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What Mental Health Issues Affect Teenagers?

Anxiety and depression continue to be the most common mental health problems in teens. Learn about the symptoms of these mental health disorders and how to get help for your teen.

Teens are surely not exempt from the effects of stress or despair that define daily life in these current times. If anything, being a teen means not having much control over what happens in the world. They are plugged in and follow the news, but feel they have little power to change things.

Rates of anxiety and depression are rising among the youth. Issues like body dysmorphia, self-harm, and gender identity are heightened during the teen years. School-related stress and social drama continue to be a daily source of turmoil. Parents, teachers, coaches, and pastors need to be aware of these common mental health problems in teens.

Teens afflicted with a mental health disorder will benefit from an array of treatment methods that can help manage symptoms. Keep reading to gain new insights about teen mental health, and how you can provide support and guidance.

Most Common Teen Mental Health Problems

All adults are able to recall how hard the teen years can be. It is a stage of life during which a young person moves from childhood to adulthood, and that is tricky. Teens look like adults but are still children emotionally.

Today’s teens have burdens that their parents didn’t have to deal with. The effects of social media, the pandemic, and a world in chaos can take their toll on a young person. While most teens are able to process these challenges and maybe more resilient, there are many teens that struggle.

Some of the most common mental health challenges today’s teenagers face include:


Based on data from the NIMH, about 32% of teens experience some form of anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety, each with its own features and symptoms. These include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Phobia
  • Social anxiety.
  • Panic disorder.
  • OCD

Signs and symptoms of anxiety might include:

  • Feelings of worry, dread, or fear that persists.
  • Being jumpy and irritable.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Avoiding social events; isolating.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Nausea, shaking, sweating when feeling very anxious.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Mood swings.
  • A decline in school performance.


Depression affects 20.1% of young people between the ages of 12-17. This is about 5 million teens that are struggling with symptoms of depression each year. Among teen girls, depression rates are over twice as high as males.

Teen suicides are on the rise, giving a sense of urgency to help young people with depression. Being aware of the symptoms can help parents detect the mental health disorder in a timely way. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Being sad or hopeless most of the time.
  • Changes in eating habits; sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Fatigue and lack of motivation.
  • Irritable
  • Sleep problems, like sleeping too much or too little.
  • Slowed or agitated movements and thinking.
  • Angry outbursts.
  • Loss of interest in the hobbies once enjoyed.
  • Avoiding social situations; skipping school.
  • Feelings of guilt or shame.
  • A decline in grades.
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

Body Dysmorphia

When a teen has a distorted view of their physical features it is called body dysmorphia. The teen becomes obsessed with a perceived flaw and becomes highly focused on it. This affects their self-esteem and can also lead to eating disorders.

Signs of body dysmorphia include:

  • The teen becomes obsessed with a certain body part or feature.
  • Needs constant reassurance from others that the flaw is not so bad.
  • Checks their appearance often in mirrors.
  • Avoids their reflection in mirrors.
  • Convinced that others are fixated on their perceived flaw.
  • Changes in eating habits.
  • Obsessive dieting or over-exercising.
  • Using excessive amounts of makeup to camouflage the perceived flaw.
  • Spends excessively to improve appearance.
  • Desires plastic surgery.
  • Spends a great deal of time on grooming or putting on makeup.
  • Becomes self-conscious about leaving the house; avoids social events.
  • Compares their appearance to others often.
  • Excessive school absences.
  • Depression symptoms.
  • Suicidal ideation.


Self-harming features taking actions to cause bodily harm to one’s self. A teen may engage in cutting, burning, head banging, pulling hair out, picking the skin off, or branding. Many times, parents of teens who engage in self-harm are surprised to learn of this behavior. This is because teens who self-harm are careful to hide the signs of this damage from others.

Signs of self-harm include:

  • Unexplained scars or wounds.
  • Bloodstains on clothing, towels, carpet, or in other areas in the home.
  • Isolating behaviors.
  • Wearing clothing that is inappropriate for hot weather to cover the skin.
  • Frequent “accidents.”
  • Missing patches of hair.
  • Finding sharp objects in the teen’s bedroom or bathroom.
  • Finding remnants of candle wax on the carpet.

Treatment Options for Teen Mental Health Conditions

When a parent notes their teen’s mental distress, it is critical not to ignore the signs. Setting up a physical exam with the family doctor is the first step to take. This allows the doctor to rule out any health issues that might be present. If none is found, then an interview with a mental health provider is next.

Once a diagnosis is arrived at, the mental health expert will suggest the appropriate level of care and a possible treatment plan. If the teen is in crisis or has a worsening mental illness, a residential program is the proper level of care. This provides a safe setting where there is 24-hour support.

Treatment is determined by the diagnosis and severity or level of impairment. In general, teen mental health disorders are treated by using a multi-modal approach. Common mental health problems in teens, such as anxiety and depression, are highly treatable. If your teen is struggling, meet with a mental health expert to seek solutions.

BNI Treatment Centers Provides Residential Mental Health Treatment for Teens

BNI Treatment Centers has a high level of psychiatric expertise to help your adolescent. Doctor-owned and operated, BNI Treatment is a leader in the mental health space for teens. Give us a call today at (888) 522-1504.

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