What is Mental Health Disorder? 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental and emotional health disorders as a wide spectrum of mental illnesses classified as emotional or mental disturbance. This would include emotional disturbances identified as feelings of delusion (uncontrollable fears or feelings of paranoia) and all types of anxiety disorder.

There are currently over 300 mental health disorders listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The five most common of these mental illnesses include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse disorder, and ADHD. 

Teenage Girls Are Highly Vulnerable to Developing a Mental Health Disorder 

As adults, we have the luxury of reflecting on our adolescence as a difficult time we lived through. Our children obviously do not have that luxury as they are currently living through the raging hormones, ever-evolving responsibilities, and all the emotional distress that comes with the things inherent to being a teenager. 

One who reflects on these facets of being an adolescent can empathize with how easily a teenage girl could develop one of many types of mental health disorders that can make everyday life exhausting if not unbearable. 

Needless to say, adolescence is a phase in a young women’s life where they are the most vulnerable to developing emotional health disorders. If left untreated (per the World Health Organization), a teenage girl with a mental health disorder is at even more risk of developing a co-occurring disorder - a substance abuse disorder that coincides and synergetically affects a person’s mental illness. 

Further confounding is that many mental health disorders can easily be mistaken for normal teenage angst or moodiness. While typical teenage behaviors may sometimes mimic symptoms of mental illness, they are vastly different. If left untreated, mental illness can cause irrevokable damage in a young teenage girl’s life. 

There are ways in which parents can suss out regular behaviors from those that can be self-destructive if left unattended.

The following article was created to help inform parents of teenage girls about the signs, symptoms, and classifications of the most common mental health disorders affecting teens today. 

The Most Common Types of Mental Health Disorders in Teenage Girls

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses among teenage girls in the U.S. They are classified as five types of anxiety disorders, some of which are the umbrella of further subtypes of illnesses. 

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), there are five types of anxiety disorders: 

  • Anxiety disorders: general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, and irrational phobias
  • Depression: generalized depression disorder, bipolar disorder, as well as any illness that is classified as a mood disorder 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorder(s)
  • Severe mental illnesses that include psychosis, like schizophrenia

Below is a list of the four most common mental health/anxiety disorders affecting teenage girls. 

Generalized Anxiety

The stresses of being a teenage girl in today’s pressure cooking age of stress make generalized anxiety disorder the most common mental illness among teenage girls today. 

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined as feelings of overwhelming worry, delusional fear, and debilitating stress experienced daily or near-constant.

GAD is most likely develop in older teens between the ages of 15 and 18 and twice as likely to affect teenage girls than boys. There is no consensus as to why girls are especially vulnerable to GAD, but many speculate it could be at least in part attributed to the fact that girls develop earlier than boys. 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder is equally prevalent among teenage girls. Major depressive disorder or clinical depression is characterized as long (intermittent or constant) periods of severe sadness. 

The latest estimates report that over 3 million teens experience symptoms of clinical depression annually. Teenage girls are more greatly affected than boys, with 19% experiencing symptoms of major depressive disorder, compared to 6% of teen males.  

Clinical depression is also among the most dangerous illnesses if left untreated. However, it is also the most identifiable, and therefore most treatable. Girls who develop major depressive disorder will differ from those experiencing normal ‘teenage moodiness’ in several tell-tale ways, including: 

  • A drastic change in eating habits - some lose their appetite, and some resort to food as means of self-medicating (similar to that of substance abuse, they may overeat as a means of treating their depression)
  • Increasing period of appearing and feeling sad - while it may sound obvious, teens are prone to being moody and even experiencing sadness more so than adults. However, those who have clinical depression will experience long bouts of depression that can last up to a month at a time. 
  • Substance abusing behaviors - Teenage girls who live with an undiagnosed case of clinical depression will often turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medicating. If a child is experimenting with drugs and alcohol, it could indicate they are also suffering from depression.

Bipolar Disorder 

A teenage girl with bipolar disorder will often exhibit extreme mood swings. These mood swings are classified as extreme highs and extreme lows that can last in short bursts (also known as rapid cycling, where a teen will undergo mood swings many times a day) or extended periods of time (days, weeks, or sometimes longer).

A teen with bipolar disorder will regularly undergo extreme, varying moods that include elation, happiness, and irritability. This is commonly referred to as a 'manic state' or 'mania.' Regardless of their duration, this period of mania is followed by periods of depression - periods that are typically equally as unpredictable in severity and duration as mania. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

PTSD is a disease that can affect any person at any age. However, like other anxiety disorders, girls are more susceptible to developing it than other demographics.

PTSD is characterized as a person feeling debilitatingly terrified by a past event that continues to severely and negatively affect their present. 

The symptoms of PTSD widely vary. Some symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, or they may not manifest for six months or longer. PTSD is commonly accompanied by depression, clinical anxiety, and substance abuse disorder.  

PTSD causes also vary: something traumatic happened to the child, they witnessed something happen to someone else, or something even a traumatic event that they witnessed by itself. 

If you are the parent of a teenage girl with a mental health disorder and require immediate assistance, call us today.