teenage counseling

Differences Between Normal Teen Behavior and a Disorder (and why it may not always matter)

Mood swings: Teenagers are known for their fluctuating moods, which can be attributed to hormonal changes. However, if the mood swings are extreme and persistent, it may indicate a medical problem such as depression or bipolar disorder. It is important to seek professional help in such cases. I am also one who believes in over-pathologizing. The treatment for hormonal changes that are having an impact on one’s life would be very similar to a diagnosable problem. I also think almost anyone could be diagnosed with an “adjustment disorder” or an anxiety or a depressive disorder at some point in their lives. Self-pay counseling does not require a diagnosis, and I believe diagnoses are primarily for insurance purposes but can have some validity and inform treatment if given ethically and not just for insurance.

2. Sleep patterns: Teenagers often have irregular sleep patterns due to schoolwork, social activities, and technology use. However, if your teenager consistently struggles with falling asleep or staying asleep, it could be a sign of a sleep disorder like insomnia or sleep apnea. All of what I said about disorders does not necessarily matter much apply to each of these. The best counseling is either preventative or focuses on a problem that has an adverse effect on one’s life, regardless of the name given to it.

3. Appetite changes: Teenagers may experience changes in appetite as they go through growth spurts. However, if your teenager has a significant decrease or increase in appetite, it could be a sign of an eating disorder or a medical condition such as diabetes.

4. Social withdrawal: Teenagers may occasionally want to spend time alone or with close friends. However, if your teenager consistently isolates themselves from social activities and shows a lack of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies, it could be a sign of depression or anxiety.

5. Academic performance: Fluctuations in academic performance are common among teenagers due to various factors such as stress and distractions. However, if your teenager’s grades consistently decline or they struggle to concentrate and retain information, it may be a sign of a learning disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

6. Substance use: Experimentation with substances is not uncommon during adolescence. However, if your teenager shows signs of addiction, such as a loss of control, withdrawal symptoms, or neglecting responsibilities, it is important to address the issue as it may indicate a substance use disorder.

7. Self-esteem issues: Teenagers often struggle with self-esteem as they navigate through identity formation. However, if your teenager consistently exhibits low self-esteem, engages in self-harming behaviors, or expresses suicidal thoughts, it is crucial to seek professional help as it may indicate a mental health disorder.

8. Physical symptoms: Teenagers may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue due to stress or hormonal changes. However, if these symptoms are persistent and interfere with daily functioning, it may be a sign of a medical condition that requires attention.

9. Risk-taking behavior: Teenagers are known for engaging in risky behaviors as they seek independence and explore their boundaries. However, if your teenager consistently engages in dangerous activities without considering the consequences, it may be a sign of impulsivity or a behavioral disorder. Talk of suicide should never be ignored.

10. Intuition: As a parent, you know your teenager best. Trust your intuition if you feel that something is not right. If you have concerns about your teenager’s behavior, it is always better to seek professional advice to rule out any underlying medical or mental health issues. Remember, it is important to prioritize your teenager’s well-being, regardless of whether it is considered “normal” or a medical problem.

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