April 20th, 2009
Warning Signs & Symptoms

*Adapted from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Adolescence can be a difficult time for both parent and child – but if your teen is feeling extremely sad, hopeless or worthless, he/she could be showing signs of a mental health problem. Mental illnesses are medical conditions, and they often first appear between the ages of 18 and 24. If they go untreated, these illnesses can lead to distress, and dangerous behaviors like substance abuse and thoughts of suicide. Some of the signs of a possible problem – as outlined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – are listed below.

If you are a Parent or other caregiver of a teenager, pay attention if your teen:

Is troubled by feeling:

  • very angry most of the time, cries a lot or overreacts to things
  • worthless or guilty a lot
  • anxious or worried a lot more than other young people
  • grief for a long time after a loss or death
  • extremely fearful-has unexplained fears or more fears than most kids
  • constantly concerned about physical problems or appearance
  • frightened that his or her mind is controlled or is out of control

Experiences big changes, for example:

  • does much worse in school
  • loses interest in things usually enjoyed
  • has unexplained changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • avoids friends or family and wants to be alone all the time
  • daydreams too much and can’t get things done
  • feels life is too hard to handle or talks about suicide
  • hears voices that cannot be explained

Is limited by:

  • poor concentration – can’t make decisions
  • inability to sit still or focus attention
  • worry about being harmed, hurting others, or about doing something “bad”
  • the need to wash, clean things, or perform certain routines dozens of times a day
  • racing thoughts, too fast to follow
  • persistent nightmares

Behaves in ways that cause problems, for-example:

  • uses alcohol or other drugs
  • eats large amounts of food and then forces vomiting, abuses laxatives, or takes enemas to avoid weight gain
  • continues to diet or exercise obsessively, although bone-thin
  • often hurts other people, destroys property, or breaks the law
  • does things that can be life threatening

This and more can be found online at SAMHSA’s Web site.

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