Being a teen with a mental health or mood disorder is hard enough. When disorders overlap, it can be hard to get a correct diagnosis and treatment, or even understand what is going on. If you are the parent of a teenager with comorbid conditions, here are some ways you can help.
Comorbidity: When Disorders Overlap
Comorbidity happens when two or more physical or mental health disorders occur at the same time. It is unfortunately very common for teens to experience more than one developmental concern or mental health disorder. Autism, anxiety, depression, ADHD, learning disorders, and various phobias can all overlap with one another in ways that make life harder for teenagers. This can create a difficult situation where one condition’s treatment may aggravate the other condition, or the symptoms of the two conditions may overlap, making it harder to identify them both as separate conditions.
Get Help for Teens with Comorbid Conditions
Talk to a psychotherapist today about strategies to address overlapping disorders and symptoms.
h2>The Trouble Identifying Comorbid Mental Health Conditions
Mental health conditions and mood disorders can be especially challenging to identify when the disorders overlap. Many mental health disorders’ primary diagnostic criteria are a set of symptoms rather than something that can be chemically or genetically tested for. If your teen has a condition that can be confirmed with a test, like ADHD or an Autism spectrum disorder, symptoms of another disorder could be missed or disregarded in the wake of the confirmed diagnosis. Where trauma is involved, misdiagnosis of PTSD can result in treatments that are less effective, or even detrimental.
How Parents Can Help Teens Cope
With as hard as it can be to manage comorbid mental health problems, your teen is going to need all the help they can get. As a parent, you should be your teen’s biggest advocate, confidant, role model, and boundary setter.
Believe Your Teen When They Tell You Something is Wrong
It is hard for teenagers to admit feeling abnormal. They are under such strong social pressure to fit in that even admitting to having a bad day can be challenging. When they do say something listen to how they are feeling and explore those feelings with them to identify whether they are a symptom of a known disorder or something else.
Be Your Teenager’s Patient Advocate with Pediatricians
Doctors and therapists often rely on their first impressions when diagnosing teenagers and adults. If that first diagnosis is wrong or not complete, it can sometimes be hard for teenagers to convince them to look further. As a parent, you can insist on additional tests or screenings to help rule out comorbid conditions and ensure proper accommodations in class. You can also advocate for alternative medications or treatments if the current plan isn’t allowing your teen to cope.
Set a Good Example for Self-Care and Mental Health
Teenagers may be less likely than their younger siblings to actively model their behavior after their parents. However, you can help your teenager cope with mental health by being healthy yourself and encouraging them to take care of their mental health needs. This includes volunteering to be the bad guy when your teen needs a night alone at home but friends or teachers are making demands of them.
Establish Boundaries for Healthy Emotional Expression
Sometimes it can be easy for teens to slip into unhealthy patterns due to mental health challenges. For example, they may lash out at siblings when they are feeling anxious or skip their hygiene routine while experiencing a spike in depression. As a parent, you can help to minimize the harm caused by these disorders by establishing firm, but compassionate boundaries, pushing them toward healthier expressions of their emotions.
Get Your Teenager a Psychotherapist’s Help
The best way you can support a teen who is struggling with comorbid conditions is to connect them with a skilled psychotherapist who will help them, and their pediatrician, properly identify their disorders, the symptoms, and the triggers. A psychotherapist can guide your teen through coping strategies and treatments to move them toward better mental health. Having someone trained in mental health treatment to listen to them can also encourage teenagers to openly discuss their symptoms, resulting in a clearer understanding of their comorbid conditions, so they can get the help they need to feel better.