Know the Signs: Identifying Behavioral Health Conditions in Adolescents

emily snow — November 9, 2020

How are you weathering this 2020 storm? Amid all of the circumstances that this year has thrown at us, from doubling your home as an office to monitoring unfolding news around social unrest, it’s no surprise that behavioral health concerns are rising in the United States. The weight that this era has added to our daily routines has produced an uptick in cases of depression and anxiety, resulting in an influx of patients seeking telehealth services for behavioral health challenges.

But what about our youth? Have you considered how changes in their lives – like missing a friend’s birthday and learning geometry online – are affecting your children, students and peers? Experts report that at least one in five kids between the ages of 9 and 17 lives with a diagnosable behavioral health disorder – the most common include attention, anxiety and mood disorders. Additionally, it’s suggested that early treatment of such disorders could affect the course of the disease

Below, we explore the signs and symptoms of behavioral health conditions in adolescents so you can be proactive in seeking the appropriate help they need.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Think back to your least favorite class in high school. Why did you dread it? Did you struggle to bring home anything higher than a C? Was your teacher dull and dismissive? Now imagine that you were forced to attend that class through a computer screen. No staying after class to ask a question. No positive reinforcement or constructive feedback from the teacher as they monitor a class assignment. And, no chatting with peers between class periods or at lunch.

Consider how this factor has affected your child’s academic performance. And if they happen to be struggling with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), that presents an entirely new challenge. Nearly 1 in 20 adolescents have ADHD, and subsequently may struggle with paying attention in school, among dealing with other effects of the disorder. Make sure you are able to recognize the symptoms so that, if this is in fact a concern with your child, you can seek the proper assistance to help them overcome this mental barrier. Indications of ADHD include:

  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of organization/tendency to forget
  • Self-serving behavior
  • Hyperactivity/fidgeting
  • Amplified emotional reactions
  • Tendency to act impulsively/poor decision-making ability
  • Lack of concentration/difficulty completing tasks

Anxiety

Uncertainties in the day-to-day life of a teen are abundant. Add the worries that this year has brought about, and that could prove to be a very heavy burden for some adolescents to bear. While anxiety is a normal and healthy human emotion, it can be crippling for some – affecting normal activities like attending school, being present in home life and balancing relationships. Anxiety disorders differ from person to person, but there are a range of symptoms that you can look for when you suspect that someone is suffering from this disorder. These include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Onset of panic attacks
  • Development of phobias
  • Substance use

Depression

Adolescent years are a transformative period, branded by the often-awkward stage of puberty. But this time is also accompanied by important milestones like learning to drive, attending junior prom with your friends and uncovering new-found interests and talents.

With many of these events on hold or significantly altered as a result of the pandemic, it’s understandable that your teen may be feeling down. However, if your child or pupil is suffering from depression, they will exhibit a number of detectible signs, both mental and physical, that may cause issues at school, in social settings or at home. Understand the symptoms that characterize depression so that you can differentiate this disorder from general feelings of sadness:

  • Unusual sadness or irritability
  • Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Abnormal sleep patterns
  • Sluggishness
  • Low self-esteem/relentless self-assessment
  • Paranoia
  • Feelings of worthlessness/hopelessness
  • Self-harm / suicidal thoughts and/or attempts

If you believe you’ve observed symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, depression or another behavioral health concern in your child or student, Mindful by Blue KC can help you take the next step toward treatment. Call (833) 302-MIND (6463) to speak with a Mindful Advocate who will match you with the appropriate care and services to help your teen on the track to feeling better.