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Home|Mental Health|When Should a Teenager See a Therapist?

Parents are often surprised when their once agreeable child becomes a surly, moody teenager. A certain amount of emotional strife is normal during the teen years, but when should a teenager see a therapist?

Today’s teens are experiencing higher rates of mental health challenges than past generations. Parents, teachers, and school counselors may be able to offer some support, but sometimes a therapist is the best bet. To learn more about teen mental health disorders, read on.

Most Common Mental Health Struggles in Teens

It isn’t only depression and anxiety on the rise among teens. There are several areas that teens struggle with in recent years. These include:

  • Anxiety. Today’s teens are stressed out. Intense worry or fear are the hallmarks of anxiety. Teens struggling with anxiety find their ability to function is impaired because of the symptoms of this mental health disorder. Self-harming behaviors are a type of release for feelings of anxiety and distress among young people. Other teens might turn to substance abuse to self-medicate their anxiety.
  • Depression. While depression affects both sexes, rates are nearly three times higher in teen girls. Some factors that help explain the higher rates of depression in girls include hormones, low self-esteem, and body image. Other issues at play with depression include social acceptance and being more sensitive about social interactions.
  • Academic Pressures. There is a great deal of pressure placed on teens in high school regarding the college application process. early on, and there is social pressure put on teens to comply. Not only are teens expected to excel on SATs, but must also build a resume of extracurricular activities. Being involved in sports, clubs, and volunteer activities is now expected, and some kids become overwhelmed.
  • Body Dysmorphia. During high school, there is increased social pressure to conform to a certain “acceptable” look or body type. Teen girls can become very focused on their perceived flaws, body image, and weight issues. Boys also feel pressure to have an athletic physique. When a teen views themselves to have defects that are not really there, it is called body dysmorphic disorder.
  • Social Media. Social media use has been tied to both anxiety and depression. Cyber bullying through social media is extremely common in this age group, as is social shaming drama. Also, social media create a false image of beauty and perfection through the use of filter that few can ever attain. This leads to feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and low self-esteem.
  • Gender Identity. The teen years are when hormones begin to bring about sexual awareness. Some teens may be struggling with their gender identity. An LGBTQ teen may feel they must hide their identity from parents, siblings, and friends. This can cause them much strife, which impacts mental health.
  • Substance abuse. Teens have always felt curious about drugs and alcohol and many seek them out to experiment with the substance. There are reasons to be more concerned about substance use in current years, with fentanyl deaths on the rise. Also, the THC levels in today’s cannabis products is also concerning, as it can have adverse effects on cognitive functions.

Signs Your Teen May Need to See a Therapist

Parents know their kids, and can usually sense when something is off. There are certain warning signs that indicate a teen is in a bad place and should see a therapist. When their symptoms linger for more than a few weeks, it could be a sign of a mental health disorder.  Some of the warning signs may include:

  • Symptoms of anxiety, include excessive worrying or fear.
  • Increased irritability.
  • Sleep disturbances, such as nightmares or insomnia.
  • Starts to withdraw socially.
  • They seem agitated; are constantly moving.
  • Grades decline.
  • Frequent physical symptoms, like headaches or stomach distress.
  • Engages in self-harming behaviors, such as cutting.
  • Displays extreme fatigue.
  • Loss of interest in their normal activities.
  • Engages in high-risk behaviors.
  • Erratic bursts of energy and hyperactivity.
  • Experiences hallucinations or delusions.
  • Angry outbursts, violent actions.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Frequent low mood, symptoms of depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Parents should not ignore these signs, as the problem could worsen. Seek treatment for your teen as early as possible.

Treatment Options for Teen Mental Health

Parents who notice their teen is struggling may first seek the advice of the family doctor. After ruling out a health issue, the teen is then referred to a mental health expert.

If you believe your teenager should see a therapist due to the symptoms they exhibit, weekly sessions may be helpful. A therapist will make a formal diagnosis and create a treatment plan for your son or daughter. They will select therapies that have been shown to help young people dealing with mental health challenges.

However, your teen may need a higher level of care than what a therapist can provide.  If the teen is still displaying signs of a mental health challenge they will definitely benefit from more structured treatment. Mental health treatment options include:

Intensive Outpatient Programs. An IOP offers more intensive support than a teen would receive through weekly therapy sessions. IOPs require about nine hours per week of engagement in therapy and other supportive activities.

Partial Hospitalization Programs. The PHP is the highest level of outpatient care, requiring about 30 hours of participation per week for two or three weeks. Teens engage in group therapy, one-on-one therapy, and family therapy.

Residential Treatment Programs. The inpatient programs provide 24-hour support and monitoring and offer a broad range of therapies and daily activities. Teens also receive academic support while enrolled in the residential program.

When should a teenager see a therapist? If the teen displays some of the symptoms listed above for a few weeks, it is time to see a therapist.

BNI Treatment Centers Mental Health Treatment for Teens

BNI Treatment Centers is a doctor-owned and operated, teen-focused mental health program. Your teen may benefit from the IOP to help them through their mental health challenge. To discuss the proper level of care, reach out to our team today at (888) 522-1504.

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