In an unstable world, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic sparked mass uncertainty and uneasiness across the globe, nearly everyone was affected by increased levels of depression and anxiety that permeated for nearly two years as humanity searched for answers. Some underlying issues were brought to the surface through forced isolation and being robbed of social interaction as well.

Teenagers were affected as much as anyone. Social anxiety in teens worsened during COVID-19, adding to the already estimated 31.9 percent of adolescents that have some form of anxiety disorder, as first reported by the National Institute of Mental Health.

They were sent home from school, separated from their friends without the ability to hang out in social situations that weren’t virtual, and were faced with an unsettling prognosis of the future as they evolved into young adults. College and the life beyond is scary enough, but when the whole world shuts down, it can be much easier to slip into panic mode.

How can you know if your child or teenager has a mental health issue, or needs additional help or medicine? Don’t brush off warning signs as regular symptoms of moody teenagers; your child might need reinforcements through diagnosis and treatment options.

Below are five of the most common mental health disorders in teens in America, as well as warning signs, treatment options, and statistics that indicate these issues are nationwide and beyond.

1. ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)

What is it? ADHD is described by WebMD as a brain-based disorder in which someone has a difficult time paying attention and controlling their behavior, while sometimes (but not always) being hyperactive as well.

Symptoms & Signs:

  • Inattention: This includes disorganization, problems staying on task, constant daydreaming, and not paying attention when spoken to directly.
  • Impulsivity: Includes spur-of-the-moment decisions without thinking about the chance of harm or long-term effects. They act quickly to get an immediate reward. They may regularly interrupt teachers, friends, and family.
  • Hyperactivity: Involves squirming, fidgeting, tapping, talking, and constant movement, especially in situations where it’s not appropriate.

How many children and adults struggle with ADHD?

According to the CDC, the estimated number of children ages 3-17 ever diagnosed with ADHD is 6 million, which is 9.8 percent, using data from 2016-2019, with ages 12-17 having the highest prevalence.

How many types of ADHD are there?

There are three common forms of ADHD:

  1. ADHD predominantly inattentive presentation (what used to be called ADD): Those with this condition are not hyperactive, but have difficulty paying attention, staying on task in school, and completing long-form mental tasks.
  2. ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation: Those with this condition are hyperactive and impulsive, which often reveals itself through blurting out, interrupting others, fidgeting or constantly moving around in their seat.
  3. ADHD combined presentation (both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).

2. Anxiety (Social Anxiety Disorder)

What is it? Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is a disorder characterized by “extreme fear or anxiety in one or more social settings.”

Symptoms & Signs:

  • Fear of situations where you may be judged, especially negatively
  • Intense fear of interacting with or talking to strangers
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding being the center of attention
  • Anxiety in anticipation of certain events or situations
  • Worst-case-scenario syndrome
  • Blushing, fast heartbeat, sweating, trembling, nausea, or other physical symptoms of anxiety

How many children and adults suffer from social anxiety disorder?

Fifteen million (7 percent) of U.S. adults have social anxiety disorder, with more than 75 percent of people experiencing the onset of symptoms in their childhood or adolescent years, according to Mental Health America. Those with social anxiety disorder have a higher risk of falling into substance abuse, and those that have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect are more likely to suffer from the disorder.

3. Depression (Clinical Or Major Depression)

What is it? Suffering from clinical or major depression disorder is characterized by the Mayo Clinic as a persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment to daily life.

Symptoms & Signs:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Withdrawal from social situations with friends and family members
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Anger or rage
  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Poor self-esteem or guilt
  • Substance abuse
  • Restlessness, agitation, changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

Other warning signs include increased talk of death, erratic changes in behavior, giving away belongings, cryptic messages or notes, or an overwhelming sense of guilt, shame, or rejection.

How many children and adults suffer from depression?

Major or clinical depression affects about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 18, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In general, 20 to 25 percent of adults will experience a major depressive episode at one point in their lives. Depression affects about 4.4 percent of U.S. children (2.7 million).

4. Eating Disorders

What is it? The American Psychiatric Association defines an eating disorder as characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions. Common eating disorders in teens include anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.

Symptoms & Signs:

  • Extreme fluctuation in body weight
  • Constant denial of hunger
  • Hiding food or eating in isolation or private
  • Obsession with food and its nutritional value/ingredients
  • Excessive exercise and dieting
  • Frequent fatigue and weakness
  • Feelings of shame and guilt when eating
  • Loss of control when eating
  • Body dysmorphia

How many children and adults suffer from eating disorders?

Eating disorders affect around 5 percent of the population but generally develop in adolescence and young adulthood. Generally, women between the ages of 12 and 35 are the most affected, though it’s known to exist in some form in any gender or age group. Eating disorders for teens are largely attached to other mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

5. Substance Abuse Disorder

What is it? The Mayo Clinic defines substance abuse disorder as the “excessive use of psychoactive drugs, such as alcohol, pain medications, or illegal drugs like marijuana. It can lead to physical, social, or emotional harm.”

Symptoms & Signs:

  • Daily need for drug use or substance craving
  • Increased use of a certain drug
  • Increased dependence on a substance
  • Lack of money or funds
  • Changes in behavior, like sluggishness, red eyes, loss of appetite, mood swings
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • A euphoric appearance or look of inebriation
  • Problems at school or work
  • Neglected appearance
  • Lack of interest, energy, or motivation

The type of substance will determine the signs and symptoms, but as a general rule, look for extreme changes in behavior, a change of appearance or disposition, a lack of sobriety or coherence, or trouble in school or work.

How many teens and adults suffer from substance abuse disorder?

Overall, more than 40% of surveyed 18-year-old individuals reported at least two substance use disorder symptoms (across all substances), according to the National Institute of Health. Also, 10 percent of adults suffer from a drug use disorder at some point in their lives.

If you notice any of these symptoms or warning signs in your teens at home, don’t wait to look for help or treatment options. With so many young people struggling in the world today, you can’t afford to chalk up your kids’ behavior to being a moody teenager.

Mental health is an epidemic in America and needs to be addressed when symptoms show themselves. Be alert and ready to help when the opportunity presents itself.

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