Signs & Symptoms of Troubled Teens

By Amy Sutton
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Teenagers go through a myriad of physical and mental changes, including a transformation inside the brain, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics' website HealthChildren.org. At this stage, parts of the young brain have not fully matured, making it difficult to cope with the stresses and pressures that come along with being a teenager. It's your job as a parent to know the warning signs of any troubles your teen is having, so you can support him.

Eating Disorders

Some teens obsess about body image, which can lead to eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. Up to 10 in 100 young women have an eating disorder in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website.

Bulimia is when you force yourself to vomit after eating. Signs include immediately going to the restroom after eating and rapid weight loss without changes in diet.

Anorexia is an obsession with being thin, which leads to food restriction. Symptoms include changes in eating habits and noticeable weight loss.

Teens with eating disorders can get help from a pediatrician, therapist who deals with eating disorders, and a nutritionist.

Teen Depression

Everyone feels blue sometimes, but some teens fight depression. Depression isn't simple moodiness; it can completely disrupt a teen's life.

Signs of depression include being unmotivated, sleep problems, excessive secrecy, isolation, weight loss or weight gain, feelings of hopelessness and self-harm.

Find a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist to start a treatment plan for depression, which may include therapy, exercise, relaxation or medication, the TeensHealth website suggests.

Substance Abuse

Teens may experiment with tobacco, drugs and alcohol, but don't realize it can lead to dependency and more dangerous drugs.

Emotional signs of substance abuse may include changes in personality, irritability, depression and mood changes. Physical symptoms include a lingering cough, health complaints, fatigue and glazed over eyes, notes the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website.

Help your teen overcome substance abuse by consulting with your physician and an adolescent psychiatrist. A non-residential or residential treatment program may be necessary.

Teen Stress

The pressures of school, extracurricular activities and responsibilities at home can cause your teen to become troubled.

Stress can cause physical illness, withdrawal, anxiety and aggression, notes the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. Some even use alcohol or drugs to cope.

Be your teen's biggest cheerleader, help her learn to manage her time and encourage her to eat regularly, exercise, limit caffeine, and avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

Suicidal Thoughts

Thousands of teens commit suicide in the U.S. each year, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. In 5- to 14-year-olds, it's the sixth-leading cause of death, and in 15- to 24-year-olds, it's the third-leading cause of death.

Signs of suicidal thoughts include isolation from family and friends, personality changes, headaches, stomachaches, violent actions, and changes in sleeping and eating habits.

Take comments about suicide very seriously and find a mental health professional for help.