Health Topics

Children and teenagers

Child Mental Health
National Library of Medicine
Mental Health, Child

It's important to recognize and treat mental illnesses in children early on. Once mental illness develops, it becomes a regular part of your child's behavior. This makes it more difficult to treat.

But it's not always easy to know when your child has a serious problem. Everyday stresses can cause changes in your child's behavior. For example, getting a new brother or sister or going to a new school may cause a child to temporarily act out. Warning signs that it might be a more serious problem include

  • Problems in more than one setting (at school, at home, with peers)
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Social withdrawal or fear of things he or she did not used to be not afraid of
  • Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bedwetting
  • Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness
  • Signs of self-destructive behavior, such as head-banging or suddenly getting hurt often
  • Repeated thoughts of death

To diagnose mental health problems, the doctor or mental health specialist looks at your child's signs and symptoms, medical history, and family history. Treatments include medicines and talk therapy.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health


Psychology, Child
Mental Disorders
Mental Health
Child Psychiatry
Children and Teenagers
Mental Health and Behavior
It's important to recognize and treat mental illnesses in children early on. Once mental illness develops, it becomes a regular part of your child's behavior. ...
Teen Mental Health
National Library of Medicine
Mental Health, Teen

Being a teenager is hard. You're under stress to be liked, do well in school, get along with your family, and make big decisions. You can't avoid most of these pressures, and worrying about them is normal. But feeling very sad, hopeless or worthless could be warning signs of a mental health problem.

Mental health problems are real, painful, and sometimes severe. You might need help if you have the signs mentioned above, or if you

  • Often feel very angry or very worried
  • Feel grief for a long time after a loss or death
  • Think your mind is controlled or out of control
  • Use alcohol or drugs
  • Exercise, diet and/or binge-eat obsessively
  • Hurt other people or destroy property
  • Do reckless things that could harm you or others
  • Feel depressed (sad and hopeless)

Mental health problems can be treated. To find help, talk to your parents, school counselor, or health care provider.


Adolescent Psychiatry
Psychology, Adolescent
Children and Teenagers
Mental Health and Behavior
Being a teenager is hard. You're under stress to be liked, do well in school, get along with your family, and make big decisions. You can't avoid most of these ...
Child Behavior Disorders
National Library of Medicine
Conduct Disorder
Conduct disorders

All kids misbehave some times. And some may have temporary behavior problems due to stress. For example, the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or a death in the family may cause a child to act out. Behavior disorders are more serious. They involve a pattern of hostile, aggressive, or disruptive behaviors for more than 6 months. The behavior is also not appropriate for the child's age.

Warning signs can include

  • Harming or threatening themselves, other people or pets
  • Damaging or destroying property
  • Lying or stealing
  • Not doing well in school, skipping school
  • Early smoking, drinking or drug use
  • Early sexual activity
  • Frequent tantrums and arguments
  • Consistent hostility toward authority figures

If you see signs of a problem, ask for help. Poor choices can become habits. Kids who have behavior problems are at higher risk for school failure, mental health problems, and even suicide. Classes or family therapy may help parents learn to set and enforce limits. Talk therapy and behavior therapy for your child can also help.


Adolescent Behavior
Child Behavior Disorders
Children and Teenagers
Mental Health and Behavior
All kids misbehave some times. And some may have temporary behavior problems due to stress. For example, the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or a death in ...
Teen Depression
National Library of Medicine
Depression, Teen
What is depression in teens?

Teen depression is a serious medical illness. It's more than just a feeling of being sad or "blue" for a few days. It is an intense feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and anger or frustration that lasts much longer. These feelings make it hard for you to function normally and do your usual activities. You may also have trouble focusing and have no motivation or energy. Depression can make you feel like it is hard to enjoy life or even get through the day.

What causes depression in teens?

Many factors may play a role in depression, including

  • Genetics. Depression can run in families.
  • Brain biology and chemistry.
  • Hormones. Hormone changes can contribute to depression.
  • Stressful childhood events such as trauma, the death of a loved one, bullying, and abuse.
Which teens are at risk of depression?

Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in the teens or early adulthood. Certain teens are at higher risk of depression, such as those who

  • Have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse
  • Have other diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease
  • Have family members with mental illness
  • Have a dysfunctional family/family conflict
  • Have problems with friends or other kids at school
  • Have learning problems or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Have had trauma in childhood
  • Have low self-esteem, a pessimistic outlook, or poor coping skills
  • Are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, especially when their families are not supportive
What are the symptoms of depression in teens?

If you have depression, you have one or more of these symptoms most of the time:

  • Sadness
  • Feeling of emptiness
  • Hopelessness
  • Being angry, irritable, or frustrated, even at minor things

You also may also have other symptoms, such as

  • No longer caring about things you used to enjoy
  • Changes in weight - losing weight when you are not dieting or gaining weight from eating too much
  • Changes in sleep - having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping much more than usual
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Feeling very tired or not having energy
  • Feeling worthless or very guilty
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering information, or making decisions
  • Thinking about dying or suicide
How is depression in teens diagnosed?

If you think you might be depressed, tell someone that you trust, such as your

  • Parents or guardian
  • Teacher or counselor
  • Doctor

The next step is to see your doctor for a checkup. Your doctor can first make sure that you do not have another health problem that is causing your depression. To do this, you may have a physical exam and lab tests.

If you don't have another health problem, you will get a psychological evaluation. Your doctor may do it, or you may be referred to a mental health professional to get one. You may be asked about things such as

  • Your thoughts and feelings
  • How you are doing at school
  • Any changes in your eating, sleeping, or energy level
  • Whether you are suicidal
  • Whether you use alcohol or drugs
How is depression in teens treated?

Effective treatments for depression in teens include talk therapy, or a combination of talk therapy and medicines:

Talk therapy

Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy or counseling, can help you understand and manage your moods and feelings. It involves going to see a therapist, such as a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, or counselor. You can talk out your emotions to someone who understands and supports you. You can also learn how to stop thinking negatively and start to look at the positives in life. This will help you build confidence and feel better about yourself.

There are many different types of talk therapy. Certain types have been shown to help teens deal with depression, including

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you to identify and change negative and unhelpful thoughts. It also helps you build coping skills and change behavioral patterns.
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT), which focuses on improving your relationships. It helps you understand and work through troubled relationships that may contribute to your depression. IPT may help you change behaviors that are causing problems. You also explore major issues that may add to your depression, such as grief or life changes.

Medicines

In some cases, your doctor will suggest medicines along with talk therapy. There are a few antidepressants that have been widely studied and proven to help teens. If you are taking medicine for depression, it is important to see your doctor regularly.

It is also important to know that it will take some time for you to get relief from antidepressants:

  • It can take 3 to 4 weeks until an antidepressant takes effect
  • You may have to try more than one antidepressant to find one that works for you
  • It can also take some time to find the right dose of an antidepressant

In some cases, teenagers may have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants. This risk is higher in the first few weeks after starting the medicine and when the dose is changed. Make sure to tell your parents or guardian if you start feeling worse or have thoughts of hurting yourself.

You should not stop taking the antidepressants on your own. You need to work with your doctor to slowly and safely decrease the dose before you stop.

Programs for severe depression

Some teens who have severe depression or are at risk of hurting themselves may need more intensive treatment. They may go into a psychiatric hospital or do a day program. Both offer counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients. Day programs may be full-day or half-day, and they often last for several weeks.


Depression
Children and Teenagers
Mental Health and Behavior
What is depression in teens? Teen depression is a serious medical illness. It's more than just a feeling of being sad or "blue" for a few days. It is an ...
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
National Library of Medicine
ADD
ADHD
Hyperactivity

Is it hard for your child to sit still? Does your child act without thinking first? Does your child start but not finish things? If so, your child may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Nearly everyone shows some of these behaviors at times, but ADHD lasts more than 6 months and causes problems in school, at home and in social situations.

ADHD is more common in boys than girls. It affects 3-5 percent of all American children.

The main features of ADHD are

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

No one knows exactly what causes ADHD. It sometimes runs in families, so genetics may be a factor. There may also be environmental factors.

