Updated on October 22, 2022
The level of concern over teen mental health among parents of troubled teens has never been higher than today. Just five short years ago, a survey completed by Pew Research revealed that parents were concerned mostly about their child being bullied (60 percent).
Other top concerns of parents before the COVID pandemic include:
- Depression and anxiety: 54 percent
- Being kidnapped:50 percent
- Getting physically attacked: 45 percent
- Teen pregnancy: 43 percent
- Drug and alcohol use: 41 percent
- Being arrested/in trouble with law enforcement: 27 percent
By 2022, parental worry and anxiety over all these issues have increased alarmingly–and for good reason. In 2021, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry proclaimed a national emergency existed over the state of child and teenage mental health in the U.S.
Teen Mental Health
The AACAP further called for schools to rapidly integrate additional mental health services for both elementary and high school kids and provide insurance coverage for mental health services to ensure kids receive the help they need.
While the pandemic undoubtedly worsened the rate of children suffering from behavioral disorders and mental illness, parents also point to social media as another primary factor impacting the well-being of their children. Studies indicate that the leading concerns parents have about teens using social media sites include:
- Prevents teens from getting enough sleep and physical activity
- Prevent teens from concentrating on schoolwork
- Provokes and intensifies a teen’s need for attention, approval, and acceptance
- Focuses too much on body image, appearance, and looking like a celebrity
- Reduces the time teens spend interacting face-to-face in the “real” world
- Exposes teens to sexual predators, bullies, and hate speech
A troubled teen who is coping with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as isolation, being out of school, parents losing jobs, pandemic-related evictions, and an unhealthy reliance on social media, is at extreme risk of developing severe behavioral disorders and/or mental illness.
This also brings us to another parenting issue. What should parents do when their child shows signs of a behavioral disorder or mental illness? When does depression or generalized anxiety disorder require more than outpatient treatment for teens?
Mental Illness vs Behavioral Disorders in Teens
A behavioral disorder is characterized by a teen’s out-of-control behaviors and how these behaviors lead to adverse consequences that work to fuel the disorder.
Clinicians diagnose children with a behavioral disorder if the child has exhibited a clear pattern of aberrant, disruptive behaviors for at least six months. Behavioral disorders always cause the child problems at home, school, and with peer relationships. They also share similar traits, such as:
- Appearing at a young age
- Poor emotional control
- Verbal and physical aggression
- Outbursts of irrational rage
- Bullying others
- Skipping school/refusing to focus on academic work
A mental illness is a medical disease that arises from the way a person thinks rather than the way a person behaves. It can be difficult for parents of teens suffering from depression or a generalized anxiety disorder to recognize their child needs help because the child may not behave out of the ordinary.
However, both teen mental health problems and behavioral disorders share certain features, such as an imbalance of brain chemicals and underlying genetic elements. In fact, mental illness and behavioral disorders have strong genetic components that indicate they are highly inheritable.
The 15 Most Concerning Issues for Parents of Troubled Teenagers
Does It Mean Your Teen has a Mental Health Issues or Behavioral Disorder?
1. Generalized Anxiety or Depression
These are mental illnesses that may be mistaken for normal teen “doom and gloom” moods. When signs of depression and anxiety continue longer than several weeks, parents should consider talking to a school counselor for advice on addressing their child’s depression or anxiety.
2. Lying/Inventing Stories
Children who lie to avoid the consequences of their actions understand their behavior is wrong. Lying is a characteristic of conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and sometimes ADHD.
3. Spending Too Much Time Online
Internet addiction includes gaming addiction, social media obsession, and browsing chatrooms. Teens spending most of their time online may be suffering from a mental illness (depression, anxiety, delusional disorder), or a behavioral disorder (ADHD, anorexia nervosa/bulimia, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) if the teen is engaging in cyberbullying).
4. Withdrawing from Friends and Social Activities
Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and online addiction often cause a teen to isolate themselves from friends and family.
5. Poor School Performance
Failing classes in school, skipping school, or being thrown out of school is a classic sign of a conduct disorder, ODD, or ADHD. Severe depression and anxiety can also impact a child’s school performance.
6. Giving In to Peer Pressure
Depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and ADHD can make teens vulnerable to falling in with the wrong crowd.
Children and teens with conduct disorder or ODD may bully peers. Bullying is also a behavior that neglected kids use to get the attention they crave. Alternately, bullying is seen in “entitled”, overindulged children who could be developing sociopathic tendencies.
8. Aggressive/Violent Behavior
Teens with ADHD, ODD, conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, substance addiction, intermittent explosive disorder, and antisocial personality disorder can act aggressively or violently toward others.
9. Rebelliousness and Defiance
The fine line between normal teenage rebelliousness and defiance and pathological rebelliousness/defiance is crossed when the child’s behavior severely disrupts their family, social, and school life.
10. Low Self-esteem/Poor Body Image/Eating Disorder
Major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or another teen mental health issue is likely behind these problems.
11. Gender Identity
Teens who question their gender identity do not have a behavioral disorder or mental illness. However, unless they receive love and support from their parents, they could become severely depressed, suffer from suicide ideation, or run away from home.
12. Sexual Promiscuity
Drug addiction, child abuse, and/or mental illness may cause a teen to have multiple sex partners.
13. Substance Abuse/Addiction
Although considered a behavioral disorder, substance addiction
14. Running Away from Home
Kids with a behavioral disorder, mental illness or both may run away from home for numerous reasons, ranging from an unstable home life, dodging juvenile detention, or avoiding being sent to a residential treatment facility.
15. Suicide Ideation/Self-harming Behaviors
Mental health disorders such as major depression, severe anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders can make kids think about or actually harm themselves.
Parents with serious concerns about their troubled teen can call us today to learn how to get immediate help for their child. Many residential treatment centers and therapeutic boarding schools accept insurance to cover part of the cost of treatment.
Talk with a family advocate today about treatment methods and verifying your insurance.