Adolescence and Mental Disorders

Mental health refers to a psychological and emotional state. It is how people think, feel, and act as they face life’s situations. It affects how people handle stress, relate to one another, and make decisions. Mental health influences the ways individuals look at themselves, their lives, and others in their lives. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life. All aspects of our lives are affected by our mental health. Caring for and protecting our children is an obligation and is critical to their daily lives and their independence.

When untreated, mental health disorders can lead to school failure, family conflicts, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide. Mental health problems and mental illness for children and adolescents refer to the range of all diagnosable emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. They include. But are not limited to: depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, conduct, and eating disorders. Serious emotional disturbances for children and adolescents refer to the above disorders when they severely disrupt daily functioning in home, school, or community. According to studies by Health N.

I. (2003), in early to middle childhood, mental illness affects about 1 in 10 children. In adolescent years, the number doubles to 1 in 5 young people. During adolescence, many biological changes are taking place as the child becomes an adult. Many of these changes are physical but emotional, social and psychological changes take place as well. Adolescence in itself brings on emotional highs and lows similar to the symptoms of bi-polar manic depressive disorder. Therefore proper diagnosis of some mental illnesses, unless somewhat severe, can go unnoticed and undetected.

In children and adolescents, the most frequently diagnosed mood disorders are major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder. Because mood disorders such as depression substantially increase the risk of suicide, suicidal behavior is a matter of serious concern for clinicians who deal with the mental health problems of children and adolescents. The incidence of suicide attempts reaches a peak during the mid-adolescent years, and mortality from suicide, which increases steadily through the teens, is the third leading cause of death at that age (CDC, 1999; Hoyert et al. , 1999).

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Although suicide cannot be defined as a mental disorder, the various risk factors, especially the presence of mood disorders, that predispose young people to such behavior are given special emphasis in this section, as is a discussion of the effectiveness of various forms of treatment. The evidence is strong that over 90 percent of children and adolescents who commit suicide have a mental disorder. Bipolar manic-depressive disorder is a mood disorder in which episodes of mania alternate with episodes of depression. According to the surgeon general, frequently, the condition begins in adolescence.

The first manifestation of bipolar illness is usually a depressive episode. The first manic features may not occur for months or even years thereafter, or may occur either during the first depressive illness or later, after a symptom-free period (Strober et al. , 1995). The clinical problems of mania are very different from those of depression. Adolescents with mania or hypomania feel energetic, confident, and special; they usually have difficulty sleeping but do not tire; and they talk a great deal, often speaking very rapidly or loudly. They may complain that their thoughts are racing.

They may do schoolwork quickly and creatively but in a disorganized, chaotic fashion. When manic, adolescents may have exaggerated or even delusional ideas about their capabilities and importance, may become overconfident, and may be uninhibited with others; they start numerous projects that they do not finish and may engage in reckless or risky behavior, such as fast driving or unsafe sex. Sexual preoccupations are increased and may be associated with promiscuous behavior. Reactive Depression, also known as adjustment disorder with depressed mood, is the most common form of mood problem in children AND adolescents.

In children suffering from reactive depression, depressed feelings are short-lived and usually occur in response to some adverse experience, such as a rejection, a slight, a letdown, or a loss. In contrast, children may feel sad or lethargic and appear preoccupied for periods as short as a few hours or as long as 2 weeks. However, mood improves with a change in activity or an interesting or pleasant event. These transient mood swings in reaction to minor environmental adversities are not regarded as a form of mental disorder. All in all, I have concluded that it is definitely more likely for mental illness symptoms to surface during

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