Recognizing and Addressing Mental Health Disorders in Teens

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Being a teenager isn’t easy in today’s fast-paced, demanding world, and neither is being an adult helping a teen navigate the many social and emotional challenges of adolescence.

Distinguishing between so-called “typical” teen behavior and signs of emerging mental health disorders can be especially difficult. Yet experts stress that understanding these distinctions is critical when it comes to guiding teens to effective treatment for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance misuse, and eating disorders.

So how can parents, educators, and other adults learn to identify the symptoms of common mental health disorders in teens? When is the right time to explore professional help? And what are the best treatment approaches for adolescents?

Audience Questions

Perihan Esra Guvenek-Cokol, MD, provides an overview of the many anxiety, mood, eating, substance use, and personality disorders that can impact teens, shares tips for recognizing their emergence, and answers audience questions about what to expect from evidence-based treatment.

  • What happens to brain development during adolescence?
  • Can you describe how behavioral development and identity development tend to unfold during the adolescent years?
  • What are some of the social challenges that teens have to navigate?
  • How does the fast pace of today’s world impact teens?
  • What additional challenges did the COVID-19 pandemic create for teens?
  • Where is the line between typical teenage challenges and diagnosable mental health disorders?
  • Statistically speaking, how many teens have a diagnosable mental health challenge?
  • What are some of the more common mental illnesses that impact teenagers?
  • Are there typical signs that a teen might be struggling with a particular mental health challenge, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or an eating disorder?
  • Do you see personality disorders developing in teenagers?
  • Are there advantages to getting a teen formally diagnosed before the age of 18 if they are showing emerging traits of borderline personality disorder?
  • What should parents and other adults be watching for if they suspect a teen has a substance use disorder?
  • How does a parent go about getting professional mental health treatment for a teen?
  • Are there questions a parent should ask to determine whether a particular therapist is the right person to be working with their child?
  • What is the relationship between lifestyle advertising, social media, and teen mental health?
  • What can parents do to help their teens navigate the challenges of being compared to others in their peer groups?
  • How can parents best approach difficult conversations with their teens?
  • What are some of the considerations parents have to weigh when seeking mental health treatment for a teen?
  • How can parents work with school counselors, educators, pediatricians, and others to create a support team for their teen?
  • Is the increase in gun violence impacting more teenagers?
  • What are some important mental health resources for parents, teens, and families?
  • Are teen mental health awareness campaigns that include athletes or influencers talking about their mental health challenges making a difference?
  • When you look at the big picture of mental health treatment for teens, what do you see missing or needing more attention?
  • What message would you offer a parent or an adult who is helping a teen navigate their challenges and feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole process?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.

Resources

You may also find this information useful:

About Dr. Guvenek-Cokol

Perihan Esra Guvenek-Cokol, MD, is a double board certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist. She specializes in emerging mental illness in teens and young adults. Her expertise is in early stages of psychotic and bipolar disorders, along with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders.

Dr. Guvenek-Cokol serves as the medical director for McLean’s Child and Adolescent OCD Institute and STAR, an outpatient program for teens and young adults.

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Originally aired on May 18, 2023