As difficult as the stay-at-home orders have been for adults to handle, imagine how awful it has been for teens.
Adults, at least, have maturity on their side. Adults have learned over the years how to manage adversity or overcome life’s many surprising setbacks. Teenagers, on the other hand do not have any real experience managing such immense changes in daily life and routines caused by the coronavirus crisis. The coronavirus has kept teens at home for months now, upsetting their entire social ecosystem.
All of us have built up a certain reservoir for dealing with upsetting events or disappointment. Resilience is not uniform across the human spectrum, as some people are highly resilient in the fact of challenges or uncertainty, where others get stuck in the psychological mud, unable to move through a setback. Teens are no different. They each have their own personality traits and temperament that dictates to a large extent just how resilient they will b—especially with coronavirus sticking teens at home 24/7 with their parents and siblings.
As the weeks morph into months, there is no doubt that parents have noticed their adolescents wearing ragged around the edges. These distress signs show up in many different ways, such as moodiness, irritability, angry outbursts, loss of appetite or weight gain, sleep issues, and apathy. Mental health among teens in 2020 is definitely being adversely impacted the longer the pandemic upends their worlds. Many teenagers have missed out on rites of passage that they have been looking forward to for years, such as going to senior prom, graduation ceremonies, or Grad Nite celebrations. These losses are substantial and real, and can spark depressive symptoms.
While parents of teens stuck at home during coronavirus will attest, it has not been easy to assuage their teenager’s sense of loss and disappointment as the weeks that mark the end of the school year pass. As surly as a teen might be right now, and difficult to live with, parents get it.
Behavioral Signs Your Teen is Having Difficulty Coping
Not all teens are struggling through the stay-at-home policies. Some kids might actually be enjoying a break from all the social drama and peer pressure, and are content to hang out with their folks more. Much of it comes down to the teen’s own temperament, how close they are to their parents, their level of social skills, and natural resilience level.
However, there are many teens that are acting out behaviorally as a way of demonstrating their growing impatience with what had begun as a novel life experience. They are over it. Parents may notice the following behaviors:
- They isolate themselves, holing up in their rooms all day
- They lose interest in things they used to enjoy
- They act out with aggressive or violent behavior
- They have angry rages
- They become sneaky and may lie or deceive parents
- They sneak out of the house without permission
- They engage in substance abuse
Parents are tasked with identifying any signs of emotional distress in their teens, which can cause anxiety in parents. According to Nicholas Hatzis, M.D. and child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, “They should acknowledge the anxiety teens and young adults are feeling and have an open and honest discussion about the struggles they are facing.” Communication is especially crucial during this time.
Signs of Anxiety in Teens
While most teenagers will experience phases of anxiety associated with typical stressors, when intense fear and worry begin to impair their daily functioning they may have an anxiety disorder. Some signs of an anxiety disorder might include obsessive thoughts and compulsive acts, panic attacks, unreasonable fear of a person, place or thing, being frozen due to fear-based memories of a traumatic event, avoidance of social events or interactions. Teen anxiety can be the result of brain chemistry imbalance, past abuse or trauma, a sense of powerlessness, hormonal shifts, social pressures, and genetics. In recent times, the fear revolving around the coronavirus and all the uncertainty it is causing is also a reason for developing an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of teen anxiety:
- Excessive worry, feelings of dread, fear
- Mood swings
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Sleep problems
- Self-harming behaviors
Signs of Depression in Teens
Depression is diagnosed when a teen has been plagued with a cluster of symptoms for most of the time over a two-week duration. Depression is a serious mental health disorder and should always be taken seriously, especially at a time when suicide rates are soaring among young people. If the teen exhibits several of these symptoms, a medical doctor and a mental health specialist should evaluate him or her.
