Teens are in a constant state of change, trying to find themselves and navigate the complexities of life. Because of this, they may exhibit behaviors that are undesirable, such as isolating, lashing out, or engaging in risky behaviors. As a parent, it can be difficult to determine if these behaviors are just a normal part of adolescence or if they indicate a mental health issue.

Mental illness during adolescence is remarkably common, and it is often the time when symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other conditions first emerge. It is essential for parents, family members, and guardians to understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness in teens so that they can seek professional help when necessary.

Normal Teenage Behavior

Growing up is hard, and for teens the pressure can be even more intense. They are still learning how to manage many difficult aspects of life, including responsibilities, emotions, and relationships. It is not uncommon for teens to act unreasonably or engage in risky behavior.

It is important to remember that no one manages responsibilities, emotions, and relationships in a healthy way 100% of the time. However, if your teen is showing consistent signs of negative behavior, it is important to keep an eye on them to determine if professional help is needed.

Signs of Mental Illness in Teens to Watch Out For

It can be challenging to determine when undesirable behavior is an indication of a mental health issue. If your teen exhibits the following behaviors, it is essential to talk to them about what they are going through or find a trusted adult to take on the task.

Behaviors that parents and guardians should look out for among teens include:

    • Missing days in school or poor school performance

    • Avoiding friends and social life

    • Losing interest in activities

    • Not having motivation for fun or exciting activities

    • Sleeping disturbances, including insomnia and nightmares

    • Not sitting still or focusing on tasks

    • Seeming chronically anxious or worried

    • Lacking energy or oversleeping

    • Bouncing between moods of no energy and hyperactivity

    • Actions of self-harm, including cutting, picking, burning, biting, or hair pulling

    • Having suicidal thoughts or actions

    • Being irritable or unreasonable constantly

    • Engaging in manic and risky behavior such as car races, unsafe sex, or dangerous thrill-seeking activities

    • Feeling like an external entity is controlling their thoughts or actions, or hearing voices

    • Smoking, taking drugs, or drinking

Although experimenting with drugs or alcohol is not encouraged or healthy, it may not necessarily suggest a substance abuse condition. However, if a teen engages in drug or alcohol use and also engages in the other behaviors listed above, this combination of behaviors would indicate a red flag.

Seeking Professional Help

If you suspect that your teen may be experiencing a mental health issue, it is crucial to seek professional help as soon as possible. Mental health disorders can have a significant impact on a person’s life, and early intervention can make a significant difference in their recovery.

It can be challenging for parents and guardians to determine if their teen’s behavior is simply a phase or indicative of a mental health disorder. A qualified mental health professional can conduct an assessment and provide an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment options for mental health disorders vary depending on the severity and type of the condition. In some cases, therapy and counseling may be effective, while in others medication may be necessary. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.

At Idaho Youth Ranch Therapy & Counseling Centers, we offer proven outpatient therapy designed to address trauma, dangerous behaviors, and troubling feelings or experiences for young people ages 9–24. Our adolescent counseling services provide expert therapy to help teens build coping skills and overcome mental health difficulties.

Our Counseling Services

At Idaho Youth Ranch, our therapists are specifically trained to work with adolescents and have expertise in a range of concerns. We offer several evidence-based treatment methods, including:

    • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: a type of talk therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors.

    • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: a type of therapy that helps individuals learn coping skills and regulate emotions.

    • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: a type of therapy designed to help individuals who have experienced trauma.

    • Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): a therapy that uses eye movements to help individuals process traumatic events.

    • Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy: a type of therapy that incorporates horses into the therapeutic process to help individuals develop coping skills and build relationships.

Our therapists also provide counseling services in-office or through video in our TeleMental Health program, providing accessibility and convenience for our clients.

Signs Your Teen Might Need Help

It is essential to understand when your teen’s behavior may indicate the need for professional help. Here are some signs that your teen may need counseling:

    • They exhibit changes in behavior or personality.

    • They have trouble sleeping or have a change in appetite.

    • They experience intense emotions, such as sadness or anger.

    • They engage in self-harm behaviors, such as cutting or burning.

    • They experience anxiety or panic attacks.

    • They have thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

If your teen is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is essential to seek professional help as soon as possible.

At Idaho Youth Ranch, we provide a safe and supportive environment for teens to receive counseling and therapy services. We prioritize communication with parents and guardians, providing clear information about diagnoses and services for their child. We also work with families to determine the best treatment plan for their teen’s needs.

Navigating the complexities of adolescence can be challenging for both teens and their parents. It is crucial to understand when undesirable behavior may indicate a mental health issue and seek professional help when necessary. At Idaho Youth Ranch Therapy & Counseling Centers, we offer expert counseling services for adolescents ages 9–24. Our evidence-based treatments and specially trained therapists provide healing and hope for vulnerable youth in Idaho.


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