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With so many physical and mental changes happening between the ages of 11-19, the teenage years can be a confusing and stressful time. Sometimes a little professional treatment can help young people navigate through the myriad of changes and conflicting pressures.
Counselling for Adolescents in Melbourne
In Australia, the prevalence of mental health problems among adolescents aged 13-17 years is as high as 19 percent and increases again to 27 percent among young adults aged 18-24 (McLennan, 1997).
Based on these figures, approximately one in four to five young Australians are likely to suffer from a mental health problem, most commonly substance use or dependency, depression, anxiety and eating disorders (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare: AIHW, 2003). Co-morbidity (another co-existing condition) is unfortunately the norm in this population.
Furthermore on average some 400 young people take their own lives each year, roughly one quarter of them involving substance misuse.
Adolescent risk factors include:
- school and cyber bullying
- body image problems and eating disorders
- family conflicts and relationship problems
- depression and low self esteem
Adolescents and Depression
The teenage years are a time when individuals develop their identity and sense of self. If depression is left to develop, it can lead to isolation from family and friends, risk-taking behaviours, inappropriate sexual involvements and substance use. It can also impact on school performance and study, which can have downstream effects on later career or study options.
Both biological and developmental factors contribute to depression in adolescence. If bipolar disorder or psychosis is suspected, an assessment by a mental health professional is recommended.
An adolescent who is depressed may not show obvious signs of depression. It is often hard to distinguish adolescent turmoil from depressive illness, especially when the young person is forging new roles within the family and struggling with independence, and having to make academic and career decisions.
Signs of a depression include:
- Lowered self-esteem (or self-worth)
- Changes in sleep patterns, that is, insomnia (inability to sleep)
- Changes in appetite or weight gain
- Inability to control emotions such as anger, guilt, irritability and anxiety
- Reduced frustration tolerance
- Increased substance use
- Feeling restless and edgy
- Becoming more withdrawn and not accessing friends
- Complaining of physical symptoms and not going to school
Bullying and Mental Health
Bullying behaviours include:
- Direct physical bullying (eg hitting, tripping, pushing or damaging property).
- Direct verbal bullying (eg name calling, insults, homophobic or racist remarks, verbal abuse).
- Indirect bullying, often harder to recognise and often carried out behind the victim's back (e.g. lying and spreading rumours, playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate, mimicking and cyber-bullying, which involves the use of email, text messages or chat rooms to humiliate and distress).
Research has demonstrated strong negative associations between a young person's experience of bullying and their physical and emotional wellbeing, both at the time of and well after the bullying experience. The Centre for Adolescent Health's Gatehouse Project survey showed that students who reported being victimised were three times more likely to be at risk of reporting depressive symptoms when compared with those not reporting such experiences.
Body image and Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are complex and chronic illnesses that require particular medical and psychological treatment. Some of the most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. Another type of disorder under examination is extreme exercise to control weight.
Many factors play a role in the development of an eating disorder, including personality, self-esteem, genetics, environment, and body chemistry. It has been shown that female adolescents and young women are generally more susceptible and vulnerable to body image problems and eating disorders.
Psychological Support at Psychology Melbourne
As with a range of mood-based problems, the above issues affecting adolescents can be treated and there are a number of effective and specialist approaches available. Psychologists often use a combination of evidence-based techniques, sometimes alongside medication for the most effective results.
These well-researched interventions aim to change patterns of unhelpful thinking and behaviour, negative mood states, and the person's response to life events that may trigger changes in mood. Most widely used psychological interventions include cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, sex therapy, narrative therapy, psycho-analytic therapy and couples therapy.
If you’re a parent with concerns about your teenager's mental health, it's best to contact us sooner rather than later to arrange an assessment and referral to the most suitable psychologist for treatment and support.
Things we can help with include:
- Anxiety (e.g. social anxiety, phobias, obsessions, school or performance anxiety)
- Aggression and anger management
- Dealing with changes in family roles and relationships, such as divorce, separation, step-families and death of a family member
- Behaviours of concern, such as defiance, self-harm, lying or school refusal, impulsivity
- Learning difficulties, including dyslexia and other specific learning disorders
- Social and communication skills
- Attention difficulties
- School and student support
- Learning and task approach skills
Our psychologists work from the following frameworks:
- Family therapy
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Social Skills training
- Positive Behaviour Support