Symptoms of teen depression:
- Excessive sleep
- Exhibits sadness, hopelessness, despair
- Drop in academic performance
- Avoiding activities they once enjoyed, such as groups and clubs or athletics
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irresponsible behaviors that are not typical for the teen
- Memory issues
- Difficulty making decisions
- Isolating behaviors, withdrawing from friends
- Engaging in risky sexual behaviors
- Substance abuse
- Change in eating habits, sudden weight gain or loss
- Inappropriate guilt
- Obsessing about death or suicidal thoughts
5 Tips for Teens to Get Through the Coronavirus Event
Parents can provide some helpful tips for guiding their teenager through this historic episode. By suggesting some healthy activities that improve mental wellness and sense of worth, parents can be instrumental in leaving a positive mark on the whole experience.
Consider these 5 tips to help teens improve mental health:
- Teach them to be grateful. Parents are the perfect role models to exhibit the kinds of virtues they want their kids to adopt. One important virtue is learning how to be grateful for at least one thing every day. Buy the teen a cool journal and have them start a gratitude diary. It will end up being an important keepsake they can share with their own children some day, about how they got through a global pandemic while still practicing gratitude.
- Have them start a garden. People of all ages are discovering the many mental health benefits of gardening. Provide a section of the yard that is just for your teen to start his or her own garden. If you have no yard, consider purchasing an inexpensive tower garden for the patio. Let them select the seeds they want and order the soil, then watch the joy they experience as their garden grows and bears fruit and veggies.
- Help them start an enterprise. Since many teens are out of work right now, why not coach your teenager to start their own home-based business. If they are crafty, encourage them to create jewelry or artwork and help them set up an Etsy shop. If they are a gifted writer, assist them in starting a blog. If they are handy, have them go through the neighborhood and wash cars or mow lawns for cash. A dog lover? –help them advertise their dog walking services.
- Put them in charge of meal planning. Teens can be picky eaters and like to complain about Mom’s cooking. Why not allow them to plan a week’s meals, shop for the groceries, and then learn to cook a few new creative recipes that the whole family can enjoy. Make sure they include some home-baked cookies for dessert.
- Teach them to give back. Nothing improves a sense of self-worth and boosts confidence like getting involved with a charity. While still in various stages of lockdown, charitable acts may be limited to sewing masks for some local seniors, gathering canned goods from the neighbors to donate to a food pantry, or going through the closets and gathering clothing to be donated to charity.
Mental Health Treatment for Teens
If a teen is exhibiting signs and symptoms of a mental health condition, it is essential to get them help in a timely manner. Most primary care physicians are available to conduct a physical examination to make sure there isn’t a medical problem causing the symptoms. If not, then he or she can refer the teen to a psychotherapist who can conduct online outpatient therapy sessions.
A residential teen mental health program offers a higher level of care and can also provide acute stabilization in the event of a crisis situation. The teen would reside at the facility for several weeks to receive specialized care for their particular diagnosis. This targeted, intensive treatment is sometimes the best approach for teens that are in crisis.
Treatment will include:
Acute stabilization: If the teen is in crisis, such as experiencing a psychiatric event or a suicide attempt, an inpatient setting provides the 24-hour monitoring and support to stabilize them. Stabilization will involve a review of any current medications and any relevant information regarding the acute event.
Medical detoxification: For teens with co-occurring addiction or substance abuse issues, the residential setting can provide a safe, medical detox that is monitored throughout. Withdrawal symptoms will be carefully managed and psychological support is provided.
Psychotherapy: Individual and group therapy is the central treatment element, using evidence-based approaches such as:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Solution Focused Therapy (SFT)
- Mindfulness–Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Complementary therapies: Such as surf therapy, equine therapy, psychodrama therapy, art therapy, yoga, and mindfulness meditation.
BNI Treatment Centers Helps Teens During Coronavirus
BNI Treatment Centers provides a multi-disciplinary and customized approach to treating teens in the Los Angeles region. BNI Treatment Centers was founded by, and is operated by, two psychiatrists with decades of experience treating adolescents aged 12-17 who have a deep understanding of the unique intricacies involved in helping this age group. For more information about our program, please contact BNI Treatment Centers today at (888) 522-1504.