The 3 Most Common Mental Health Diagnoses in Teenagers

The 3 Most Common Mental Health Diagnoses in Teenagers

Adolescence can be a challenging developmental time for the whole family. Your child’s teen years are overflowing with change. They’re dealing with physiological changes, neurological changes, social-emotional development, and yes, lots and lots of hormones. The onset of rapid developmental change in your teen can be linked to a range of health impacts, from shifts in diet and mood to unusual sleep patterns and behavior. Unfortunately, the above signs are also common symptoms of declined mental health. This can make it difficult for parents to differentiate between typical adolescent growth woes and something more serious, like the onset of a mental illness.

Teen Adolescent Changes or Mental Illness?

At Thrive, we believe mental illness is a chronic health condition, and like so many other health conditions, it is entirely treatable and must be taken seriously. 

We are committed to helping parents recognize early warning signs of mental illness in their teens, obtain a proper diagnosis, identify an appropriate treatment plan, and manage the symptoms, so your child (and family) can keep on a path of wellness together.

The 3 Most Common Mental Health Diagnoses in Teenagers

1 Generalized anxiety—Excessive worry about everyday matters

2 Social phobias—Severe feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity in social settings

3 Depression—Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and emotional numbness or emptiness

While any of these diagnoses can be alarming for both parent and teen, it’s important to remember you are not alone in your journey. Thrive will work with you to create a holistic, individualized treatment plan. This can include (but is not limited to) mental health counseling, family counseling, therapy, acupuncture, nutrition plan, dietician, and medication.

Time for a Mental Health Evaluation?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) emphasizes there is no one-size-fits-all test to diagnose a mental illness. It takes a collaborative effort between your teen’s primary care physician, a psychologist, and potentially other specialists (as needed) to clearly identify a mental health issue.

That said, NAMI does outline the following symptoms as the most common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents. If you notice one or more of these symptoms in your teen, it is time to seek further evaluation.

  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
  • Thinking about suicide

If Your Teen Has Expressed Feelings or Thoughts of Suicide

It can be difficult to know when to seek help if you suspect your child or teen is suffering from mental illness. If you are noticing changes in your child’s thoughts, emotions, or behaviors, talk with your pediatrician immediately. Do not wait. If your child’s behavior or thoughts become unsafe, seek help immediately. Next steps may include an inpatient hospital stay to ensure the safety of your teen while the primary doctor and psychologist/counselor determine the best holistic treatment plan. 

Teen Mental Health Resources

Thrive Pediatrics Mental Health Parent Resources PDF

Get a printable version of our mental health tips including signs to look for, when to seek help, and how to help your child cope here.

Telehealth Appointments with Your Pediatrician

You can schedule a virtual appointment online, and be easily connected with one of our experienced Thrive Pediatrics providers. Telehealth visits may present different benefits and challenges that you wouldn’t typically experience during an in-office visit. We put together a guide for parents to help walk you through what to expect during your child’s telehealth visit.

Mental Health Emergency Numbers

  • Emergency medical attention
    • 911
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    • 1(800)273-8255
  • Self Harm Hotline
    • 1(800)366-8288
  • Family Violence Hotline
    • 1(800)996-6228



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