Caregivers, How Do You Know If Your Teen’s Is Struggling?

Adolescence is a critical period of transition and growth, making it especially challenging for both teens and their families. During these formative years, mental health issues can surface and evolve, often subtly. Recognizing the early signs of deteriorating mental health can lead to timely support and intervention, which is crucial. Here, we explore the key indicators that may suggest an adolescent is struggling with mental health issues.

1. Changes in Mood

While mood swings can be a typical aspect of adolescent behavior due to hormonal changes, persistent mood changes are a different concern. Look for signs of depression, such as persistent sadness, hopelessness, and frequent crying. Irritability, anger, and hostility beyond usual teenage rebellion can also be red flags.

2. Withdrawal from Social Activities

A noticeable retreat from social interactions is significant, especially if the adolescent previously enjoyed socializing. When teens start isolating themselves, declining invitations, spending excessive time alone, or losing interest in their favorite activities, it could indicate underlying issues such as depression or anxiety.

3. Changes in Academic Performance

A sudden drop in grades or loss of interest in schoolwork can be among the first noticeable signs of mental health struggles. This could stem from difficulties with concentration, a lack of motivation, or feelings of overwhelm that need addressing.

4. Altered Sleep Patterns

Changes in sleep patterns, whether it’s insomnia or excessive sleeping, can be indicators of mental health issues. Sleep disturbances are common in adolescents with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Pay attention to complaints about fatigue or changes in energy levels as well.

5. Eating Habit Changes

Significant changes in eating habits—whether an increase or decrease in appetite—might also point to mental health concerns. These could manifest as sudden weight loss or gain. Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that frequently emerge during adolescence.

6. Physical Symptoms

Frequent unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or other pains can be associated with emotional distress. Since these symptoms can also have other causes, it’s important to consider them in the broader context of other behavioral changes.

7. Risky Behaviors

An increase in risky behaviors can be a sign of distress. This might include experimenting with drugs or alcohol, reckless driving, or engaging in unsafe sexual activities. Such behaviors often represent attempts to escape emotional pain or manage feelings of numbness or emptiness.

8. Expressing Hopelessness or Suicidal Thoughts

Any expressions of hopelessness, excessive guilt, or worthlessness should be taken very seriously. Pay close attention to any talk about death, dying, or suicidal thoughts. These are urgent warning signs that require immediate attention.


The adolescent years can be turbulent, and it’s crucial to distinguish between typical growing pains and signs of more serious mental health issues. Early intervention is key in addressing mental health concerns effectively. If you notice several of the signs mentioned above in an adolescent, it’s important to approach the subject with sensitivity and seek professional help. Providing a supportive environment and understanding the challenges they face can make a significant difference in their mental health journey.


At Phoenix Wellness Solutions, we specialize in creating and operating innovative, strength-based, trauma-focused counseling programs for adolescents. Contact us today to begin your teen’s wellness journey. 


Tamar Draughn, LPC

CEO/Owner, Phoenix Wellness Solutions

CEO/Owner, MindfulTay

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