Recognizing a Problem

Even subtle behavior changes in your teen may signal a problem with depression, substance abuse, or other at-risk behaviors.

Signs and Symptoms in Adolescents and Young Adults:

  • Performance: lower grades/lower achievement; academic failure; falls behind in class work; lack of motivation; apathy
  • School Attendance: absenteeism; tardies; suspension; frequent schedule changes; frequent nurse/counselor visits; forged notes from home
  • Extracurricular Activities: loss of eligibility; decreasing involvement; dropped out; loss of interest
  • Mood Changes: prolonged sadness/crying; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness; irritability; thoughts about death/suicide; racing thoughts; talking too much; wild/risk-taking behavior; feeling of invincibility
  • Physical Symptoms: change in sleeping patterns; staggering or stumbling; smelling of alcohol or pot; vomiting; restlessness; tiredness; change in eating patterns increased or decreased appetite; bloodshot eyes; dilated pupils; change in dress (e.g., t-shirts with slogans about drug use, paraphernalia)
  • Disruptive Behavior: defiance of rules; constant discipline problem; cheating; irresponsibility; blaming; denying; verbal/physical abuse to others; throwing objects; obscene language, gestures; dramatic attention-getting; extreme negativism; hyperactivity; nervousness
  • Relationship Changes: withdrawal from friends; conflict with family; negative or much older peer group; promiscuity
  • Criminal/Illegal Behavior: selling drugs; exchanges of money; possession of drugs/paraphernalia; involvement in thefts/assaults; vandalism; carrying weapons; smoking

If your teenager has had several of these symptoms, and they’ve lasted several weeks, or cause a notable change in his routine, it’s time to seek help.

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