Adolescence is a time of rapid brain and body development until the onset of puberty, which will begin to influence both your child’s physical and mental health. During this time, a young person may begin to develop symptoms that may support a mental health diagnosis, especially if they are associated with genetic, environmental, or situational factors.
Some of the most common psychiatric disorders seen in adolescence include mood disorders, such as depressive disorder, adjustment disorder, or borderline personality disorder; anxiety disorder, both generalized and social; disruptive behavior disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. If the symptoms of any of these disorders are associated with drug or alcohol use, a concurrent disorder may develop over time.
A concurrent disorder is known as the presence of both a mental health diagnosis and a substance abuse disorder. There is a lot of speculation about which comes first, the substance abuse disorder or the mental health issue; however, there is strong evidence that shows people with an undiagnosed mental health condition often turn to self-medication by using drugs or alcohol. Studies have shown that the younger a person is when they start using drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to become dependent on the substance later in life.
As a parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs your child may be showing if they have the onset of a mental health or addiction problem. First, it’s important to know your family’s medical history. For example, if you or your child’s other parent have experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety or have struggled with substance abuse or addiction, your child is likely to experience similar symptoms or become predisposed to addiction if he starts using drugs or alcohol.
It is also important to ensure that an open line of communication with your child is maintained to ensure symptoms are addressed as they arise. If you notice a change in your child’s mood or behavior, question them and give them space to talk freely without judgment. Some of the most common risk factors for an anxiety or mood disorder in adolescence include parental history of anxiety, mood disorder or other mental health disorder, increased pressures school or social life, stressful home environments, early or significant losses (death of parent, divorce, relationship breakdown), chronic illness, history of bullying (in-person or cyberbullying), or history of neglect or abuse. abuse.
Treatment of your child’s symptoms is essential and services are readily available. Treatment may include outpatient individual or group therapies, psychiatric medication management, or a combination of both. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, along with other behavioral therapies, could provide insight into your child’s mental health issues and ease your child’s ability to get through what could be a difficult time.
The best place to start would be to consult with your child’s Youth First social worker or pediatrician to discuss the best treatment options for their specific needs. Early intervention is the key! Your child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and academic performance. There is a community of mental health professionals available to gather around you and your child, so don’t hesitate to ask for help! You and your child are never alone.
Rachel Haug, LCSW, is a youth-first social worker at Plaza Park International Prep Academy in Vanderburgh County. Youth First, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth and families. Youth First provides 78 Masters level social workers to 107 schools in 13 Indiana counties. Each year, more than 60,000 youth and families benefit from Youth First’s school social work and after-school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.