however, the demographics change significantly.
Girls and young women are especially prone to depression, eating disorders, self-harm and victimization (bullying). Recent research shows that parents of teenage girls may focus more on substance abuse, and consequently, miss the warning signs of other issues.
Some Common Signs Your Child May Have a Problem
Studies show that more than two-thirds of girls and young women feel awkward talking with their parents about mental health-related issues. The onus is on parents and caregivers to watch for signs of a problem.
Although disorders may manifest with a variety of symptoms, some of the most common warning signs include a sudden decline in academic performance; extreme, ongoing aggression; and social withdrawal. Take notice if your daughter undergoes dramatic changes in sleeping or eating habits, personal hygiene, energy levels or ability to concentrate.
Finally, if she develops a strong resistance to going to school, especially if she complains of recurring, generalized physical symptoms (headache, nausea, etc.) this may also indicate a problem.
Many parents question themselves or fear their own overreaction on issues involving mental health. Without the advice and counsel of a trained professional, it may be impossible to determine for sure whether your child has a problem or is simply going through a normal developmental phase.
At Havenwood Academy, we work exclusively with adolescent and teenage girls ages 12 to 17, providing residential treatment in an environment based on love and trust. Contact us today if you have concerns about your teenager and her mental health.