Puberty is a rough time for pretty much everyone. I can only speak for 50% of the population, but it feels as though you’re taken over by some strange force, pretty much every emotion you can identify (and some that you can’t) sweep through you and take over.
That’s why it’s so difficult to diagnose and treat teenagers who are suffering from mental health problems. It’s hard to know where puberty ends and mental illness begins, it’s not a box that we can put people into- it’s a spectrum.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t diagnose mental illness in teens, it just means that it should be regulated carefully. If someone is experiencing things that have a significant negative impact on their life they need to be addressed. I think that having a diagnosis is incredibly helpful, it allows you to know that you’re suffering from an illness that can be treated and fought… not that there’s just something wrong with you.
As I came to the end of my time in therapy I had to learn the line between my own inherent characteristics and emotions and what my depression made me do and feel.
People are worried that medication and diagnosis can harm teenagers, they say that we shouldn’t medicate or ‘label’ children who are still growing- but what they don’t realise is that therapy is harmful too.
I ‘grew up’ in therapy. I saw a counsellor from the age to 14 to 18. These were important years for me, but constantly exploring, talking about and questioning my thoughts made me concerned that everything going through my head was wrong. I walked out of therapy when I could, deciding to live my life and face the challenges that it brought on my own terms.
The teenage years are hard and full of change. Mental illness, self harm and suicide are all big issues amongst teenagers. We need to take them very seriously, this means giving them the diagnosis and treatment that we would offer an adult; yes, we do need to factor in puberty and the emotional changes that come with it, but simply putting a teenager with mental health problems in therapy for an indefinite amount of time with no diagnosis or other treatment options just leads to confused and unhappy patients.
If we do choose to prescribe therapy for teenage patients we need to decide on an appropriate psychological approach, (for example, CBT could be used for some forms of anxiety disorder) it shouldn’t just be a ‘safe’ option.
Getting teenagers to ‘talk about it’ just isn’t enough.
’til next time,