Mental Health

Mental Health

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I walked into this building 29 days ago with a pain in my heart that I thought would never go away.
And today I’m leaving with strength and courage that will never fade away.

-Cheyenne, aged 16Stairs HDR-X2

Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders are psychological conditions marked by seriously impaired psychological and social functioning.  Adolescents diagnosed with severe mental health disorders are often unable to function effectively at home or in the community.  Mental health disorders sometimes consist of a combination of affective, behavioral, cognitive and perceptual components.  We specialize in treating the following disorders:

Recognizing Mental Illness in Teens

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary widely depending on the particular disorder and other factors.  Mental illness affects both physical and mental health.  The following is a list of common behavioral/emotional symptoms of mental illness:

  • Sadness
  • Withdrawal
  • Mood swings
  • Out of control rage
  • Self harm
  • Self deprecating statements
  • Distorted thoughts
  • Past trauma
  • Excessive worry
  • Repetitive non-purposeful behaviors
  • Rebellion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Demobilizing fears
  • Eating/sleeping impairments
  • Academic decline
  • Social impairments
  • Sexual acting out
  • Aggression/violence

Physical symptoms of mental illness:

  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Chest pain
  • Digestive problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness

Is it mental illness?

It can be difficult to gauge whether the symptoms you are seeing are a sign of a mental illness or not.  Symptoms differ from person to person and across different cultures as well. Whether or not something is considered “abnormal” can depend greatly on the individual.

In general, the signs and symptoms you are seeing may indicate a mental illness when they interfere with quality of life.  If your teen is unhappy, unable to function in their daily life or unable to cope with normal life stressors, then it is time to consider getting help.  Oftentimes the teen will be able to articulate their distress and discomfort.  However, with some conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, friends and family members may be the first to notice that the teen is struggling with mood and behavioral problems.

When to seek help

If your teenager is displaying some of these signs and symptoms and is struggling in school, interpersonal relationships or at home, then it is time to see a doctor.  You can go straight to a mental health professional or visit your child’s general practitioner for a referral. Most mental illnesses don’t improve on their own and, if left untreated, may get worse over time.

If an adolescent has suicidal thoughts

Sadly, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common with some mental illnesses.  If you think your adolescent is at risk of hurting themselves or attempting suicide get help right away:

  1. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  2. Call a suicide hotline number. In the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.

If an adolescent is feeling suicidal but he or she isn’t immediately thinking of hurting themselves:

  • Allow the adolescent to reach out to a close friend or loved one, even if they may be reluctant to talk about their feelings.
  • Seek help from a doctor, a mental health provider or other health care professional.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.

Helping a loved one

If a loved one is displaying signs of mental illness and you are worried about them, have an open and honest discussion with him or her about your concerns. You can’t force someone to seek professional help, but you can offer support and encouragement that may help influence their decision.  Offer to help your loved one find a doctor or a treatment facility and make an appointment.  If your loved one has hurt themselves or is seriously thinking about it, take him or her to the hospital or call for emergency help.


Major depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by low mood and sadness, frustration and anger and impaired day-to-day functioning.  For a diagnosis to be made, this mood state must last for an extended period of time (at least two weeks).  Major depression is a serious impairment that requires professional help.   It is most often treated with a combination of medications known as antidepressants (SSRI’s, MAOI’s etc.) and talk therapy.   Most sufferers of depression who are properly treated will make a full recovery.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a condition in which the sufferer alternates between periods of increased activity wherein their mood is extremely happy (almost euphoric) and periods of depression.  Sometimes these mood swings occur very rapidly.

Bipolar disorder affects boys and girls equally.  Signs and symptoms usually begin to appear between the ages of 15 and 25.  The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but it is more common in families with a history of the illness.

There are three types of bipolar disorder.

  • Bipolar I is diagnosed when there has been at least one manic episode alternating with periods of major depression.
  • Bipolar II is diagnosed when the sufferer experiences major depression and slightly elevated mood states known as hypomania.  Hypomania is a less severe type of mania.
  • Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder that involves mood swings that are less severe. Sufferers of cyclothymia cycle between periods of hypomania and mild depression.

Bipolar disorder is usually treated with a class of drugs known as mood stabilizers.  Mood stabilizers in combination with talk therapy is the best treatment available for bipolar disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive worrying and fear.  Persons suffering from this disorder experience a disproportionately high amount of anxiety such that it interferes with their day-to-day functioning. Generalized anxiety disorder is mentally and physically exhausting.

Generalized anxiety disorder is usually treated with talk therapy, sometimes in conjunction with medications such as antidepressants, beta blockers or  benzodiazepines. Freedom from chronic stress and worry is attainable.

Call us today for information on any mental disorder that is disrupting your teen’s quality of life.  888-948-9998.