Adolescence is a turbulent time, but teenagers aren’t often great at asking for support. As a parent, you might not have much luck if you ask your teen whether or not they’re feeling okay. Instead, you may rely on more subtle cues in their mood and behavior to know how they’re doing.
Anyone can benefit from going to therapy, and this is especially true for teenagers. Whether your child is struggling with a major mental health issue or simply needs extra support as they navigate their teenage years, you should consider bringing them to a counselor to work through their challenges. Teens can have a hard time opening up to their parents or friends, but therapy is a safe and sacred space for them to process what they’re going through.
Here Are Eight Signs That Your Teen Should Be in Therapy
1. They seem isolated.
Your teenage years should be a great opportunity to socialize and make close friendships. Some students prefer to keep to themselves, but if your previously social teen has become very isolated, you should be concerned. Withdrawing from friends and spending excessive time alone are common signs of depression and other mental health issues.
2. Their grades are dropping or they’ve withdrawn from activities.
Any noticeable and unexplained change in your teen’s school performance may be a sign that they’re struggling with something emotionally. If your child was a previously strong student, you may be worried if their grades start to drop or if they stop doing their homework and handing in assignments. Although you should give your teenager plenty of autonomy and independence, it’s also important that you stay up-to-date on how they’re doing in school so that you can notice sudden changes.
Pulling out of sports, clubs, or hobbies is another red flag. Extracurriculars are such a great opportunity for your child to socialize and expand their horizons, but psychological or emotional issues make it difficult to find the motivation to participate.
3. The mood swings are causing severe distress.
Mood swings are common among teenagers, but this doesn’t mean that they’re not painful and distressing. Hormonal changes throughout adolescence can cause intense emotions and difficulty with emotional regulation, and the stress of being a teenager may also contribute.
If your teen gets angry or upset from time to time, you may not need to rush them to therapy. However, you should be concerned about mood swings that happen multiple times per week and make you or other family members feel lost, overwhelmed, or frightened. Therapy for teens is an excellent opportunity to address these mood swings as the counselor can teach your teenager how to acknowledge their emotions without over-responding to them.
4. They’ve been through a major trauma.
Everyone has a different level of resilience, so some people handle trauma more easily than others. Traumatic experiences can be particularly challenging when you’re a teenager, though. If unresolved, trauma during adolescence can have a lasting impact on your behavior later in life.
The death of a friend or family member, an assault, a car accident, and a natural disaster are all examples of traumas that may affect teenagers. Sometimes, trauma is an ongoing experience rather than a one-time event. For instance, one of the most painful and life-altering forms of long-term trauma is bullying. Therapy for teens allows your child to work through their trauma with someone who will not judge or criticize them for their experiences.
5. They’re struggling to cope with a life transition.
Adolescence is already a time of transition, so additional life transitions can be hard to cope with. If your family has recently moved, welcomed a new baby, or gone through any other major change, you should be watchful for signs of mental health issues in your teenager. These transitions can cause feelings of loss of control or other frustrations in young adults. Drastic changes in mood, personality, and behavior may indicate that they’re not adjusting well to their new normal.
Fortunately, therapy can be a helpful resource for teens who are going through life transitions. In counseling, your teen can safely express and process their emotions about the change, and they can develop coping skills so that they successfully adjust.
6. You’re concerned about substance abuse.
Substance use disorders in teenagers are serious concerns. People who start abusing drugs or alcohol as teenagers are more likely to struggle with long-term addiction later in life. Some adolescents start drinking or using drugs recreationally with friends, but the problem can spiral out of control. In other cases, teens turn to substances to numb their pain when they’re facing mental health issues.
Teens can be very skilled at hiding their substance use from their parents. However, there are some warning signs to look out for when it comes to severe substance use disorders. You might notice that your teen has distanced themselves from their old friends and is hanging out with a new group of people, and you may see a decline in academic performance or a change in their appearance and hygiene. They may start sleeping much more or less than usual, and they may appear more nervous, anxious, or on-edge.
7. You’ve noticed self-harm behavior.
Self-harm is a serious and dire sign of a mental or emotional issue in teenagers. Adolescents may turn to self-harm when their emotions become so unmanageable that they know no other way to express their pain. Suicidal thoughts may or may not occur alongside self-harm, but anyone who self-harms puts themselves at risk of injury.
8. They’re talking about death or dying.
Teens sometimes have dark humor, but you should never assume your child is joking if they talk frequently about death. Talking about death or dying is one of the most common but overlooked signs of suicidality. Even if your teen makes these comments in a seemingly lighthearted or joking manner, it’s still a sign that death is on their mind.
If you notice your child making concerning comments about death, you should ensure their safety and reach out to a professional right away. Suicidal ideation is a painful state of mind to be in, but therapy can help your teen get their emotions under control so that they don’t feel like harming themselves is the only answer.
You should approach the subject of therapy carefully with your teen who has shown suicidal ideation. You don’t want your child to feel judged, cornered, or forced into going to therapy. Try to focus on your feelings of concern instead of making accusations or assumptions about their emotions. Let them know that you will love and support them no matter what and that therapy is a safe and private place for them to heal.
While all teenagers have their emotional moments, it can be particularly stressful to parent a teen who’s going through a mental health crisis. Being a teen is not easy, and many young adults face immense challenges at school and at home. If your child hasn’t been acting like themselves, teen therapy may be the answer. They may hesitate to open up to you about what’s going on, but you can offer them the support and resources they need to feel better.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides therapy for teens who are facing mental health disorders, trauma, stress, or other concerns. Contact us today to talk to a therapist in Los Angeles and learn more about how therapy for teens can help your child.