What It's Like For A Teen:
Dude, being a teenager is HARD. Anyone who says different has been drinking the Kool-Aid or somehow managed to erase their memories of the years between 13-25.
There's all this pressure around you - to fit in, to get good grades, to get into college...and let's not START on how adults expect teenagers to know what they "want to do with the rest of their lives."
I'm almost 32 and I STILL have no idea what I want to do with my life, although I will be honest: at eighteen years old, I wanted to be a professional bull-rider, not a writer (I still question this decision.).
Being a teen also comes with the realization that the world can be a hot fucking mess, yo, and that life can be hard. You understand that there are problems - big ass problems - that aren't easily fixed. Hell, there are problems that NO ONE can fix. That's a hard pill to swallow.
Anyone who tells you that "the teen years" are some of the "best years of your life," are full of shit. Or high as fuck.
Your teen years? They're not the best years of your life - they may be great, but I'm telling you, there's a whole world out there. And it is wonderful.
Life? It just keeps getting better. Trust me on this.
Anyway, enough blathering from me and let's get into the point of the page - teen mental illness.
What Is A Mental Illness?
Mental illness is a medical condition that changes the way a person feels, thinks, screws with his or her mood, messes with relationships with other people, and can really impair day-to-day life. Mental illnesses can cause you to behave a certain way, feel like life is in the shitter, make crappy decisions, do things to yourself that you wouldn't normally do.
Like anyone else, teenagers can become mentally ill. And dealing with mental illness on top of everything else a teen goes through - that can be like hell.
Mental illnesses are real, sometimes they're hard as hell to deal with, but they are usually treatable. The earlier you start treatment, the better. Yeah, I know, more pressure - but this kind should make your life easier.
So...Be Honest - Is Mental Illness Real?
YES. Of course mental illness is real. Teens may experience mental illness symptoms a little differently than adults or kids, but that doesn't make teen mental illness any less real.
Having a mental illness is no different than being diabetic (without the insulin, because obviously) - it's just not always one of those things you can see with your eyeballs - so sometimes people think mental illnesses are fake, or just "something you'll get over." Mostly because they're assholes that you should ignore.
Like asthma, allergies, and other crappy medical problems, mental illnesses are real medical problems that people need to get help for, not something people make up for attention or to make people like them.
What Are Teen Mental Illnesses?
Well, teen mental illnesses aren't entirely unlike adult mental illnesses - in most ways. Symptoms, treatment options, and recovery times may be a little different, but overall, teen mental illnesses are similar to those of adults (sorry, we know how you hate to be thought of ANYthing like us adults.)(can't blame you there).
Let's go into a little more detail about the types of teen mental illness:
Dude, we all know that you guys do drugs and drink some of the time. It's an experimental time, we get that, but we also, given the grace of wisdom of experience and age, that sometimes you guys are idiots about it.
Did you know that 50% of deaths among 15-24-year-olds involve drug or alcohol use? Pretty sobering, right? (pun intended)
No seriously, it's not worth it. If you're going to experiment with drugs or alcohol, use your fucking brain. Don't drink and drive. Don't do drugs and drive. It's not cool - it's fucking stupid.
Read about teen substance abuse.
Read about alcoholism.
The media is full of images of what you "should" look like and it's hard not to buy into that. Those models? They live on cocaine and blowjobs, okay? Also? Have you heard of Photoshop? All those models are airbrushed, slimmed down, and plumped up within an inch of their lives. You should remember THAT any time you look at a fashion magazine and get all jealous.
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder in which someone refuses to maintain their weight at or above the minimum normal weight for age and height.
Anorexia Nervosa is bigger than dieting, it can affect boys AND girls and can lead to some extremely serious side effects. Starvation and death are included in those.
It's very important that if you're restricting your calories or working to be all pro-ana that you seek help. I'm not being glib, coy or funny - get some help. TELL someone. Your life is at risk here.
Read more about Anorexia Nervosa.
We're going in alphabetical order here, so next up is anxiety. Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental illnesses, as well as some of the hardest to handle. As a teen, an anxiety disorder can be devastating.
Imagine if you couldn't go to class without intense fear that you were going to be mocked.
