Teenage Mental Health

Mental Illnesses that Go Unnoticed

Allison Collier, Reporter

You’ve probably heard this before, but a teenager in America today is usually more stressed than the average 1950s asylum inmate. A variety of mental health disorders can be found in teens. Many are getting more attention in the media these days, like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Some mental disorders, however, aren’t taken as seriously as these but are still very common among teenagers. There is a high likelihood you know someone with one of the two following disorders.

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is one of the most common mental disorders among children and adults, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Around 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults are diagnosed with it. A statistic from the Center for Disease Control says boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, but not necessarily because girls don’t have ADHD. Instead, it’s because traditional symptoms of ADHD were based on behavior in boys, and the symptoms usually present differently in girls. Many times, girls’ symptoms are filed under ADD, or get passed off as hormones or dullness.

ADD technically falls under the umbrella of ADHD disorders, but is an outdated term. There are three main types of ADHD. The first type is known as inattentive type ADHD. (This is traditionally known as ADD.) The symptoms include trouble focusing, trouble with organization, and forgetfulness, as well as daydreaming.

The second type of ADHD is hyperactivity type, the type that usually comes to mind when you think of ADHD. Someone with hyperactivity type will always have excess energy, exerted in the form of restlessness, fidgeting, or lots of talking.

The third type is a combination of the first two. Another sign or symptom of ADHD is impulsivity, or acting without thinking first.

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is another very common mental disorder among children and adults, affecting about 2.3% of the population. It develops as you mature, with 1 in 100 children having it. By the time they arrive at adulthood, around 1 in 40 have it. You might hear someone say they have OCD because they like to arrange their markers by color, or because they don’t like that one tile in the hall that doesn’t line up. OCD is, in reality, a bit more serious and can cause some damage.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, someone with OCD will exhibit obsessions, compulsions, or both. Obsessions, as related to OCD, are “repeated thoughts, urges, or mental images that cause anxiety.”

Compulsions are “repetitive behaviors that a person with OCD feels the urge to do in response to an obsessive thought,”  such as checking something over and over again, excessive cleaning of themselves and/or their living space, and compulsive counting.

Now, everyone has their habits, pet peeves, and annoying thoughts, but for a person with OCD, controlling these behaviors is very tough, even if they’ve been recognized as compulsive. They can cause distractions in their daily life, and these behaviors often don’t even make them happy. They just temporarily relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessions.

These two disorders, even though they may not directly pose a threat to your physical health or your life, shouldn’t be taken any less seriously, because they do still affect a significant amount of the population. While there are medications you can take for both of these, there is no known cure, so most people just learn to adapt and deal with them.

If someone you know has a mental disorder, whether it’s one of the above or not, attempt to be understanding and accommodating, because they can’t really help it. Make sure to ask their permission before seeking treatment on their behalf as well.