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According to the National Institute on Mental Illness (NAMI) about 4 million children and adolescents experience a mental health issue that significantly impairs them at home, school, or in their social groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates prevalence rates for the following diagnosable mental health conditions among children ages 3 to 17:

  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD): 6.8%
  • Behavioral conditions: 3.5%
  • Anxiety: 3%
  • Depression: 2%
  • Autism: 1.1%
  • Tourette syndrome: 0.2%

These mental health conditions represent a portion of those experienced by children and adolescents, but they are certainly not inclusive of all conditions experienced. For additional information on conditions and treatments click here.

When children reach adolescence, relationships, romantic or otherwise, can be a point of significant strife. Relationships between parents and children are crucial to healthy development, but may become strained by the many ups and downs of adolescent life. For example, most teenagers worry about romantic relationships. However, for some teenagers, worrying about relationships may excessively drain their energy and make it difficult to enjoy life.

Disordered eating is a condition that, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, affects about 10% of young women in the United States, may be attributed in part to the social pressures and stress of adolescent life. Two common forms of this condition, anorexia nervosa and bulimia are more common in the female population but also occur in the adolescent male population.

Experimentation with alcohol and drugs is fairly common among adolescents and can lead to serious developmental, social, and behavioral issues. The CDC has estimated the following prevalence rates for problems associated with substance abuse mong adolescents ages 12 to 17:

  • Problematic illegal drug use: 4.7%
  • Problematic alcohol use: 4.2%
  • Physical dependence on cigarettes: 2.8%

Many programs exist for adolescents that experience problems associated with use of drugs or alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends that supportive caregivers be involved in treatment for adolescent substance use. Supportive caregivers can play an important part in treatment by monitoring the adolescent’s use of substances, holding them accountable to therapy goals, and by helping find new and healthy ways to cope with the stress or conditions that may have led to substance use. SAMHSA also recommends that treatments address other mental health conditions that may co-occur in the adolescent receiving care.

When searching for a therapist or counselor, it may help to seek advice from aschool counselor or pediatrician who can refer you to someone with specialized training and experience in working with youth. Treatment, whether it’s medication or therapy or a combination of both, works for many adolescents experiencing mental health issues, but it must be accessed in order to work. In late 2009, a study partially funded by the National Institute on Mental Health found that only about half of all children and adolescents experiencing generalized anxiety, panic, disordered eating, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), and conduct issues actually received professional mental health services..

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