A complete evaluation by a trained professional is the only way to know for sure if your child has ADHD. Treatment may include medicine to control symptoms, therapy, or both. Structure at home and at school is important. Parent training may also help.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health


Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
Children and Teenagers
Mental Health and Behavior
Brain and Nerves
Is it hard for your child to sit still? Does your child act without thinking first? Does your child start but not finish things? If so, your child may have ...
Teen Violence
National Library of Medicine
Violence
Youth Violence

Teen violence refers to harmful behaviors that can start early and continue into young adulthood. The young person can be a victim, an offender, or a witness to the violence.

Violent acts can include

  • Bullying
  • Fighting, including punching, kicking, slapping, or hitting
  • Use of weapons such as guns or knives

Some violent acts can cause more emotional harm than physical harm. Others can lead to serious injury or even death.

An important risk factor for violence in teens is the behavior of their friends and classmates. You should know who your kids hang out with and encourage healthy behavior and relationships.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Adolescent Behavior
Violence
Children and Teenagers
Social/Family Issues
Teen violence refers to harmful behaviors that can start early and continue into young adulthood. The young person can be a victim, an offender, or a witness ...
Bullying
National Library of Medicine

Bullying is when a person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or who they think is weaker. Sometimes it involves direct attacks such as hitting, name calling, teasing or taunting. Sometimes it is indirect, such as spreading rumors or trying to make others reject someone.

Often people dismiss bullying among kids as a normal part of growing up. But bullying is harmful. It can lead children and teenagers to feel tense and afraid. It may lead them to avoid school. In severe cases, teens who are bullied may feel they need to take drastic measures or react violently. Others even consider suicide. For some, the effects of bullying last a lifetime.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Bullying
Children and Teenagers
Social/Family Issues
... up. But bullying is harmful. It can lead children and teenagers to feel tense and afraid. It may lead ...
Drugs and Young People
National Library of Medicine
Substance Abuse
Teen Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is a serious public health problem. It affects almost every community and family in some way. Drug abuse in children and teenagers may pose a greater hazard than in older people. This is because their brains are not yet fully developed. As a result, the brains of young people may be more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction than adult brains.

Abused drugs include

  • Amphetamines
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Club drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs

There are different types of treatment for drug abuse. But it is better to prevent drug abuse in the first place.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse


Substance-Related Disorders
Children and Teenagers
Substance Abuse Problems
... and family in some way. Drug abuse in children and teenagers may pose a greater hazard than in older ...
Child Development
National Library of Medicine

As children grow older, they develop in several different ways. Child development includes physical, intellectual, social, and emotional changes.

Children grow and mature at very different rates. It's hard to say what "normal" is. There can be big differences in height, weight, and build among healthy children. Diet, exercise and genes are all factors. Some children begin puberty or are close to it before they are teenagers.

Children start to become more independent from their parents. They may rebel. They also look outward - to their friends, who are usually of the same sex. Peer approval becomes very important. Your child may try new behaviors to be part of "the group." This can also be the time that parents or teachers recognize learning disabilities or behavioral problems in children. These problems can get worse as time goes on, so it is important to get help early.


Child Development
Children and Teenagers
... Diet, exercise and genes are all factors. Some children begin puberty or are close to it before they are teenagers. Children start to become more independent from their ...
Cancer in Children
National Library of Medicine
Childhood Cancer

Cancer is a group related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body's cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues.

Normally, new cells form as you need them, replacing old cells that die. Sometimes, this process goes wrong. New cells form when you don't need them, and old cells don't die when they should. The extra cells can form a tumor. Tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign tumorsaren't cancer while malignant ones are. Cells from malignant tumors can invade nearby tissues. They can also break away and spread to other parts of the body.

Children can get cancer in the same parts of the body as adults, but there are differences. Childhood cancers can occur suddenly, without early symptoms, and have a high rate of cure. The most common children's cancer is leukemia. Other cancers that affect children include brain tumors, lymphoma, and soft tissue sarcoma.

Symptoms and treatment depend on the cancer type and how advanced it is. Treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and/or targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

NIH: National Cancer Institute


Neoplasms
Cancers
Children and Teenagers
Cancer is a group related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body's cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Normally, ...