Or you were afraid to go to a party because there were so! many! people there.
Or if you were afraid to take a test because the pressure would cause you to faint and pass out, heart racing.
Or if you were afraid of a specific thing - a car, a motorcycle, hell, even your locker.
Or if you were terrified to leave your parents (or siblings) at home while you went to school.
Those are all things that anxiety disorders can make us do. They're sucky, they're hard to deal with, and they can make life hell.
HOWEVER, they're treatable. GET HELP NOW. Learn the coping mechanisms. Work with the anxiety. You can get better!
Read more about anxiety disorders.
ADHD (or it's full name "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" which ROLLS off the tongue) is generally something that's diagnosed and treated in the elementary school years. HOWEVER, sometimes the symptoms continue into the teen years.
That can mean it's hard for you to pay attention, hard to organize your work, hard to take care of school stuff and keep everything straight.
You know this because it's something someone is always yelling at you about ("why don't get you get more organized!?!" "why are you such a mess?").
However, dealing with it is a drag. But, the sooner you learn to cope with it, the better off you'll be. Even though it seems like it doesn't matter, you'll appreciate the ability to concentrate and handle life.
Read more about ADHD.
Just like adults, teens can have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder, if you're not aware, is a mood disorder that make people feel either higher than a kite or lower than dogshit. You can be all irritable, angry, sullen, depressed, lonesome, or suicidal if you have teen bipolar disorder.
If you think you have teen bipolar disorder, talk to someone. I'm not joking. The periods of mania (or feeling high as hell) aren't worth the low lows of the depression. Find someone to talk to and get it treated. There are tons of great resources out there to help you handle teen bipolar disorder so that you can go on to lead a normal life.
Read more about teen bipolar disorder.
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person binge eats a ton of food, then gets rid of the food by purging (generally vomiting, but laxatives can be used too). Sometimes, when a teen feels really out of control of his or her life, he or she turns to the one thing they can control: food.
Over time, this can (obviously) lead to a ton of health problems.
Teen bulimia can also lead to a lot of problems with self-esteem, the way you feel about yourself, and the ways you cope with negative shitty emotions.
If you're binging and purging, you need to find some help to get some better coping strategies. Your life is at stake here. And I, for one, think that's a pretty fucking big deal.
Read more about Bulimia Nervosa.
Teens with Conduct Disorder are assholes - they violate the rights of other people, they violate rules and norms appropriate for a teenager.
(yes, teenagers still have rules - and they do for a reason.)
Now you're probably thinking, Aunt Becky, pranks are pretty awesome - and they can be. But not for teens with conduct disorder. The pranks and stuff they pull at home and school are much worse than shit like TP-ing a house.
Teens with conduct disorder have a big problem - and without help, they will have even bigger problems down the road.
Read more about Conduct Disorder.
A lot of us get sad sometimes. It's normal to feel sad some of the time. It's when most of our days are "bad days" and we feel bleak and hopeless that shit gets real. Teen depression is a fairly common experience for teenagers, although teens may be "angry" and "irritable" rather than simply feeling low.
Depression sucks, but it's treatable and manageable. There's no shame in getting help for teen depression.
If you've been feeling low, crabby, and shitty for weeks, tell someone. Get some help. The earlier you get help for teen depression, the better off you'll be.
And anyone who doesn't believe teens can get depressed can eat a fat bowl of dicks.
Read more about Teen Depression.
Teen Emotional Abuse:
Emotional Abuse is when someone verbally, mentally or emotionally abuses you. And that? Is NOT okay. Just because there aren't physical marks doesn't mean you aren't being abuse. Using fear, humiliation or verbal assault are ways your abuser will control you and undermine your self-esteem. Emotional abuse, like physical abuse, is JUST as damaging.
If you feel afraid of your significant other or you think you're being mistreated, seek help. You deserve to be loved for you, not who someone else wants you to be.
Read more about Emotional Abuse.
A teen learning disorder happens when a teen's math, reading, or writing skills are far below what's expected for their intelligence, age, and schooling. About 5% of all kids in the US have a learning disorder.
If you're a teen with a learning disorder, you're not alone. But it sucks sometimes, I know. Your performance in school may be super frustrating - it may even make you want to drop out of school.
