Lets play the blues away

Adolescence is an important period for developing and maintaining social and emotional habits important for mental well-being. Some adolescents are at greater risk of mental health conditions due to their living conditions, family members suffering from mental health issues, stigma and discrimination or exclusion, or lack of access to quality support and services. The pre-existing mental health issues can get worse in adolescence due to the exponential growth during this developmental phase.


Mental Health Disorders in Children and Adolescents

Worldwide, it is estimated that 10–20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, yet these remain underdiagnosed and undertreated. In India, anywhere between 1.81 to 24.7% of adolescents experience mental health conditions (Aggarwal & Berk, 2015). Signs of poor mental health can be overlooked because of lack of awareness about mental health. Stigma can prevent people from seeking help.

Emotional disorders commonly occur during adolescence. Along with rapid and unexpected changes in mood and emotional outbursts, some symptoms can overlap across more than one emotional disorder. In addition to depression or anxiety, adolescents with emotional disorders can also experience excessive irritability, frustration, or anger. Emotion-related physical symptoms such as nausea, stomach ache or headache may also be seen in younger adolescents.

Adolescents, depending on their age and the type of mood disorder present, may show different symptoms. Below are some common mental health disorders in children and adolescents:

  • Anxiety disorders;
  • Bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depression);
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder;
  • Conduct disorders;
  • Eating disorders;
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD); 
  • Premenstrual dysmorphic disorder; and
  • Mood disorder due to a general medical condition.

Different mental health disorders can occur together (like anxiety and depression) or mental health disorders can overlap with physical health disorders (like depression and diabetes). Compared to the general population, people with mental health disorders are more likely to experience a substance use disorder, repeatedly use alcohol and/or drugs to the point of impairment, and neglect major responsibilities at home, work, or school. Youth who have experienced a major depressive episode are more likely to start using alcohol or an illicit drug.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one of the commonly used approaches for treating common emotional problems in children and adolescents. CBT teaches how thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect feelings and behaviour. They learn how to deal with negativity and to objectively exercise control over how they perceive situations. The goal is to unlearn self-defeating attitudes and behaviour. With young children, behaviour modification often incorporates a reward system, like gold stars in school. With teenagers and adults, desirable behaviours are reinforced through the general improvement in the patient’s mental outlook.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy may include social-skills training, as youngsters who feel anxious may also feel awkward in social situations. They are probably not nearly as inept as they believe themselves to be, but self-consciousness is one thing which gets in their way of making eye contact, initiating conversation and so on. Socialization training allows them to practice being more self-assertive, approachable and communicative.

Youngsters realize that they are not alone when taken for group therapy. Group therapy, led by a trained counsellor, has generally five to ten children and provides opportunities to learn with and from one another. Sometimes when youngsters see other’s behavioural patterns, it can shed light on their own issues. The group also helps kids to refine their social skills.

Medications when combined with psychotherapy have shown to be effective in the treatment of mood disorders in teens. Parents play an important supportive role in any treatment process.