Lonely but Not Alone: Teen Mental Health Disorders by the Numbers
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In recent years, there has been a surge in concern around mental health, especially in teens. A growing awareness and understanding of mental health issues overall has helped boost the recognition of challenges. The more that is learned about mental health conditions, the more we can understand about genetic and biological factors that can contribute to them. External factors teens continue to face that can contribute to mental health challenges include academic pressure, peer relationships, family dynamics, substance use, identity exploration and traumatic experiences. The digital age has also introduced new challenges like technology overload, gaming addiction and online bullying. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has added additional stressors to teens’ lives like social isolation, education disruptions, uncertainty about the future and fear of illness. Addressing these complex issues requires a multifaceted approach involving education, early intervention, supportive environments and access to mental health services. Parents, educators, health care professionals and policymakers can work together to confront the teen mental health crisis and help create a healthier and more supportive environment for teens.

The rising tide of teen mental health conditions

The teen years are a unique time full of physical, emotional and social changes. Dealing with a mental health condition can make an already overwhelming time even more challenging. Mental health conditions can have a significant impact on a teen’s life and overall well-being and make it harder to do well at school or socialize with friends and family. 

Struggling with a mental health condition can make a teen feel like they’re alone. However, according to the World Health Organization, 1 in 7 teens experience a mental health condition, with many teens not getting the mental health services they need. Raising awareness of teen mental health conditions can help teens know they aren’t alone and help is always available. This can help teens get access to timely interventions and potentially help up to 70% of teen mental health issues. 

Common mental health conditions affecting teens include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — ADHD is a developmental disorder that is characterized by ongoing behavioral patterns of inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity. Some teens may mainly show symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity. Some teens may show symptoms of both types. According to the CDC, an estimated 6 million American children ages 3 to 17 were diagnosed between 2016 and 2019, with boys being more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Teens who struggle with ADHD can have difficulty regulating their behavior in school, at home or in social environments. These challenges can have an impact on their academic performances, on relationships with peers and family, and on their self-esteem. However, with tailored support that can include behavioral interventions, academic accommodations, therapy or medication, teens with ADHD can learn to thrive and reach their full potential. 
  • Anxiety disorders — Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions teens face, yet they often go undertreated. An estimated 32% of teens struggle with an anxiety disorder, with teen girls being more likely to be affected. Anxiety disorders can manifest in a variety of forms, from generalized anxiety and frequent panic attacks to specific phobias and social anxiety. Teens with anxiety disorders can experience constant worry, fear and restlessness. They may also experience physical symptoms like a rapid heart rate, sweating and trembling. Anxiety disorders can have a significant impact on a teen’s life, but with proper intervention and support, they can see an improvement in their academic performance, social interactions and daily life. 
  • Depressive disorders — In 2021, approximately 20% of the U.S. population were teens between the ages of 12 and 17. Of these teens, an estimated 5 million had experienced at least one depressive episode, with teen girls having depressive episodes more often than boys. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions teens can face, along with anxiety and ADHD. Rates of diagnosis of major depressive disorder have risen 33% since 2013, with teens facing some of the fastest-rising rates. Symptoms of depression in teens can be debilitating and have a significant impact on their emotional well-being, relationships, academic performance and overall quality of life. If left untreated, depression can have serious consequences including an increased risk of substance use, self-harm or suicidal thoughts, and long-term impacts on a teen’s overall mental and emotional well-being. However, seeking timely intervention and support like therapy, medication or healthy coping strategies can be beneficial and prevent consequences.

Process-based therapy for teenage mental health conditions

Process-based therapy (PBT) is an effective approach that uses the best components of evidence-based, clearly defined and data-driven therapeutic techniques to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to a teen’s unique needs and concerns based on their mental health condition. Through PBT, licensed clinical experts work with clients to address the signs, symptoms and thought patterns of anxiety or depression, helping teens learn how to cope with the emotions and symptoms of their conditions. Teens struggling with ADHD can explore their specific patterns of attention, impulsivity, hyperactivity and executive functioning challenges. Becoming aware of these struggles can help teens with ADHD become more attuned to their thoughts, emotions and behaviors and use effective coping strategies to help them achieve their goals. PBT can empower teens to become advocates for themselves by effectively communicating their needs, seeking accommodations when necessary and taking ownership of their mental health.

Lightfully Teen can help teens feel less alone in their mental health struggles

If your teen is struggling with their mental health, Lightfully Teen is here to help. With our help through our whole-person-centered care, teens can work to address the root causes of their mental health condition, learn the tools to effectively cope and build emotional resilience. Personalized treatment will be tailored by deeply compassionate experts to help teens achieve their treatment goals. 

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