Adolescent Mental Health

This article was published on Dr. Sophia Khalique Medical Practice’s blog and newsletter.

Adolescence can be a turbulent time in life. Teenagers experience numerous bodily changes as a result of their bodies adjusting to puberty. They also go through dramatic internal changes, with different perspectives and outlooks of the world. During this time, they often question themselves and are curious about who they are and their contribution to society.

It is a period of adjustment that can be stressful at times. Adolescence can also have an impact on different styles of parenting. While teenagers will naturally seek more independence, increasingly spending more time with peers and less time with family, some adolescents can show risk-taking behaviour. It can be daunting for parents to manage their growing independence while keeping their children safe.

Being an adolescent can also be a fascinating time of self-discovery. Some navigate this period with more excitement than discomfort, whereas others might show signs of anxiety, mood, attention, and behaviour disorders. It can be difficult to determine whether a troubling adolescent behaviour is a natural part of growing up or a concern that needs to be brought up with your GP. You should speak with a health professional if an adolescent exhibits behavioural symptoms that persist for weeks and if these problems affect the child’s day-to-day activities at home, school, or with friends.

It is well known that adolescent mental health is enhanced by good eating and sleeping habits, exercise, mindfulness, and meditation. I often hear from parents: “This is so well known, I wish my child would just do that.” My answer is often straightforward: as human beings, we tend to preserve and perpetuate how we ‘re-act’ to circumstances.

That being said, you might ask me how psychotherapy can be helpful in those cases. Let’s keep in mind that we may not be able to change the circumstance that is generating stress, but we can alter how we respond to it. Psychotherapy for adolescents helps young people to learn about themselves, recognise why they behave and respond to stress in a certain way and understand how to regulate their emotions. With space and time to think about their problems, psychotherapy helps adolescents not only to learn new ways of relating to themselves and others, but also master new ways of solving problems in a resilient and compassionate manner.  Our brain has a vast potential to change.  It is constantly evolving as we learn new things every day. We all need time and practice to change our behaviours. Remember, everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can change until is faced.

Mental health is a crucial component of wellness and overall health for children and adults. Early intervention can be very effective and help a child avoid more serious, long-lasting issues as they develop. Adolescence can be a tumultuous time, but it can also be a time where one learns how to manage internal feelings at a young age and use these tools throughout their adult lives. One does not need to have a diagnosis to engage with a therapist. Any child, adolescent, young person, or parent might want someone to talk to from time to time in their life.

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