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What if your teen gets the blues?



19 Red Flags for parents to take note of

mental health, teens, substance abuse, signs, depression

It’s so easy these days to be caught up in the events going on around us. So much is fighting for our attention.  But, meanwhile, at the same time, some of our kids are moving into their adolescent years, and experiencing big changes physically, emotionally, hormonally, sexually, socially, and intellectually. The pressures can be overwhelming for some and may lead to a variety of mental health disorders.  

Hudson Valley Parent wants to remind parents of teens and those entering their teen years to keep an eye on them when going about the day. At breakfast time, or in the car, or taking a walk or even just sitting around watching TV, HealthyChildren.org advises parents be alert for their list of common “red flags.” 

Here are some of the most common:

  • Excessive sleeping, beyond usual teenage fatigue, which could indicate depression or substance? abuse, difficulty in sleeping, insomnia, and other sleep disorders
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Abandonment or loss of interest in favorite pastimes
  • Unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite, which could indicate an eating disorder
  • Personality shifts and changes, such as aggressiveness and excess anger that are sharply out of character and could indicate psychological, drug, or sexual problems

READ MORE: Teen anxiety on the rise

Depression

While all of us are subject to “the blues,” clinical depression is a serious medical condition requiring immediate treatment. Watch for:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Unexpected weeping or excessive moodiness
  • Eating habits that result in noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Paranoia and excessive secrecy
  • Self-mutilation, or mention of hurting himself or herself
  • Obsessive body-image concerns
  • Excessive isolation
  • Abandonment of friends and social groups

Eating disorders

Body image concerns can become obsessions, resulting in startling weight loss, severely affecting the adolescent’s health:

  • Anorexia: Avoidance of food and noticeable changes in eating habits should trigger concern.
  • Bulimia: Purging (forced vomiting) after eating — be alert for both dramatic weight loss without changes in eating habits (which could, of course, indicate other health issues that require a doctor’s attention) and also for immediate trips to the bathroom or other private spot after a meal.

Drug abuse

In addition to peer pressure, mental health issues can lead adolescents not just to experiment with alcohol and drugs, but also to use substances for “self-medication.” And in addition to being aware of the behavioral and physical signs of alcohol and drug abuse — drug and alcohol paraphernalia or evidence, hangovers, slurred speech, etc. — parents should also:

  • Be alert for prescription drug misuse and abuse: According to the AAP, prescription drug misuse by adolescents is second only to marijuana and alcohol misuse. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include Vicodin and Xanax.
  • Know that over-the-counter-medications can be abused as well: Teenagers also frequently abuse OTC cough and cold medications.

Concern about your adolescent’s mental health should first be addressed with your child — fostering open communication goes a long way toward fostering sound adolescent mental health habits.

If your concerns are serious, discuss them with your pediatrician. Because so many mental health issues display physical manifestations — weight loss being the most dramatic but not the only one — your pediatrician can offer both initial medical assessment and also refer you to appropriate mental health organizations and professionals for counseling and treatment if called for.




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