Dropping out of school isn't the answer.
Get some help, treatment, and whatever special help you need to make it through school. It's VERY important. Talk to your teachers, guidance counselors and your parents. Yeah, I know: Adults are lame. But they can get you the help you need.
Read more about learning disorders.
Teens, like adults and children, can have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
With this mental illness, teenagers will have recurrent, persistent thoughts or images (obsessions) that cause severe anxiety.
In order to cope with these obsessions, a teen can develop repetitive behaviors and rituals (checking, obsessive hand washing, hoarding, checking) or mental acts (repeating certain types of phrases, counting, or avoiding), called compulsions.
The problem with these obsessions and compulsions is that they can totally interfere with life. And they get worse over time without treatment.
Read more about obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Both children and teens can be the victims of child abuse - a situation in which the person who is responsible for your welfare hurts you. It can be kicking, hitting, punching, burning, hitting with an object - it's all abuse and no one deserves to be abused.
Being the victim of physical abuse can lead to a fuckton of problems - low self-esteem, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, and conduct disorder.
If you are being abused, TELL SOMEONE. You should not have to live your life in fear.
Read more about abuse.
Teen PTSD can happen after a teen goes through a shocking and unexpected event that's outside the range of normal experiences. This trauma can overwhelm your coping mechanisms and create intense feelings of fear and/or helplessness.
Traumatic events may be experienced by the teen him or herself (a rape, kidnapping, assault, threatened death) but can also happen after witnessing something totally fucked up or learning about a trauma that affects someone you're close to.
This trauma can lead to flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, numbing, hyper-arousal (extreme vigilance), sleep problems, and problems concentrating.
PTSD is a very hard mental illness to cope with but, with the proper treatment and support, can be managed.
Read more about PTSD.
Psychotic disorders are mental illnesses that cause huge impairment in the way a teen thinks, responds, talks to other people, understands reality, and behaves appropriately. As you can imagine, a teen psychotic disorder drastically interferes with life. Teen psychotic disorders can include the following:
Delusions: A delusion is an untrue, odd, firm belief that a person has that is not generally accepted by other people in the same culture or subculture. There are paranoid delusions (people are plotting against me!), delusions of grandeur (I am FAMOUS!) and somatic delusions (someone who is healthy believes that he or she is sick and/or dying).
Hallucinations: A hallucination is a sensory perception, or something that's seen, heard, smelled, or felt outside an actual stimulus. There's nothing there.
While these can sound pretty wild and funny, they're not. These are both hallmarks of very serious teen mental illnesses.
Read more about psychosis.
Teens who have schizophrenia have a psychotic disorder, or a disorder that interferes with the way a teen thinks, feels, acts, and communicates. Teen schizophrenia may have delusions and hallucinations.
Teen schizophrenia can be debilitating, but, with proper treatment from a great treatment team, can be managed.
Read more about schizophrenia.
Teen depression is every bit as real as depression in adults. If left untreated, teen depression can lead to a huge amount of problems at home, in school, can make the teen hate him or herself, and, scariest of all, want to die by suicide.
Think I'm exaggerating for effect? You're wrong - suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people ages 15-24 (accidents and homicide are 1 and 2). This risk for teen suicide increases drastically when teens have access to guns.
Read more about teen suicide.
Teen Mental Illness Treatment:
The sooner a teen is diagnosed and begins treatment for his or her mental illness, the better. Sure, no one wants to admit that they have a mental illness, but there's no shame in admitting you have a problem and getting help for it. Stigmas are bullshit.
Treatment varies based upon each person and each diagnosis and may involve a combination of medications and therapy.
Additional Teen Mental Illness Resources:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Glossary of Mental Illnesses Affecting Teens: A glossary and overview of each teen mental illness with fact sheets and information about each mental illness.
NAMI Child and Adolescent Action Center: works to improve the lives of children and adolescents living with mental illnesses and their families through advocacy, support and education. We offer resources and technical assistance to NAMI affiliates at the state and local levels.
National Institute of Mental Health: information for teens and parents about teen mental health as well as links to many other resources about teen mental illness.