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The Various Mental Health Illnesses Teenagers Live With

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Mental health is a state of physiological well being. It includes the individual’s ability to enjoy life and create a perfect balance between daily activities and physiological toughness. It includes positivity, constructive thoughts, attitude, aptitude and emotional well being. It even regulates an individual’s ability to deal with stress, burden and difficult circumstances.

It is very vital to be mentally healthy at every phase of life from childhood, adolescence, to adulthood.

What Affects Mental Health During Our Teens?

mental health
It is estimated that one in seven 10–19 year-olds goes through mental health issues. (Representational image)

Many factors affect teens’ mental health and as it’s often said that adolescence is referred to as the toughest period of life as in this phase, many changes take place like physical, social, and mental. It’s often referred to as a stressful phase. It’s vital to make the correct decision and deal with the psychological problems.

It is estimated that one in seven (14%) 10–19 year-olds go through mental health issues. Mainly studies, excess pressure of parents for extracurricular activities, of scoring the highest marks, affects teens.

Even social media affects their health. Not going out much and spending time playing games or on screen leads to mental health issues. Today’s teens don’t socialise much in person. Feelings for someone can also affect them a lot as they often think that person who rejected or broke up with them.

Mental Health Issues Faced By Teenagers

  • Anxiety:

Anxiety is an emotional problem that’s really common in teens. It occurs due to nervousness, panic, negative news or fear of something. The most common example is exams. While giving an important exam, some teens experience anxiety.

There are different types of anxiety disorders like panic (intense fear due to threat or because of some danger) or phobias (extreme fear in a particular situation or from an object). Some common symptoms of anxiety are heavy breathing, sweating, feeling weak and tired, feeling tense, trembling, etc.

It is estimated that 3.6% of 10–14 year-olds and 4.6% of 15–19 year-olds go through an anxiety disorder.

For curing anxiety, one should do physical exercises, have a healthy lifestyle, do meditation and take proper sleep.

  • Depression:


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It is a condition of feeling depressed (low mood) for a long time, having negative thoughts, being alone and isolated, creating a small world, not socialising much, not maintaining proper hygiene, etc. It is experienced because of our social environment, studies, physical abuse, etc. A common example is breakups. Teens feel very low and go into depression and often have negative thoughts.

Some symptoms include feeling sad, loss of appetite, being isolated, getting angry about small things, mood swings, etc. It’s estimated to occur among 1.1% of teens aged 10–14 years and 2.8% of 15–19 year-olds.

Some steps for treating depression include consulting a counsellor to make teens feel better through talk therapy, medication that can help control mood swings, etc.

  • Bipolar Disorder: 

Bipolar disorder is referred to as insane elegiac illness with two extreme conditions: depressed (low) and manic (high). It might vary from person to person. Some symptoms include a person being depressed, facing negative thoughts, hopelessness, etc. Based on a survey, an estimated 2.9% of teens had bipolar disorder, and 2.6% had severe impairment.

In the case of manic, one might feel thrilled, require less sleep, change in behaviour for dangerous things and may feel annoyed, etc. Also, it might be hereditary, and most doctors don’t have an idea about the causes. It can be treated, but it is lifelong and can only be cured with the help of psychotherapy.

  • Eating Disorders:

There are various types of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, a loss of appetite and people becoming cautious about their weight and refusing to eat for fear of being overweight and disfiguring body image. People might do excessive exercise and starve themselves.

Symptoms include dehydration, excessive weight loss, weakness, constipation, one might skip meals, after excessive exercise eat a little, being ashamed of their body, etc. Anorexia nervosa can lead to premature death. It has a high mortality than others. It can be treated through therapy and medical treatment might be required to restore the required weight.

Bulimia nervosa is a life-threatening disorder. In this, people might fast for long to avoid weight gain and exercise a lot and binge eat.

There are two types: purging bulimia and non-purging bulimia. In purging bulimia, one might vomit after binge eating. They might improperly handle diuretics (drugs to increase secretion from the body), use purgatives, etc. It can be cured with a nutritionist, medication and counselling.

Around 4% of adolescents and teens aged 13–18 live with anorexia and bulimia eating disorders.

  • Borderline Personality Disorder:
woman silhouette
Representational image via hippopx.

