& # 39; Typical behavior of children & # 39; or a mental health problem? It can be difficult to decide.

Even if you & # 39; normal & # 39; have children, you constantly wonder: is this normal? Teenagers can be fickle and moody. They can test your patience, press your buttons and make you doubt your mental health – and theirs. But mental health problems are a serious – and growing – problem for teenagers.

The proportion of 12 to 17-year-olds who said they had experienced symptoms of clinical depression recently increased by 37 percent in the decade that ended in 2014, with 1 in 6 girls reporting an episode last year, according to a recent study .

And schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders often manifest themselves in adolescence. In fact, half of all mental health problems come to the fore at the age of 14 and three quarters to 24, says Steven Adelsheim, director of the Stanford Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing, part of the department of psychiatry at the university.

It is often difficult for parents to separate the warning signs of psychiatric disorders from typical capricious teenage behavior.

Mental health experts say that the first steps in identifying possible mental illnesses in your children are to know their habits and patterns, to notice when they deviate from them and to create an environment where they feel comfortable with you to talk.

Instead of asking your teen to talk, share an activity that gives your child the chance to open up: cook together, let the dog out, go for a ride, says Tara Niendam, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California in Davis.

"You just want to know how they are doing, how are they doing at school, how are their friends, how do they sleep?" she explains.

As part of getting to know your teen, monitoring and limiting your child's social media activity, says Amy Barnhorst, vice president of community mental health in the UC-Davis psychiatry department.

"Social media gives us an important overview of what's going on in teenagers' lives," she says.

Once you know your child's baseline, you are more attuned to signs of a mental illness: changes in your child's daily life that last longer than a week or two.

Be aware of disturbances in sleep, appetite, numbers, weight, friendships – even hygiene.

Maybe your son will spend even more time than alone in his room. Maybe your daughter, who is special about her looks, likes to wear make-up and she is not showering.

"It is real when you see that children fall off the curve in every area of ​​their lives," Barnhorst said. "They have problems with their academics, problems with their families, problems with their friends, problems with their activities."

Remember that you are looking for changes in many aspects of your child's life that last for a few weeks, not the typical but temporary sadness that comes with a breakup or the unfortunate nature you get when you ask your child to clean his room

If your child still has the same friends and participates in the same activities, unpleasant behavior can only be that teenagers go through growing pains, "says Barnhorst.

But some behavioral changes may indicate a deeper problem. For example, teenagers with depression are more irritable than normal, Adelsheim said. They can snort at friends or even the family dog, he said.

"Young people will tell you that their wick is shorter than normal," Adelsheim said. "Things that they normally do not suffer from, bother them."

If you are worried that your child's behavior can indicate something more serious, give your child love and support – and seek help, experts say.

And avoid expressions like "What's wrong with you?" and "Just take it" when you talk to your children, Niendam advises.

If your child threatens suicide or thinks he is in danger, take him to the emergency room. If there is no immediate danger, start with the pediatrician or the pediatrician's general practitioner, who can deal with the problem directly or refer you to a mental health specialist.

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