According to the World Health Organization, 16% of all health conditions in adolescents ages 10-19 are mental health conditions. Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness among adolescents, and suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among those aged 15-19.
These statistics are difficult to acknowledge. However, if you are the caregiver of a teen or young adult, it is vital to know the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns. So, how do you know if your child is struggling with their mental health?
Here are seven hidden signs to look out for.
Changes in Hygiene Habits
If you notice a sudden or significant change in your child’s hygiene routine, this may be a sign that they are struggling with their mental health. Declines in hygiene can look like showering less often, not washing their hair, not brushing their teeth, or struggling to do laundry or wear clean clothes.
Lack of energy and motivation are symptoms of many mental health diagnoses. If your child is struggling, they may find daily tasks overwhelming or feel too mentally and physically tired to take care of themselves. They might also simply lack the motivation to care.
A bad grade now and then are typical for any teenager or college student. However, if you notice a significant change or pattern of declining grades, it may indicate that your child is struggling with their mental health. A change in school performance may also signal a learning challenge-for example, ADHD can often show up with anxiety.
Sudden changes without explanation can also be problematic. If you are concerned that your child’s change in school performance is a sign of a more significant issue, it might be time to speak to a therapist or other mental health professional.
New Sleep Habits
Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per day, so it is common to see your teen sleep a lot. However, sleeping too much can be a sign that your teen is struggling with their mental health.
Sleep changes may look like sleeping too much, but they can also look like insomnia or nightmares. So if your child notices any significant change in their ability to sleep, take note--this may be a sign of a bigger mental health concern.
Teens and young adults are stereotypically known for their moodiness. These mood changes are often chalked up to raging hormones, but that isn’t always the case. If you or your child notice an increase in mood swings, this may signify that they are struggling with their mental health.
Mood swings may change in frequency or intensity. You may also notice a pattern of changes in mood, such as fluctuating between a high mood and a depressed mood. If there is a noticeable pattern, pay attention- your child may benefit from speaking to a mental health professional.
Peer groups are an essential part of a child's overall development. Therefore, if your child has made significant changes to their social life, this may be a sign of avoidant behavior. In addition, withdrawing from social interaction may be a sign that your child is struggling with their mental health.
If you notice your child turning down or canceling plans, talk to them about their feelings. It might be time to speak to a mental health professional.
New or Risky Behaviors
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you may notice that your child has a new group of friends or has expressed a new, risky interest. Increased interest and participation in high-risk behaviors may be a sign that your child is struggling.
Teen experimentation can be a normal part of your child establishing their identity. However, high-risk activities can have serious consequences. Some common high-risk behaviors may include:
concerning technology use (cyberbullying, sexting, excessive social media use).
violent or criminal activity.
self-harm or suicidal behavior.
unsafe sex practices.
If you're concerned about any of these behaviors, it's important to talk to your child to understand what might be going on.
Changes in Eating Habits
Changes in eating habits may also be a sign your child is struggling with their mental health. Eating disorders often appear in adolescence and can exist alongside other mental health challenges like anxiety and depression.
Eating habit changes may look like this:
hiding or sneaking food.
eating at different times.
complaining they are too full or have already eaten.
using the bathroom for prolonged periods of time after eating.
exercising intensely throughout the day.
If you notice any changes in how your child is eating, it may signal that it is time to speak to a professional.
What If Your Child Is Struggling With Their Mental Health?
As a parent, you undoubtedly want the best for your child. You want to see them thrive and find happiness. Of course, it can be scary if you're worried about them suffering.
Mental health concerns are common and treatable. If you are concerned that your child may be struggling, reach out to a professional for help. Your child’s primary care doctor, a therapist, or a school counselor may be able to help.
At The Mental Health House, we provide support, resources, and treatment options for individuals and their loved ones. We are here for you! Contact us today to learn more.