In the fall of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics along with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. While the terms mental illness and mental disorders are often used synonymously, there are subtle and distinct differences. The National Institute of Mental Health explain that mental illnesses in children “include many different conditions that vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe” all of which involve changes in emotion, thinking, and/ or behavior.
Adolescent mental health disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic are clinically diagnosable conditions that are characterized by “delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills or regulation of emotions” causing distress and interfering with their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations. Research shows that most mental disorders follow a developmental course that typically starts early in life. As explained by the National Institute of Mental Health “this is true not only of conditions such as autism and ADHD, which are well known for having onset in childhood, but also for mood, anxiety, and psychotic disorders.” Although the exact cause for the development of a mental health disorder remains unknown, evidence suggests that it likely involves a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
A notable distinction between an adolescent mental health disorder and a mental illness lays in specificity. A mental disorder is typically based on explicit factors or diagnostic criteria that are overtly linked to a mental health diagnosis. Mental illness, on the other hand, is often used to describe the body’s physical reaction triggered by the disease (e.g., fatigue, fever, muscle weakness, or blurred vision, abnormal blood pressure, rapid heart rate, etc.). Further, an adolescent can experience mental illness without a diagnosed mental health disorder.
Further Information and SupportFor most of us, life can be very stressful, leading us to feel emotionally charged, which can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and getting stuck in a cycle of being burdened with negative thoughts. Navigating through the challenges and emotional turmoil of life can be overwhelming, but you do not have to go through it alone. Engage Treatment is a Joint Commission Accredited professional psychological practice. We specialize in treating children, teens, and young adults struggling with depression and anxiety through community-focused treatment plans that incorporate a carefully selected combination of therapeutic interventions. Our compassionate, multidisciplinary practitioners are devoted to providing the highest quality of care that helps ignite positive change and enables clients to reach optimal health and well-being. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with any additional information. Feel free to call us at 805-497-0605 or email us at [email protected]. You are also welcomed to get in touch by filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting and having the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to support you.