I caught up with a friend today that I haven’t talked to in years. She contacted me about her teen daughter who has started to experience some worrisome signs of anxiety recently. A girl that was once a social butterfly and a friend magnet in elementary school, now is described by my friend as recluse, often overcome with panic attacks at seemingly small decisions.
My discussion with my friend really highlighted the need to help parents define what is “typical” youth behavior versus when it might be time to seek some psychiatric evaluation. Here are some quick questions consider for your child:
- Is there a family history of mental health issues?
- Is the behavior or symptoms significantly disrupting your child’s life or yours?
- Is he/she or your family miserable?
- Has your child told you they want to seek help?
- Has your child sought help elsewhere (school counselor, online, friend, etc.)?
- Is your child partaking in behaviors you don’t condone?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist immediately. It is so important to validate your child’s feelings and symptoms and provide support regardless of your own internal banter. If your kid is asking you for help or seeking help elsewhere, they need it! The worst thing a parent can do is to minimize the situation or the child’s feelings. Because of the shame and stigma associated with mental illness, most kids don’t willingly want to admit they need help. They don’t want to be different from their peers. If your child asks for help or you see worrisome symptoms, have them evaluated.
Finally, don’t blame yourself. If you have a mental illness, it’s easy to feel guilt and blame yourself for the torment our child may be experiencing. It is not your fault. There are many illnesses that can cause children discomfort and require medication. If your child had diabetes, you wouldn’t deprive them of insulin, right? Remember that mental illness is an uncontrollable brain disorder due to chemical imbalances, trauma or both. With medication, therapy and emotional regulation, your child can live a healthy “normal” life.