Whether you’re a parent or a teenager, adolescence is hard. Around this time, teenagers are trying to develop their own sense of self and independence. This can cause conflict with their parents, as well as emotional turmoil. As a parent, you want to protect your child from the evils of the world while also allowing them to flourish. Part of helping your child navigate through the difficult terrain that is adolescence is knowing when they may require more help than you alone can offer them. Identifying certain signs will allow you to get them the help they need sooner rather than later.
If you are concerned about your teenager, here are seven signs that they may need to see an adolescent psychiatrist:
Frequent alcohol or drug use as a coping mechanism
Often times, teens can turn to substance use as a way of self-medicating against psychiatric symptoms. Depending on your child, you may or may not be aware of this. However, if you are aware that your child has been using any type of substance as a coping mechanism, you should schedule a consultation with an adolescent psychiatrist right away. It is important to note that abusing prescriptions or over the counter drugs are also cause for alarm.
They are struggling to make it through the day
Daily struggles can take many forms, so you will need to pay close attention to your child. Some signs they are struggling include low energy, inability to cope with tiny frustrations, being frequently absent or late to school/work, falling grades, lack of personal hygiene, and odd behaviors. These signs can indicate that your teenager may be experiencing a problem with their mental health and may require medication prescribed by a psychiatrist that specializes in treating adolescents.
Preoccupied with suicidal ideation
Again, this is another sign that must be dealt with immediately. Any talk about suicide, threats, or even attempts to be addressed and taken seriously. This is also a major sign that your teenager likely needs help from a mental health specialist. Even if your child seems as if they might be joking or simply threatening you out of anger, you should never ignore this sign.
Problems with anger management
While everyone gets angry, especially teenagers, frequent anger is cause for alarm. If you can describe your teenager as volatile, destructive, aggressive, or unable to manage their anger, they should be evaluated by an adolescent psychiatrist. Unresolved anger can lead to problems in their future like substance abuse, depression, problems with relationships, and suicide attempts.
They have experienced a recent trauma
Everyone deals with trauma differently, so your teenager may or may not need to be seen by a psychiatrist after undergoing trauma. However, it is usually a good idea to have the psychiatrist tell you that your child is okay, rather than simply assuming they’re fine. If your teenager is avoidant, suddenly depressed or anxious, having nightmares or flashbacks, or unable to sleep, then they should see a psychiatrist for adolescents.
Intense or frequent mood swings
While hormonal changes are largely responsible for teenage angst, mood swings should be occasional rather than constant. Intense or frequent mood swings could indicate an underlying problem such as stress or a psychiatric condition. Having your teenager evaluated by an adolescent psychiatrist can determine if talk therapy can help or if psychiatric treatment is needed.
An obsession with weight or problems with food
During adolescence, teens undergo many changes that can affect the way they see themselves. Because of this, adolescence is a common time for eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorder to develop. If you notice your child is suddenly preoccupied with what or how much they eat, disappearing after meals, losing or gaining weight, or overeating, they may need to be seen by an adolescent psychiatrist.
If your teenager has exhibited any of these seven signs, it is strongly recommended that you have them evaluated by a psychiatrist specializing in adolescents. Whether a psychiatric condition, stress, or hormones is the cause, having your teen see a psychiatrist can give you peace of mind, as well as a way to approach and remedy the situation. The sooner you seek treatment for your teenager, the sooner they can start feeling better.
Dr. Miller is trained in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also trained in Anesthesia and Pain Management. Because of her broad experience, Dr. Miller is uniquely qualified to treat psychological trauma, depression and anxiety that can occur as a result of injury or disability. For more information, schedule a consultation at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy.