Terminology Associated with Mental Health Disorders In addition to the terms listed below, a Glossary of Symptoms and Mental Illnesses Affecting Teenagers can be found on the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website - www.aacap.org.
ANXIETY Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation or first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that cause people to feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no apparent reason. Left untreated, these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individualâ€™s quality of life.
BIPOLAR DISORDER Bipolar Disorder is a type of mood disorder with marked changes in mood between extreme elation or happiness and severe depression. The periods of elation are termed mania. During this phase, the teenager has an expansive or irritable mood, can become hyperactive and agitated, can get by with very little or no sleep, becomes excessively involved in multiple projects and activities, and has impaired judgment. A teenager may indulge in risk taking behaviors, such as sexual promiscuity and anti-social behaviors. Some teenagers in a manic phase may develop psychotic symptoms (grandiose delusions and hallucinations). For a description of the depressive phase see depression. Bipolar disorder generally occurs before the age of 30 years and may first develop during adolescence.
DEPRESSION Though the term "depression" can describe a normal human emotion, it also can refer to a psychiatric disorder. Depressive illness in children and adolescents includes a cluster of symptoms that have been present for at least two weeks. In addition to feelings of sadness and/or irritability, a depressive illness includes several of the following:
Change of appetite with either significant weight loss (when not dieting) or weight gain
Change in sleeping patterns (such as trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much)
Loss of interest in activities formerly enjoyed
Loss of energy, fatigue, feeling slowed down for no reason, "burned out"
Feelings of guilt and self blame for things that are not one's fault
Inability to concentrate and indecisiveness
Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
Recurring thoughts of death and suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide
Children and adolescents with depression may also have symptoms of irritability, grumpiness, and boredom. They may have vague, non-specific physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches, etc.). There is an increased incidence of depressive illness in the children of parents with significant depression.
LEARNING DISORDERS Learning disorders occur when the child or adolescent's reading, math, or writing skills are substantially below that expected for age, schooling, and level of intelligence. Approximately 5% of students in public schools in the United States are identified as having a learning disorder. Students with learning disorders may become so frustrated with their performance in school that by adolescence they may feel like failures and want to drop out of school or may develop behavioral problems. Diagnosis of a learning disorder requires special testing. Learning disorders should be identified as early as possible during school years.
Parents have a right to request a special education evaluation from the school if they have any concerns about their childâ€™s ability to learn. For more information, go to http://ctserc.org.