The teenage years are incredibly formative and challenging. It is a time when they often experiment with their identity and need additional parental attention. Those with mental health conditions are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion, discrimination, educational difficulties, risk-taking behaviours, physical illness and even human rights violations.
A study by Emory University and the University of Rochester of 233 adolescents with an average age of 16 found that teens who fail to acknowledge their negative emotions are more likely to have depressive symptoms after stressful life events. On the other hand, teens who are good at distinguishing negative feelings are better at managing their emotions after dealing with stress, thus lowering their risk of getting depression. (Source: Mission Harbour Behavioral Health)
Sadly, many teenages do not talk to their parents about their feelings until it is too late. As parents, there is only so much one can do if their child won’t talk about their emotions. For starters, once you recognize the problem, encourage your child to talk about what’s on their mind to you, a friend or even a teacher. Second, avoid guessing why they are acting a certain way. Lastly, listen without judgement and only offer advice when asked for it.
When Is Talk Therapy Advisable?
If a teenager shows signs of anxiety, depression or anger and is keeping their emotions bottled up, it’s time to consider professional help. Therapy offers a safe place for teens to express their feelings without judgement or parental influence over their actions.
Even for adults, going to therapy can be a tough pill to swallow. Now imagine a teenager’s reaction to the idea. For some, the shame of admitting that they need help can be overwhelming. For others, it might be a relief that someone is seeing their pain. Yet, it is impossible to predict how a teen might respond to this option. The point is, you won’t know until you try.
Below are some tips from nuturefamilycounseling.com to start discussing therapy with a teen.
For more information about mental health motivational tips, and resources visit speakingcandidlywithcandace.com.
By Candace Schoner, Producer and Host of Speaking Candidly with Candace
Most people experience anxiety on occasion. You know the feeling: Your chest tightens, your breathing shallows, and your mind starts racing with worst-case scenarios. No matter how hard you try, you can’t calm down.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older … yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment."
As someone who has lived a relatively stressful life as an entrepreneur and freelance writer, I have personally experienced the physical symptoms (sweating, muscle tension, abdominal pain and nausea) commonly associated with generalized anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder is when the intensity of the worry is out of proportion to the likelihood of the anticipated event. The excessive worry or anxiety occurs more days than not for a period of at least six months. (psychcom.net)
Like many children growing up, I worried unnecessarily about many things such as: the boogeyman under my bed, getting good grades, my first sleepover, and being struck by lightning.
According to psychologists, fear can appear at different times during development. For example, toddlers are often extremely stressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe. “Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to either anxiety or depression”. (CDC.gov).
Anxiety may present as fear, but can also cause children to be irritable and angry.
This is also true for adults. Other anxiety symptoms may include trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, diarrhea. In some cases, individuals may even break out in hives.
What you may not know about stress is that it’s not all bad. In fact, anyone can experience eustress or positive stress.
Clinical psychiatrist Dr. Michael Genovese explains, eustress is a chemical response in the body which can be brought on when faced with a fun challenge.
“Eustress helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life,” he says. (Healthline.com)
When a child fails to outgrow ‘normal’ age-related fears which interfere with school, home, or play activities, it is time to seek advice from a mental health professional.
Unrelenting feelings of doom are often the result of biochemical root causes, just like diabetes or heart disease. Thus, those exhibiting longer than ‘normal’ bouts of anxiety may find relief through behavioral changes, talk therapy or medications.
Physical activity, a healthy diet, regular sleep, and meditation may reduce feelings of anxiety. Experts also recommend avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine for managing symptoms. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do to keep my anxiety in check was give up coffee. Now, even if I have just one cup of Joe, I can feel my anxiety levels starting to rise.
You are probably tired of hearing how exercise is the cure for everything that ails you. Well, don’t blame the messenger. According to the Mayo clinic, “doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly reduce anxiety symptoms.”
Meditation can help lower stress by helping individuals pay closer attention to their emotions and provide the means to relax before things get worse. (Heathline.com)
To learn more about treatment options for anxiety such as diet and prescription medications, talk to your doctor.
By Candace Schoner
My love for writing goes back to my early childhood. It served as my voice when I could not speak the truth out loud. We didn’t have a lot of money back then, so I saved every penny of my weekly allowance to pay for my little black diary which I kept hidden under my bed. Despite being the youngest of four siblings, my diary became my best friend. Every night before I went to sleep, I would write about my innermost thoughts.
As the youngest child raised by an alcoholic father and narcissistic mother who argued constantly, I tried hard to remain invisible at home and at school. It was a lonely existence and having a place to share my feelings, even if it was only on paper, made it bearable.
Decades later, through therapy, I learned that my childhood experience, psychologically speaking, was considered a “trauma.” How could that be? I was not kidnapped, sexually abused, beaten, or tortured by anyone. I did not lose a limb to an injury, an illness, or war. Yet, deep inside me are scars that may never heal completely.
Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. It can also be described as personal trauma like the death of a child. In my case, I lived in constant fear of not knowing when my parents' arguments would turn violent and require police intervention.
Living with an unpredictable alcoholic father felt like living in a war zone. By the time I turned 15 and went off to college, my father had broken several windows, punched multiple holes in the walls, and nearly killed my mother by throwing her down a flight of stairs.
As a child, I could not understand why she stayed married to someone who abused her both mentally and physically.
Most of the time when they argued, I would curl-up in the dark under my bed covers trying to drown out the terrifying sounds. On one occasion, when I heard my mother falling down the steps after my father threatened to kill her, I came out of hiding and intervened on her behalf, pleading with my father to stop his tirade and just leave. As far as I know, that was the last time he physically abused my mom. Unfortunately, the mental abuse continued all through their marriage.
You may be wondering what my other siblings were doing during these violent episodes. The oldest two usually stayed after school or went to a friends' home to study. My middle sister usually fled the scene before it got too ugly.
As the youngest child, I felt it was my job to keep the peace, using humor to deflect from my father’s anger which grew the more he drank. If my father were a child, then alcohol was his pacifier. Whenever he was stressed or overly tired, he would reach for a bottle of vodka or gin, like a child grabbing for their pacifier.
The truth is, as memory serves me, my father was either angry, depressed, or deliriously happy. He had high highs and low lows. If he were still alive today, his diagnosis would probably be bipolar disorder. Eventually, his excessive drinking, unhealthy eating habits, and three heart attacks led to his early death at age 60.
One of my biggest fears growing up was that I would turn out like my dad; an angry alcoholic, working 60-hours a week just to pay bills. Lucky for me, I was not interested in alcohol or any illegal substances. However, I did inherit his entrepreneur spirit and mood disorder.
It’s amazing that after all this time, I still feel the anger, disappointment, and sadness associated with my adolescence years. Yet, I am somewhat thankful too because it gave me strength that I didn’t know was possible.
When I think back, which I try not to do often, I realize that my mother was not blameless. She could have done a better job at protecting me and my siblings. To this day, she and I never talk about my childhood or my biological father. It’s like it never happened.
At times, I want to clear the air and ask her why she stayed in an abusive relationship. I want to tell her how pissed off I am at her and what an awful mother she was but I can’t. I can’t because she is a 91 year old narcissist who has out-lived two husbands, her parents, five siblings, all of her friends, and most recently her son, my brother. Confronting her now would not change the past or the future.
So for now, I bite my tongue and continue to keep the peace. After all, it is easier for me to write about my childhood trauma than to speak it out loud.