Does My Teen Need Treatment?
Teenagers are rarely easy. Normal adolescents, bless their hearts, can be moody, demanding, self centered and otherwise preoccupied at the expense of their studies or the family. When things go wrong, it can be rocky going. Depression, eating disorders, oppositional behavior and drug use are just some of the quagmires lying in the way of healthy adolescent development. Treatment can be a Godsend; even medications when appropriate can help many of the problems that teens may face.
So, do we just run to medicate an adolescent when he or she starts to show symptoms during a divorce or some other stressor? The side effects of medications are real, but not doing any treatment may lead to far worse. This discussion is part one of an overview that can help you to get it right. For a more complete treatment of this issue, look at the Intelligent Divorce book series, which provide chapters on the successful evaluation and treatment of teens in who are in trouble.
The Teenage Brain:
The teenage brain is a developing organ that won't reach maturity until twenty-five or so, and the psychological roller coaster of emerging independence and sexuality can be daunting for girls and boys alike. Add a divorce (or any real stress), and figuring out what's going on psychologically can be tricky. While your adolescent may be inherently inconsistent, moody, or test limits, during a divorce there are additional pressures to deal with over which he has little control - like the dissolution of the family as he knows it, perhaps warring parents or just worries about what the future may hold.
So how do you tell the difference between an upset teen and a teen that needs treatment, and maybe medication?
Five Ways to Evaluate a Teen:
Getting the Right Help:
Now let's assume that you have answered the five questions and have brought your child in for an assessment. Often the first stop is your pediatrician who knows your son or daughter well and can help find a therapist who can do the job for you, such as a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a certified family counselor, a social worker or a drug counselor trained in dealing with teenagers.
In Part Two of this blog, to be published shortly, we will look at how treatment decisions are made and give you a handle on how to work with your mental health professional to make sure that your child is getting the best of help. There are a number of treatment strategies available, and not all require pharmaceuticals. If, however, medication is required, you will need to be reassured that proper steps have been taken to ensure minimal side effects and an effective treatment.
The goal is to help your teen gain the strength and stability to deal with obstacles that are getting in his way, be it a troublesome divorce, a girl breaking up with him or just the challenges of being an adolescent (not easy). Your son or daughter should look back at this moment as a time that you stepped up and got them the help they needed, when they needed it.
You can get this right.