By: Emma DeWeese
Mental health issues come in a plethora of diverse diagnoses, but all of them are a struggle. The most common types are anxiety, depression, and behavioral disorders. These disorders are just an umbrella, as each type has different variations that are caused by different triggers and treated differently.
Understanding mental health and categorizing the types is a step closer to helping those in need, but we must remember, “There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet,” Matt Haig said in his book, Reasons to Stay Alive.
The Center for Disease and Control describes anxiety as “When a child does not outgrow the fears and worries that are typical in young children, or when there are so many fears and worries that they interfere with school, home, or play activities.” Some common types are generalized, obsessive compulsive, panic, and social anxiety disorders, with generalized anxiety the same anxiety the CDC defined, where an adolescent doesn’t outgrow common fears or it affects other aspects of their life.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, better known as OCD, is determined by the American Psychiatric Association as “a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions).”
Social anxiety affects 9.1% of adolescents according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health which defines social anxiety as a “persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.”
Another type of anxiety disorder is panic disorder, which is when the patient experiences multiple panic attacks. The Mayo Clinic says the average amount of panic attacks a person should experience is one or two in a lifetime, so when a patient has more, they are diagnosed with panic disorder.
A Bellbrook High School student diagnosed with anxiety around 2021 describes a panic attack as “not really triggered by anything, it just happens.”
She also experiences anxiety attacks which she describes as the most difficult part of having anxiety.
“Anxiety attacks are triggered by something and they can last 10 ten times longer.” Whether she can identify the trigger or not, these attacks are the most frustrating aspect of her disorder.
Along with the attacks, her anxiety hinders her ability to calmly take a test at school or reach out to friends due to a fear of failure. Seeing a therapist has immensely helped this student cope with her anxiety along with medication. Her therapist has taught her a popular grounding strategy known as the five senses exercise, but the student recommends that everyone finds their own method that works for them.
Treatment plans vary immensely because there is no perfect solution or quick fix for anxiety. A popular treatment method is known as cognitive behavioral therapy, where the patient is exposed to triggers and slowly will learn how to cope with them.
Behavior therapy is the most common type of therapy, where patients can talk to a therapist and learn coping skills and express how they are feeling. Another form of treatment is medication. The American Psychiatric Association notes that medication is the most successful tool for helping soothe anxiety.
According to GoodRx Health, “Common anxiety medications include benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).”
About 15% of youth aged 12-17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in the previous year, according to a study done by Mental Health America. Craig Sawchuck, a clinical psychologist at the Mayo Clinic, defines depression as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called a major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.”
The prevailing types of depression diagnosis fall under major, seasonal-affective, and bipolar depression. Major depressive disorder is the generalized diagnosis of depression, sharing the same definition. In children, the symptoms of major depressive disorder can look like not wanting to go to school, high irritability, and extreme sensitivity among many other symptoms.
SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder and the Cleveland Clinic defines it as “a type of depression that’s triggered by a change in seasons, usually when fall starts. This seasonal depression gets worse in the late fall or early winter before ending in the sunnier days of spring.”
Bipolar disorder affects 2.9% of adolescents according to data collected by a National Comorbidity survey. The National Institute of Mental Health defines bipolar disorder as being “characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels that affect a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” Patients experience highs where they feel they can do anything, and then quickly can shift to a low where they feel majorly depressed.
Another anonymous BHS student said her greatest struggle with depression is, “People don’t really understand.” Depression covers a wide range of diagnoses and it is difficult to deeply understand each type. She deals with her depression by doing things she enjoys, such as spending time with her dad. Her advice to someone newly diagnosed is, “Just do things that make you happy.” This will differ for every person, but finding someone to talk to and a healthy outlet is always a good coping technique.
Treatment methods for depression are very similar to the treatment of anxiety. The most common medications according to the Mayo Clinic are antidepressants, reuptake inhibitors, and oxidase inhibitors, but there are many other options as well.
Another tool is therapy. Psychotherapy is the most common form of therapy for patients to utilize, but there are some more uncommon methods like electroconvulsive therapy where electrical currents are used to relieve depression.
Behavioral disorders include ADHD, ODD, and CD which are all defined by MentalHealth.gov as “a pattern of disruptive behaviors in children that last for at least 6 months and cause problems in school, at home and in social situations.”
ADHD stands for attention-deficit / hyperactive disorder and is described as a severe struggle to focus and behave to where it affects school and social activity.
ODD stands for oppositional defiant disorder and Johns Hopkins Medical Center describes it as children who struggle with obeying authority figures and developing positive relationships. Conduct disorder, abbreviated as CD is when children show patterns of aggression according to the CDC. Some symptoms of CD include breaking serious rules, being aggressive and causing harm, lying and stealing.
A Bellbrook sophomore diagnosed with ADHD when she was five years old said her biggest struggle is remembering all her school assignments, which is why she sets “seven different list apps” and has “several alarms” to keep her on task.
Another struggle she faces with her ADHD is sleep and she combats this with physical exercise like playing softball or running on a treadmill. She acknowledges her “family had to make a lot of changes,” and is continually changing to help with her hyperactivity.
Her advice to a patient newly diagnosed with ADHD or any other mental disorder is to look at what other people do and find what works best for you. For her it was constant alarms and reminders, but there are many other methods to cope as well.
The treatment plan varies depending on the type of behavioral disorder, but similar to anxiety and depression, the two most common options are medication and therapy. Behavioral therapy isn’t only for the patient but training for their parental figures as well.
The CDC believes behavioral therapy “gives parents the skills and strategies to help their child.”
For ADHD there are medications known as stimulants and non-stimulants. The CDC says stimulants are more effective, but quickly burn out and non-stimulants are slower working but can last for 24 hours. For patients with ODD, Johns Hopkins medical center recommends therapy because it is uncommon for ODD patients to be prescribed medication. ODD is more about relationships and learning to cope with emotions. CD is similar to ODD in the way that therapy is the recommended and primary form of treatment.
If you have the urge to harm yourself, regularly feel sad or hopeless, are with a person who harms you physically or emotionally, or if you just feel like you need someone to talk to, please call 988, and talk to your parents or an adult whom you trust.