In every generation, it seems, the same lament goes forth from the parents of adolescents: \"What's the matter with kids today\" Why are they so often confused, annoying, demanding, moody, defiant, reckless Accidental deaths, homicides, and binge drinking spike in the teenage years. It's the time of life when psychosis, eating disorders, and addictions are most likely to take hold. Surveys show that everyday unhappiness also reaches its peak in late adolescence.
Plenty of explanations for teenage turmoil are available. Adolescents need to assert their independence and explore their limits, taking risks, breaking rules, and rebelling against their parents while still relying on them for support and protection. (\"What's the matter with the older generation\") They have to cope with disconcerting new sexual impulses and romantic feelings. Cultural change heightens incompatibility between the generations. Now scientific research is suggesting a new reason for the clashes between teenagers and their environment. Unsettled moods and unsettling behavior may be rooted in uneven brain development.
It's not a question of intellectual maturity. Most studies show that abstract reasoning, memory, and the formal capacity for planning are fully developed by age 15 or 16. If teenagers are asked hypothetical questions about risk and reward, they usually give the same answers as adults. But the emotional state in which they answer questionnaires is not necessarily the one in which they make important choices. In real life, adolescents, compared to adults, find it more difficult to interrupt an action under way (stop speeding); to think before acting (learn how deep the water is before you dive); and even to choose between safer and riskier alternatives. It is easy for them to say that they would not get into a car with a drunk driver, but more difficult to turn down the invitation in practice. Adolescents' judgment can be overwhelmed by the urge for new experiences, thrill-seeking, and sexual and aggressive impulses. They sometimes seem driven to seek experiences that produce strong feelings and sensations.
Resisting social pressure is also more difficult for teenagers. Much of their troubling behavior, from gang violence to reckless driving and drinking, occurs in groups and because of group pressure. In a psychological experiment, adolescents and adults took a driving simulation test that allowed them to win a reward by running a yellow light and stopping before they hit a wall. Adolescents, but not adults, were more likely to take extra chances when friends were watching.
Another circuit still under construction in adolescence links the prefrontal cortex to the midbrain reward system, where addictive drugs and romantic love exert their powers. Most addictions get their start in adolescence, and there is evidence that adolescent and adult brains respond differently to drugs. In both human beings and laboratory rats, studies have found that adolescents become addicted to nicotine faster and at lower doses. Functional brain scans also suggest that teenagers and adults process reward stimuli differently; the adolescents are hypersensitive to the value of novel experiences.
Some critics, even if they welcome the Supreme Court decision for other reasons, have complained that this research stereotypes adolescents and provides a biological rationalization for irresponsible behavior. Animal experiments have limited value because laboratory animals do not undergo a lengthy human childhood. And human brain development does not unfold automatically and uniformly. There is much individual variation that reflects experience as well as genetic programming. The problems of teenagers are not all in their brains but have many causes, social and individual, genetic and environmental. At present and probably for a long time, researchers will be getting better information on the mental and emotional development of adolescents from interviews, observations, and behavioral tests than from brain scans.
If your teenage child is dealing with anxiety, depression or any other mental health concern right now, you're not alone. More than a year after the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joined with other organizations to declare a national emergency in youth mental health, many teens are still struggling.
Still, you may wonder whether the symptoms are part of the biological and social changes all young people go through on their way to adulthood, or something more. As a parent or caregiver, how do you know when to talk with your teen and their doctor about mental health
Read on to learn more about teen mental health, including signs someone is struggling and may need more support. You can also visit the AAP YouTube channel for a series of videos for teens on mental health. The videos address topics including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and other topics. Share with someone you care about:
Youth mental health expert have raised concerns about the extreme pressures on children and teens throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the lingering effects of school closures and other COVID-related stressors are not the only factors in teen stress. Many young people are also dealing with:
Keep in mind that having just one symptom on this list doesn't mean your teen is experiencing a full-blown crisis. Biological changes, including the hormone shifts all tweens and teens go through, can affect your child's mood, school performance and more. But if you consistently see one or more of these signs, it's time to open a conversation about mental health with your teen.
Though they are less common, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can cause major health problems for teens and young adults. Self-harm,thought to be underreported, is another serious concern for tweens and teens.
Young people spend a lot of time on sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and others. One study found that 90% of teens aged 13 to 18 use multiple platforms, with more than 60% engaging with social media every day.
We are still learning about the ways social media can affect human health, especially among children and teens. Healthy use of social media can foster positive connections. However, some young people may face greater risks for negative effects. See \"Social Media & Your Child's Mental Health: What the Research Says\" for insights that can help you consider social media's impact on your child.
Here are some points to consider as you open the door to discussing your teen's mental health. Ideally, this should be a a series of ongoing conversations and \"check ins\" that you have with your child. This can help support your child's mental health and also give you a foundation for times your child may be struggling more and need more problem-focused support.
Make it safe for your child to discuss tough issues with you. Kids often avoid talking about touchy subjects, especially if they expect to be judged, lectured or punished. If you haven't already made this clear, affirm that your teen can tell you anything. Emphasize that these conversations will take place in a judgment-free zone. Explain that you want to understand what they're going through and provide loving support.
Resolve to listen more than you speak. Nothing will send your teen running the other way faster than failing to see and hear them fully. You will need to manage your own fears during the conversation so you can avoid autobiographical listening. This happens when you filter everything through your own life lens instead of listening for deep understanding.
Realize that mental health stigma still exists. Despite much progress, some people still believe that having a mental health condition means someone is broken, untrustworthy or potentially violent. In fact, many don't seek mental health treatment because they're afraid of what others will think of them. If you're concerned about the harm stigma can do to your teen, this article may help.
Mental health is a key part of human health. Parents and teens do not need to feel ashamed or fearful in seeking treatment. It's no different from getting care for a broken bone, a serious infection or any other major health concern.
Even if you have a history of mental health issues yourself, you are not the root cause of your child's difficulties. Showing love, trust and respect for yourself and your teen is the healthiest way to ensure you both find the resources you need.
Your pediatrician cares about your child's health and has helped many other parents and caregivers with mental health concerns. Your pediatrician also knows about local resources you can tap to support your teen, now and throughout the healing process.
Pediatricians can explain treatment options, including medications that might help. They can also refer you to mental health specialists who can evaluate your teen. In this way, your pediatrician will become part of a care team that can help you create a treatment plan, as well as a crisis plan that spells out what you will do if things get worse for your child.
Suicidal thoughts or actions should NEVER be ignored. If your teen is in crisis right now, call The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or text 'TALK\" to 741741. Trained lifeline staff will help you figure out immediate steps to protect your child.
If your teen is thinking about suicide but not in crisis, it's still vitally important to get help. Call your child's pediatrician or mental health provider right away to find resources and plan for appropriate treatment and support.
Even if your teen is doing fine, help them find time for self care and healthy habits. Make time to enjoy each other as a family. Positive activities and relationships can have a protective, \"scaffolding\" effect on mental health. 59ce067264