It seems that it happened all of a sudden, but your baby is now a teenager. You are beginning to glimpse the adult that will emerge from the child. However, you and your teen could need some help as you enter a most difficult time of child-rearing. Your silly, affectionate ball of energy that was your kid has suddenly developed into an angry, sullen person who doesn’t seem to like you very much.
It’s that “phase” with which all teens seem destined to grapple, some with better luck and some having a really hard time of it. It can be hard for both of you to deal with the fact that hormones coursing through your teen’s body seem to compel them to alien behavior. Last but not least, it is hard to come up against human biology; teens are meant to confront their parents, to eventually leave and start lives of their own.
The question haunting millions of parents is: when is my teenager’s behavior a sign of mental illness, and not just teenage angst? Psychologists who deal with teens on a daily basis have put together a short list of behaviors that are a cry for help and not just typical teen problems.
1. Significant Distress
You’ve already witnessed many changes in your teen’s behavior that may worry you, if only for their seeming anti-social bent. The behaviors that should spur you towards therapy for your teen would include: sudden changes in appetite, and especially if you suspect any purging, as in vomiting and laxative abuse, sudden changes in sleeping habits, sudden withdrawal from friends and pleasurable activities, and chronic complaints of aches and pains, especially headache and stomachache. The teen is unable to handle or conquer these behaviors on their own.
2. Prolonged Distress
The problem doesn’t seem to improve or resolve, even with your best efforts. Despite changes in parenting and disciplinary strategies, nothing seems to shake your teen’s behavior. If you’ve tried your best with no success, it’s time to call in the professionals.
3. Finding Evidence of Drug Abuse
This includes beer, the biggest “gateway drug” ever, along with evidence of drug use or paraphernalia. Drugs are a trauma that some families never get over; move quickly if you find evidence of them.
4. If Your Teen Asks for Help
This is a sign that your teen has tried on their own to fight these problems and realizes they need help. Especially if other mental health issues run in your family, get help now.
5. Signs of Reckless Behavior
If your teen talks in any way about suicide, runs away, displays outward signs of aggression, and starts giving away possessions, these are signs that your child may need help.â€¨â€¨You are not only your child’s parent, you are their advocate; help your child through this trying time of their lives so you can help them later, when your grandchildren are driving them up the wall.