Affinity Health is a leading provider of high-quality healthcare cover. They say teenage mental illness is more prevalent than parents may realise.
It is typical for adolescents to experience moodiness on occasion. But when do teen mood swings mean something more serious, like mental illness?
“Teenage mental illness is very prevalent. But many forms of mental disease are treatable. All patients need is an accurate diagnosis,” says Murray Hewlett, Affinity Health CEO.
“Untreated mental illnesses hinder children, their friends and family, schools, and communities.”
Affinity Health says it is more important now than ever that South Africans address child and adolescent mental health.
Learn More: Know the Symptoms of Childhood Mental Illness
Here are six things parents need to know about teen mental health.
1. Mental Illness In Teens Is More Common Than You Think
At least one in five youth ages nine to 17 has a diagnosable mental health disorder. One in ten has a disorder that causes considerable impairment.
Only one-third of these adolescents receive the required care. Half of all significant adult psychiatric problems begin by age 14. But therapy is often not initiated until six to 23 years later.
2. Signs of Mental Illness In Teens Can Differ
There are various definitions of mental illness. Physicians use several particular factors to decide if a person has a mental disease.
Doctors often look for sadness or disinterest in hobbies and recreational activities. But, in adolescents, symptoms may manifest as follows:
- Fluctuating grades
- Social disinterest
- Volatile moods
More criteria may come into play if at least one of these symptoms is present:
- Having trouble sleeping, such as falling asleep or staying asleep
- Changes in energy level
- Alterations in focus or task completion
- Loss or increase in appetite
- Decreased motivation
- Suicidal thoughts
- A fall in grades
- Body aches or pains
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations)
- Intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
- Difficulty understanding or relating to other people
A teen mental illness is present if more than five of these symptoms occur every day for at least two weeks.
3. There Are Different Types Of Mental Disorders In Teens
Some common teen mental illnesses are anxiety, mood, attention, and disruptive behaviour disorders.
- Anxiety Disorders
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Mood Disorders
- Adjustment Disorder With Depressed Mood
- Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Disruptive Behaviour Disorders
- Conduct Disorder
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder
4. Teenage Mental Illness CAN Be Treated
Treatment is available for mental illnesses. But, often, parents do not bring their child to therapy until months have passed because they are in denial. Most parents believe that what is occurring to their children is impossible. If you are concerned, you should talk to your child.
If there are signs of stress or dramatic behavioural shifts, ask them first. It may not be a psychiatric disorder, but they need your support.
5. Communication With Your Teen Is Beneficial To Their Recovery
Maintain open, honest, and consistent communication. Your children should know they can talk to you about anything. But you should also encourage open communication.
Discuss your personal experiences and worries as a teenager. Inform them that they are not alone and that their problems are not unique.
6. Certain Meds Can Worsen Mental Disorders
- Be alert for prescription drug misuse. The following medications are abused:
- Opioids intended for pain relief
- Stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Depressants for anxiety
- Sleeping aids
These all exacerbate mental health disorders in teenagers. Teenagers also overuse over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.
How Affinity Health Can Help
At Affinity Health, we strive for early intervention to assist struggling adolescents. We want to assist them with coping before they become lifelong struggles.
Although psychologist and psychiatrist visits are not covered, Affinity Health’s Telehealth Consulting provides access to nurses, doctors and mental health practitioners. Contact 0861 11 00 33 for more information.