Being a parent of four (three in their 20’s and one teenager), I have long realized – as I’m sure other parents do, too – that the growing years in a child are a time of continual and critical change. When we talk about the growing years, we can’t help but touch on the entire period from the newborn child’s dependency to the adolescent’s stubborn fight for independence. As well as deriving delight from their children, parents likewise experience troubles or difficulties brought about mostly by physical, social, mental, and emotional concerns.
As the realities of adulthood begin to set in, the teenagers’ struggles (for esteem, achievement, and acceptance) come to the fore. Sometimes, though, parents forget just how hard and exacting the period teenagers are in – and how precarious it is as well. During this period, certain mental health problems can occur in teenagers. These may include such conditions as depression, anorexia, bulimia, alcohol and/or drug abuse, and, worst, suicidal thoughts. These mental health problems should be of real concern to both teenagers and parents. There are specific signs to watch for in order to recognize the existence of any of these mental health problems.
Depression can be detected by such disturbing signs in teenagers as irritability, sleeping problem, loss of weight, and keeping distance from family, friends, and regular interests. Depression is often very difficult to recognize as it usually shows up in various ways, coupled by the fact that many teenagers conceal their actual emotions or feelings by feigning a pleasant and happy appearance. Parents must realize that depression in any way or form potentially can lead to suicide.
In anorexia, the signs to watch for include the teenagers’ inordinate concern about obesity, decreased consumption of food, and constant use of the scale. Due to the body’s contorted look, anxiousness about overweight does not lessen even as the anorexia-sufferer becomes increasingly emaciated.
Tooth damage, blemishes, weight swings of ten pounds or more, preoccupation with food (often to the extent of hiding or hoarding it), and indication of self-induced vomiting are some of the obvious signs of bulimia in teenagers.
There are a number of signs parents have to watch for in the problems of alcohol and drug abuse. In the former condition, teenagers usually suffer from morning headaches, vomiting, and impaired judgment. They have dulled memory as well as a hard time concentrating. Evident change in personality and behavior patterns, loss of ambition, and inability to assume responsibility are some of the other signs of this condition.
Teenagers suffering from drug abuse exhibit change in personality and behavior patterns, impaired judgment, and lassitude or stupor. The quality of their academic performance declines. Parents have to especially watch for slurred speech and needle marks.
Without a doubt, the signs of suicidal thoughts in teenagers are those that parents have to closely watch for. The symptoms of this mental health problem are much like those of depression, and they are often related to such trigger situations as rejection, an unwanted pregnancy, a family divorce, or a breakup in relationship. Some teenagers may make their intentions more evident. An example of this is when they suddenly decide to part with something that they hold dear. Parents should never take such signs lightly; any suicidal talk or threats should be taken very seriously. As soon as parents detect any evident behavioral change in their teenagers, they must discuss their teenagers’ apparent dejection with them right away.
Bringing things out in the open may likely reduce the anxiety in teenagers. Also in this way, teenagers will sense their parents’ support. Consequently, parents may be able to address the problem more appropriately, and can then seek professional assistance.