MENTAL HEALTH

Mental well-being simply refers to a healthy state of mind where an individual feels secure and stable; emotionally, psychologically and socially. They are able to: 

  • Realise their potential

  • Cope with the daily stresses of life in a healthy manner

  • Maintain meaningful relationships 

  • Undertake work to be productive

  • Contribute positively to society 

  • Be physically healthy

MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS DURING PUBERTY

Puberty is a very unique period when multiple social, behavioural and emotional changes occur at the same time. Moreover, multiple hormones are at play in the body and the overflow of these hormone make kids very sensitive. Without the right knowledge and tools to navigate these changes, adolescents going through puberty become very susceptible to mental illness. 

Emotional Disorders

Adolescents tend to experience intense feelings of fear, peer pressure, competition, jealousy, rejection, stress, anger or frustration during puberty. They believe that nobody understands their mental state. 

This can lead to anxiety and depression, causing symptoms like:

  • Panic attacks

  • Loss of motivation

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Profuse sweating

  • Eating disorders

  • Mood swings

  • Crying often

  • Feeling scared

  • Suicidal tendencies, leading to suicide in extreme cases

Emotional disorder of puberty in Girls
Emotional disorder during puberty 2

Behavioural Disorders

Behavioural changes tend to occur during early puberty in most teenagers. These changes can affect their education and can result in criminal behaviour, if not addressed timely. 

Common behavioural changes:

  • Increased need for privacy

  • Avoiding school

  • Difficulty in paying attention

  • Losing interest in earlier hobbies 

  • Lack of energy

  • Social withdrawal

  • Participation without thinking about consequences

  • Participating in erratic and dangerous challenges

Behavioural disorder during puberty in kids

Eating disorders

Eating disorders often accompany emotional disorders that arise as a part of puberty. Eating disorders can also occur as a consequence of substance abuse. 

Common eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa (restricting calories completely due to body image issues)

  • Bulimia (binge eating)

If left untreated, eating disorders can severely affect the teenager’s metabolism and result in a number of diseases (Malnutrition, Anemia, Obesity, Heart issues, etc). These diseases will usually manifest at a later stage in life and can affect the adult life of the teenager.

Self-Harm and Suicide

Suicide is the third most common cause of death among 15 - 19 years old teenagers. 

Suicidal thoughts occur due to several factors:

  • Excessive alcohol usage

  • Societal stigma against mental illnesses, preventing the teenager from seeking help

  • Lack of therapists or guardians to support the teenager

  • Childhood sexual/physical/mental abuse 

  • Teenagers often tend to use social media as an outlet for their mental health issues and suicidal thoughts

Self harm tendencies in teenagers during puberty

Risk Taking Behaviour

Teenagers are more prone to uncalculated risk taking behaviours, without questioning the consequences. This is majorly due to peer pressure or to impress a sexually attractive partner or to create a style statement

  • Substance abuse with alcohol and cannabis at an early age can affect their mental development and can potentially cause infertility

  • Many teenagers smoke their first cigarette before the age of 18, leading to addiction

  • Teenagers engaging in violence/vandalism as a risk-taking behaviour increases the chance of injury and lead to a criminal record as an adult

  • Earlier encounter of unprotected sex with multiple partners, increases chances of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. There are as many as 1.4 crore teenage pregnancies in India, every year

WARNING SIGNS OF MENTAL DISTRESS

  • Extreme Mood Swings

    • If the teen engages in impulsive behaviour, severe risk taking and experiences sudden outburst of anger or euphoria, it can indicate that the teen might be going through mental distress

  • Change in Eating Patterns

    • If the teen suddenly starts eating too much or too little, it can be an indication of mental health disorders

  • Changes in Sleep Patterns

    • If the teen stays up for too long at night or sleeps too much for extended periods of time, it could be because of depression

  • Sense of Worthlessness

    • If the teen displays a sense of worthlessness and does not engage with activities he/she usually enjoys, it could be a sign of depression

  • Self Medication

    • Teens suffering from undiagnosed depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder etc, often resort to substance abuse

  • Withdrawal from Friends and Family

    • The teen might suddenly stop engaging with his/her close friends or family

    • He/she might constantly demand an increased need for privacy

  • Declining Grades

    • Increased interest in risk taking behaviour can cause a loss of interest in education, causing a decline in grades

SUPPORTING THE CHILD

It is crucial to provide a proper guidance and support to a struggling teenager.

  • Tell the teen that you appreciate the efforts they makes in their life

  • Appreciating any achievement by celebrating small wins

  • Do not criticise the child, adopt a handle with care mechanism

  • Parents should spend time with the child to build an emotional bondEngaging in the teen’s hobbies/interests is useful

  • Encouraging the teen to talk about his/her feelings more often can make the teenager feel safe and less lonely

  • Create an open environment for discussion about their sexual health and relationships in the household

    • Acknowledge the feelings of the teen without any judgements at home

    • Try to invite friends over to ensure that the teen is comfortable with his/her friends around the guardians

  • Try counselling or therapy for the child

  • Improve their sleep cycle

  • Engage the child in physical activities like sports or exercise

  • Improve the nutrition intake of child

  • If the symptoms worsen, see a psychiatrist​​