Determining Normal Teenage Behavior vs Mental Illness

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Part of teenage life includes moments of confusion, angst, and difficulty processing emotions. However, sometimes a change in an adolescent can signal something serious is going on. Mothers and fathers may think their child is simply going through the typical stages of being a teenager. Yet there is a difference between normal teenage behavior vs mental illness. When a young person develops a mental health disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, it becomes imperative to get help quickly. 

Teenage Mental Illness on the Rise 

Statistics from a study done from 2016-2019 show just how prevalent mental health disorders are among children. The study reported the following numbers for several mental health diagnoses among children aged 3-17:

  • Almost 10% have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • About 9.4% experience anxiety
  • Almost 9% exhibit behavioral difficulties
  • 4.4% experience depressive symptoms

When looking at normal teenage behavior vs. mental illness, the effects of life during a worldwide pandemic cannot be ignored. In fact, the pandemic provided an alarming uptick in the need for mental health care treatment for adolescents. While mental illnesses among teens were already on the rise before COVID-19, living through it made it even worse. More than one out of four kids report that at least one parent in the home lost their job, creating financial hardships for the family. 

During 2021, more than one-third of high school students felt their mental health got worse because of the pandemic. Issues like being isolated from their peers and being unable to attend school took their toll. As well, 44% of these students said they felt hopeless or sad during the year. Despite society now reopening, the remains of these challenges to a child’s mental health must be addressed and treated. 

Is it Just Normal Teenage Behavior or Mental Illness? 

Being a teenager can be challenging on any given day. Teens are still making the move from childhood to becoming an adult, which can be confusing. As a result, their behaviors sometimes can be alarming to their parents. Where it can get tricky is when a parent wonders about the differences between normal teenage behavior vs mental illness. Because mental illness often develops during childhood, it becomes important that a parent monitor their children for signs of needing help.

Teenagers often push boundaries as a way of seeing what happens and how their parents react. However, there is a difference between regular teen rebellion and a child who has a mental health disorder. Teenagers who struggle with issues like anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses often cannot change their behavior. They may be unable to control their emotions or alter compulsive behaviors such as self-injury. Instead, they require professional help from mental health experts in order to minimize their symptoms and become healthier.

Signs of Mental Illness in Teens 

Common signs that your teenager may be dealing with a mental illness can occur. Ones to look out for include:

  • Doing poorly in school
  • Lower attendance at school
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and pastimes
  • Isolating
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression, or hopelessness
  • Suicidal feelings or thoughts
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Unexplained physical symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, and body aches
  • Difficulty focusing on a conversation or activity
  • Cognitive difficulties such as trouble making decisions or processing information
  • Excessive energy
  • Lethargy
  • Risky behavior, such as unprotected sex, shoplifting, or thrill-seeking acts. 
  • Hallucinating (audio or visual)
  • Self-injury, such as cutting, burning, or hitting themselves
  • Using drugs or alcohol

Types of Mental Illness Teens Face 

If signs you observe related to normal teenage behavior vs mental illness point to the possibility that your teenager may have a mental health disorder, you may be unsure which one they have. Some teenagers may, in fact, have more than one mental illness. Common ones that may impact their mental health include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorder (addiction to drugs or alcohol)

How to Get Your Son or Daughter the Mental Health Help They Need 

Nothing is more important than getting the proper health care your child needs, including mental health treatment. For adolescents, it’s important to get care from a facility that specializes in treating this age group. Zenith Behavioral Health in Phoenix helps teenage boys understand their diagnoses and empowers them to help treat the symptoms they experience. We treat a wide range of mental health disorders, as well as co-occurring addictions to drugs or alcohol. 

While some kids respond to outpatient care, many others need the more focused care that comes with residential treatment. Residential care provides a comfortable, safe environment where adolescents live together while working on improving their mental health. Our experienced, compassionate treatment teams provide round-the-clock care that a parent can trust. Multiple types of therapy are provided, as well as downtime, all meals, and the ability to bond with peers pursuing better mental health.

Begin Residential Mental Health Treatment for Teenagers Today

Are you a parent worried about your child? It can be difficult to tell the difference between normal teenage behavior vs mental illness.  Zenith Behavioral Health in Phoenix understands how to assess young people and determine if they need focused care to help improve their mental health. We treat boys aged 13 to 17 in the comfort and safety of our residential program. In addition, we keep the parents informed and involved so they can understand how their son is progressing and know how to help him.

Would you like to know more about our program? Visit our admissions page now and get the answers you need.