Common Mental Health Issues in Teens

Adolescents are Susceptible to Mental Illness

Hispanic Girl gazing off
Juan Estey/E+/Getty Images

Teens experience many of the same mental health issues as adults. However, many teens go undiagnosed and untreated, even though most conditions are treatable. Stay informed about the latest mental health research so you can get your child treatment if any symptoms begin to emerge.

It’s important to keep in mind that everyone is susceptible to having a mental health problem. Although some teens may be at a higher risk based on their genetics and environment, any teen can develop a mental health issue.

It’s important for all parents to keep a careful watch on their child’s mental health.


Approximately 8% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have had a major depressive episode during the past year, according to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Girls are more likely to experience depression than boys. About half of the teens who experience  one of the four main types of depression report that their depression severely impacts their social or academic life.

Depression is usually quite treatable. Sometimes therapy alone is helpful, and sometimes a combination of therapy and medication provides the best symptom relief. Left untreated, depression can get worse and can even lead to suicide.


There are nine main types of anxiety disorders that teens may experience. Approximately 8% of teens between 13 and 18 have an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Although anxiety is very treatable, only 18% of those teens receive treatment.

Anxiety can severely impact a teen’s life as well. It often interferes with a teen’s ability to socialize with friends. It can also interfere with a teen’s education. Severe cases of anxiety can even prevent a teen from leaving his house.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Approximately 11% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder sometimes become apparent in children by the age of 4. Sometimes symptoms don’t become problematic until the teen years. Children who are quite intelligent may not suffer academically until the work becomes more difficult, such as during the high school years.

There are two main types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – hyperactive type or inattentive type. It’s also possible to have a combination of both types. Teens with the hyperactive type have difficulty sitting still, can’t stop talking and struggle to complete a project. Teens with the inattentive type lack focus and become easily distracted. ADHD is often treated with both therapy and medication.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Anywhere from 1 to 16% of adolescents have oppositional defiant disorder, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

ODD often first emerges during early elementary school. Left untreated, it can lead to a conduct disorder, which is a much more serious behavioral disorder.  

Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by extreme defiance, verbal and physical aggression and spitefulness. Teens with ODD tend to struggle to maintain healthy relationships and often their behavior interferes with their education. Treatment for ODD may include parent training programs and sometimes therapy.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Among teens between 13 and 18, approximately 2.7% suffer from an eating disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Although eating disorders can occur in both males and females, the prevalence is higher in females.

While anorexia is characterized by extreme food restriction and weight loss, bulimia involves binge eating and purging – either by vomiting or through the use of laxatives. Binge eating disorder involves eating massive quantities of food at one time without purging. Eating disorders can take a serious toll on a teen’s physical health. Treatment often requires both physical health monitoring and intensive therapy.

Continue Reading