Emotional disorders in adolescents can present themselves in a variety of individual disorders. It is not uncommon for a teen to suffer from more than one disorder. The warning signs of emotional disorders in teens can be subtle and mimic typical teen behavior. However, keeping an eye out for unusual behavior, especially if it is repetitive, can alert a parent to the emotional disorder symptoms their child may be experiencing. Treatment can vary, based upon that individual’s needs, but it is a multimodal approach -one that relies upon a combination of therapies- that provides the most relief.
Understanding Adolescent Emotional Health Issues
Adolescence is hallmarked by emotional lability due to changing hormones and further developing of the brain. However, an inability to maintain emotional control, inappropriate emotions in normal situations, or exceptionally hostile and maybe violent behavior is a sign of larger emotional issues in adolescents. In understanding adolescent emotional health issues, it’s important to remember that not only are there a variety of specific emotional and behavioral disorders teens may experience, but they may also suffer from more than one disorder.
Some emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are often present simultaneously. It’s also common for emotional disorders and behavioral trouble to both occur as well. For example, teens who have experienced a major depressive episode are twice as likely to have trouble with alcohol or substance abuse.
Common Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in Teens
- Anxiety Feelings of anxiousness and worry that is disproportionate to the situation or to situations that are not happening and may not ever happen. These feelings are difficult to control and can be crippling, resulting in insomnia, digestive issues, and weight loss.
- Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder An inability to maintain focus and follow directions.
- Bipolar Disorder Marked by severe shifts in general mood that swings between periods of depression and periods of hyperactivity and unrealistic assessment of personal capabilities, with periods of stable mood in between.
- Conduct Disorder Frequently culminating in criminal behavior, it begins as general disrespect and disregard for others, including their personal safety and property.
- Depression Intense and lingering periods of hopelessness and sadness, regardless of changing circumstances and events.
- Eating Disorders These may take the form of restrictive eating, controlling how much and in what ways food is consumed (such as with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating,) or may take the form of overeating as a coping mechanism.
- Oppositional Defiance Disorder Deliberately uncooperative, argumentative, and irritable behavior directed at authority figures.
Causes of Emotional Disorders in Adolescents
There is no one clear cause of emotional disorders. Rather, there is a variety of circumstances, events, and genetic factors responsible. The causes of emotional disorders in adolescents can lay in genetic factors, which typically contribute to the way that the individual responds to and processes stress.
However, environmental factors contribute largely to the development of emotional disorders, exasperating innate predispositions. An environment must be considered from the perspective of the individual, however, as the type and amount of stress that one is able to cope with varies from person to person.
As part of the contributing environmental causes of emotional disorders in teens, parenting plays a prominent role. It is through interacting with their parents that teens learn how to handle the increasingly challenging situations that they experience as they near adulthood. Teens who are allowed to avoid challenging situations do not learn how to navigate these challenges nor how to respond to and process the stress they encounter in doing so. This can lead to maladaptive behavior as the teen searches for ways to relieve the stress or remains trapped and unable to cope in a healthy and productive way.
Signs of Emotional Disturbances in Teens
Warning signs of emotional disturbances in teens can be hard to spot due to the natural fluctuation of moods. Rebellion is also a normal part of adolescence as it marks mental and emotional maturity as the teen tests boundaries as part of establishing their identity. This makes vigilance by the parents important as there must be a clear understanding of what that teen’s baseline is and what would constitute repeated and unusual moods and behaviors for them.
Specific signs of emotional issues in teens to watch for include:
- Changes in sleep patterns, sleeping too much or insomnia
- Irritability and bursts of anger
- Arguing and refusal to follow the rules
- Difficulty in dealing with frustration
- Listless, unmotivated, and with little energy
- Changes in appetite, barely eating or eating excessively at every meal
- Blaming others for their frustration
Symptoms of Adolescent Emotional Issues
Symptoms of adolescent emotional issues can be harder to discern, as the teen may be more withdrawn and secretive, keeping the details of what they’re experiencing to themselves.
Some key symptoms that a teen may be suffering from an emotional disorder include:
- Digestive issues and stomach pain
- Sore muscles
- Trouble sleeping or still feeling exhausted despite sleeping for long periods
- Worry that can lead to nausea and difficulty sleeping
- Lack of desire to socialize with others, including close friends
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Anger, irritability, and/or aggression towards others
- Lack of control in one’s life
Looking at Effective Treatment for Adolescent Emotional Disorders
There is no one effective treatment for emotional issues in teens. In looking at effective treatment for adolescent emotional disorders, remember that there are multiple causes for a teen’s emotional disorders -this requires a multimodal approach to therapy, such as that provided by Monuments. With a multimodal approach, therapeutic treatment for emotional disorders in teens is tailored specifically to that teen’s individual needs.
The therapies that provide the benefit that teen needs are used in combination to more effectively help them address what they’re experiencing and change their responses to external stressors. As part of a multimodal approach to treating emotional disorders, equine therapy has been found to provide measurable improvement in as little as two to three sessions.
Treating Adolescent Emotional Disorders with Equine Therapy
Monuments has created a unique approach to treating adolescent emotional disorders with equine therapy and traditional therapeutic methods. This combination not only provides notable improvement but contributes to lasting results and reduces recidivism. This combination of therapeutic treatment for emotional disorders has been found to especially helpful for adolescents who have not responded well to other treatments.
Equine therapy can be seen as a surprising form of treatment, however, it is growing in popularity due to the response effect that horses have on adolescents. In choosing and working with a horse, teens are confronted with their own emotions and behaviors. As they are a prey animal, horses are especially responsive to the emotions and actions of those around them. They, thus, act as a mirror of the person handling them, backing away or moving closer based upon what they are perceiving.
This requires the teen to address and adjust their emotions and behaviors in order to do basic things with the horse, such as leading them or grooming them, never mind riding. Horses are also social creatures and so they form close bonds with the teen while the two of them work together. This has been found to increase confidence as well as reduce negative responses to stressors.
A New Approach to Treating Emotional Disorders in Teens
Monuments was created by a group of experienced therapists who saw a gap in the way that emotional and behavior disorders in adolescent boys were being treated. They sought to correct this by combining their experience to create a new approach to treating emotional disorders in teens.
This approach is multimodal, addressing each boy’s emotional health issues as unique and placing a strong emphasis on that boy’s family. In working to heal the effects of the disorder on the entire family, lasting results are more achievable. This is because the family environment is not only repaired but strengthened, with the contributing factors to the boy’s disorder addressed and corrected.
Regardless of the exact causes of adolescent emotional disorders, therapeutic treatment centers are able to comprehensively address that teen’s issues in a supportive environment catered to their individual needs. By including equine therapy as part of treatment for emotional disorders, teens frequently feel more invested in their treatment and experience overall boosts in confidence and self-esteem.
Equine therapy is especially useful for teens who have proven unresponsive to previous treatment methods. The benefits provided by this animal therapy increase the efficacy of other treatment methods, making residential treatment centers who include horses in their therapy, such as Monuments, better equipped to provide lasting relief to adolescents with co-occurring disorders.