Mental health for teens
The teenage years bring enormous changes.
Puberty is a time of significant hormonal and physical changes that can impact how we think and our emotions..
It is common for all teenagers to feel anxious at times. Up to one third of typically developing teenagers experience a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Autistic teens have even higher rates of both anxiety and depression.
Accessing support and treatment for anxiety and depression is a very common experience for families with autistic teenagers. Teens nor their families and carers need not feel alone at this time. Doctors, psychologists and other health professionals are available to help, and the numbers with expertise in this area is growing.
Anxiety and depression are both very treatable. There is no need to suffer. Treatments can be psychological, also called talking therapy, or you may consider medications.. Often teenagers will start with a talking therapy and then may decide, with the guidance of their treating professionals, to add in an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.
For all people with anxiety and depression, the earlier that treatment starts the better. So, parents and carers of teens are wise to look out for signs of anxiety and depression and not to delay when seeking help.
Things to look out for:
- Increasing self-stimulatory behaviour
- Aggression or self-injury
- Not wanting to go to school
- Increased meltdowns or anger
- Low mood, low energy
- Putting themselves down
Other mental health and co-occurring conditions and issues that may occur in the teenage years are:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Self injury
- Sleep disturbances
- Inappropriate sexualised behaviours
However, anxiety and depression are by far the most common mental health conditions.
Where to find help?
Having a trusted GP is essential for all young autistic people and their families. Your GP is the first port of call when experiencing mental health difficulties. They may refer you to a psychologist for therapy or refer you to a psychiatrist to discuss medication options or conduct further evaluation.