by Cindy Peters, School Psychologist
Struggling with a mental illness at any age can be emotionally devastating and overwhelming for some. High school students have difficult enough time fitting in, maintaining their grades and planning for their futures let alone struggling with a mental illness during the process. Understanding the five most common mental illnesses seen in high school kids can help to better relate and empathize with individuals who may be facing a challenge during some of the toughest years of their lives.
Depression is a common mental disorder and illness that not only affects high school students, but children, adults and the elderly alike. Depression causes overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, sadness and in severe instances, thoughts or actions related to suicide. Depression can be brought on by stress, interference with home life and other relationships in a high school teen’s life. Avoiding family and friends, withdrawing from everyday activities, an increase in sleep and the inability to focus are also signs of depression. Overcoming depression is possible with psychotherapy, becoming self-aware and in some cases, even medication.
Anxiety is another common mental illness that can become overbearing depending on the severity of the disorder and the patient’s surroundings. Anxiety causes individuals to avoid situations and people, especially when being around them triggers sweating, nausea and full-blown panic attacks. Teens struggling with anxiety may ultimately begin slacking in class, avoiding friends and even skipping school altogether. Anxiety can make it increasingly challenge to feel safe and without worry, even in a classroom environment. Recognizing triggers and causes of anxiety in an individual is a key factor in recovering and determining the right methods of treatment. According to psychologists, anxiety and depression are two most common mental health issues causing people seek psychotherapy.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder, also known as OCD, is a mental illness that can feel suffocating to teens and any individual suffering with it. OCD can cause mental blocks that trigger patients to feel the need to count obsessively, move objects without reason and worry and fear unnecessarily. Repeated cleaning and washing while handling intrusive thoughts are all part of OCD, which can wreak havoc on anyone’s life. Various forms of psychotherapy, medication and self-reflection treatments are available when overcoming OCD depending on the symptoms the patient is dealing with and the severity of the compulsions.
Substance abuse is another disorder that can ultimately lead to an out of control lifestyle, especially for teens who are still in high school. Abusing substances is often a behavior that is picked up and learned from a parents or guardian. Becoming addicted to alcohol, drugs and even prescription pills can cause teens to depend on them to function with everyday activities and social situations. Substance abuse can be treated by enrolling in a rehabilitation center or by becoming self-aware that there is a problem that needs to be fixed to live healthier and happier.
Bipolar disorder is another mental illness that can wreak havoc on anyone’s life, especially teens who are trying to get through their years in high school. Bipolar disorder is an illness that causing an imbalance of chemicals in the brain of the patient. The individual suffering from bipolar disorder often experiences extreme mood swings referred to as “mania” and the “depressed” phases. Feeling extremely high and optimistic one day and devastatingly sad or hopeless the next may be signs of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is very serious mental illness and requires treatment and monitoring by a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist.
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