In this disorder, teens live with unstable moods, different behaviour and relationships. Teenagers and young adults mostly go through it and people living with it don’t feel comfortable interacting with other people and feel very anxious.

Symptoms include being insecure, reckless, emotionally unstable, mood swings, etc. The epidemiological (branch of medicine that deals with diseases) studies indicates that the generality of BPD in the general population of adolescents is around 3%. Treatments include talk therapy or medication and hospitalisation in severe cases.

  • Childhood Schizophrenia:

It is a chronic disease and isn’t that rare in teenagers. It may affect a child’s ability to function, speak, sleep, lead to violent actions and affects the health of children. It usually starts in teenage life and can be for life. That’s why the treatment continues for life. It starts before the age of 18 and it’s very rare in children younger than 13 years. Between 13–18 years of age, it is estimated that 0.23% of adolescents live with it.

  • Substance Use Disorder:

Due to peer pressure, depression, anxiety, low feeling, the pressure of studies, etc., adolescents often become addicted to drugs and alcohol, which ruins their lives as it’s quite difficult to get rid of. Symptoms may include having a craving for it, getting uncontrollable tremors, vomiting, etc.

It is estimated that 7.58% of 12–17 year-olds report using drugs. Of those, 79.07% report using marijuana and 12.51% of all teens reported using marijuana in 2020. It’s also estimated that 0.53% used cocaine in 2020. It can be cured through exercise, finding new hobbies, rehab, etc.

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):

It is very common in children and it can be inherited. It’s a chronic disease that may include attention difficulty and hyperactivity (extremely active). Symptoms are the inability to be calm, always interrupting, excessive talking, getting aggressive at times, acting without thinking, etc.

It is estimated that 2.4 million (9.6%) children between 6–11 years of age and 3.3 million (13.6%) teenagers between 12–17 years of age live with it. Treatments include therapy and medication.

Other than these, there are many other illnesses like post-traumatic disorder, gaming disorder, dissociative identity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc.

The Impact Of COVID On Mental Health Of Teenagers

The pandemic impacted the mental health of teens quite a lot, 27% reported feeling anxiety and 15% reported being depressed. For 30% of teens, the main reason influencing their emotions was the economic situation. Almost 46% report having less energy to do activities they normally enjoy and 36% felt less energetic to do work.


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The closure of schools affected 91% of teens. Due to the pandemic, children didn’t meet their friends, didn’t socialise much and often spent their time playing games. Mental disorders like anxiety and depression increased quite a lot. Many lost their families.

Even dropout rates increased as children from low-income families could not provide their children with the facility to go to school, which affected children’s health. Also, 43% of the women and 31% of the men felt depressed about the future.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated increasing rates of U.S. high school students experiencing constant sadness or hopelessness.

The Affect Of Mental Health On The Physical Health Of Teens

Mental health also affects physical health as the patient might not take healthy food, might not exercise, etc. Depression is linked with many diseases like diabetes, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis, etc. Schizophrenia has also been linked to heart and respiratory diseases.

The death rate from cancer and heart disease is higher among people with depression or other mental health illnesses. ‌

woman covering face
Representational image.

Around 50% to 80% of people with mental health illnesses also have sleeping problems. Conditions like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder often lead to sleep problems. Sleep problems can also make existing mental health conditions worse.

People living with mental illnesses often have the habit of smoking. People with depression have lower levels of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine affects positive feelings in your brain. The nicotine in cigarettes activates the production of the chemical dopamine, so smoking may be used as a way to relieve symptoms of depression.

But since nicotine only offers temporary relief, it may lead to possible addiction.

Steps That Should Be Undertaken By Teens

Teenagers should take a healthy diet, especially girls, as during their menstrual cycle, there is blood loss.

They should take proper sleep and rest. It was reported that insomnia has a prevalence in 23.8% of teens, much higher in women than men.

It’s really important to learn a few ways to manage stress. Otherwise, it can affect one’s health. One should avoid the use of substances like drugs and alcohol, maintain safe sex life, pay attention to their feelings, moods, and loneliness, and should not ignore it. Otherwise, it can lead to depression.

They should exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight. Also, when adolescents feel low and depressed, they should share it with their friends, which might help them feel better.

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        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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