Teens today face social challenges you didn’t experience in your teens. As a result, it can be more difficult as a parent to spot behavior that indicates your teen is struggling beyond normal teen “angst.” There are a handful of common danger signs in teen behavior that could indicate possible mental health disorders that require assessment and treatment. Keep reading to learn more.

Constant Fatigue

Irregular sleep patterns can indicate possible mental health disorders. Some signs your teen is experiencing poor sleep include:

  • Unusual moodiness and irritability
  • Inability to get out of bed in the morning
  • Falling asleep during the day (teachers might reach out with this information)
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Dropping grades
  • Sleeping much of the time or sleeping in very late on weekends
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nervousness
  • Aggression

Poor Academic Performance

Paying attention to your teen’s grades and spotting signs of slipping academic achievements early can help identify possible anxiety or depression impacting their performance. Another possible cause of a change in grades could be social difficulty, including bullying, as well as substance abuse.

No Longer Interested in Favorite Past Times or Activities

A lack of interest in the things they once loved, such as sports, art, playing an instrument, or hanging out with friends, could indicate that your teen is unable to find joy or engage in life as they once did. These changes are very important, as avoidance behavior is a common sign of depression.

Changes in Grooming

Even if your child isn’t big into fashion, hairstyles and makeup, a sudden change in grooming, such as taking fewer showers, not following their usual morning routine, not changing their clothes, etc., shows a lack of motivation and feelings that nothing matters. A lack of attention to their surroundings with an unusually messy room is also a sign your teen might be struggling.

Drug and Alcohol Use

Drug and alcohol use can be harder to detect but is a common sign of mental health challenges. Signs are similar to those experienced with a lack of sleep, as well as:

  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Poor grooming
  • Smell of smoke or alcohol on breath or clothes
  • Lack of focus
  • Poor grades
  • Secretive behavior
  • Not allowing you in their room or to do their laundry
  • Possible hangovers

Extreme Moodiness & Irritability

Although teens tend to be moody, if the mood swings seem more volatile and change in an instant, it could indicate a struggling teen dealing with a mental health condition. In this case, you will notice the following in their mood swings:

  • More intense and severe moods that lead to social, home or school issues
  • Their moods last much longer than usual, with distinctly noticeable ups and downs
  • Their moods occur everywhere, not just at home
  • Clear signs of anger and aggression, including being unusually disrespectful, constantly misunderstanding what you say to them, overly defensive, comments of self-loathing, etc.
  • An unusually rebellious teen
  • Paranoia
  • Constant worry and anxiety over everything

Changes in Eating Habits and Weight

Weight obsession is related to poor body image, which can become apparent if they:

  • Have an extreme change in their eating habits
  • Display weight loss or gain
  • Seem obsessed with a certain diet or type of food

These are common signs of eating disorders that put your child’s mental and physical health at risk.

Social Withdrawal

Self-isolation and being more withdrawn can be signs of struggling to cope with obsessive social media use or depression. If your teen spends less time out with friends and more time alone in their room, they might also have a tech addiction.

Changes in Self-Esteem and Feelings of Hopelessness

Low teen self-esteem is the most common indicator of depression, PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Teens might also express ongoing feelings that everything is hopeless. These comments must be addressed right away, as a loss of hope could indicate they are considering self-harm or suicide.

Signs of Self-Harm

  • Self-harm is a coping mechanism with signs that might include:
  • Unexplained wounds
  • Always wearing long sleeves or long pants despite the weather to cover up wounds
  • Blood stains on their belongings, such as bedding, clothes, towels
  • Bloody tissues in the bathroom, their bedroom, their clothes pockets, etc.
  • Having sharp objects in their possession
  • Getting angry if you enter a room without knocking

Clear communication with your teen is easier when you establish that they can feel safe discussing difficult issues. Reacting with an open mind instead of with judgement or anger shows them you will always offer loving support. Avoid pointing fingers and instead voice concerns about what you feel or see. Keep in mind that some moodiness, bouts of silence, and withdrawal from family activities are normal parts of entering adulthood.

If you are concerned about your teen’s behavior, Telos offers hope to teens and parents facing possible mental health challenges. Click here to start the conversation and learn how residential treatment might be the solution to help get your lives back on track.