Mental health issues in teens are more common than people think – fortunately, most of them are very treatable! An estimated 10–20% of teens globally experience mental health conditions, but many of these remain underdiagnosed and undertreated1.
Not addressing teen mental health conditions impacts later life, harming both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults. Recognizing the signs of mental health issues and taking steps that are right for you or a loved one can bring lasting positive change.
It’s clear that mental health issues are an urgent area of need for teens. A lot of these issues look and feel the same in the teen years as they do in adulthood. Depression and anxiety are two mental health issues with signs consistent amongst teens and adults.
A study cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that: 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression2.
There are some mental health disorders that start and/or are more common during the teen years. These include eating disorders, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and self-harm.
Regardless of the specific mental health disorder, the earlier it’s spotted and addressed, the more effective treatment can be.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Issues in Teens
The signs and symptoms of mental health disorders in teens will depend on the specific disorder, but there are some general signs to look for including:
- Changes in sleep and/or appetite (too much or too little)
- Losing interest in things that used to be fun or interesting
- Isolating and being alone more often
- Spending most of their time thinking or talking about their weight or body
- Engaging in self-harm like cutting or burning
Transition-Age Youth (TAY) Mental Health
Transition-Age Youth (TAY) include young men and women, 16-25 years old, who may be transitioning out of foster care or juvenile detention facilities, youth who may have run away from home or dropped out of school, and youth with disabilities or mental health challenges.
Child and adult mental health services may not offer the proper supports needed by TAY during this period of development and entry into adulthood.
Services such as job coaching, independent living skills, housing supports, and integrated mental health and substance use services are often offered to transition-age youth. The goal of these supports is to build the skills and self-sufficiency necessary to achieve individual recovery goals, avoid negative outcomes such as homelessness or incarceration, and successfully transition to adulthood.
For more information on teen mental health, please visit:
TXT 4 HELP is a nationwide, 24-hour text-for-support service for teens in crisis. Just text the word “safe” and your current location (address, city, state) to 4HELP (44357). Within seconds, you will receive a message with the closest Safe Place site and phone number for the local youth agency. For immediate help, reply with “2chat” to text interactively with a trained counselor.
General Teen Mental Health
Resources for specific mental health disorders in teens:
1. WHO – Adolescent Mental Health.
2. Ghandour RM, Sherman LJ, Vladutiu CJ, et al. Prevalence and Treatment of Depression, Anxiety, and Conduct Problems in US Children. J Pediatr. 2019;206:256-267.e3.