Sara Bellum
June 6 2012

Ever have one of those days? One minute you’re feeling great; the next, you’re knocked down by a bad grade or a fight with a friend.

Setbacks like these can seem like the end of the world to some teens. Others can bounce back after they’ve had a little time to think and see that the situation isn’t so bad. But not everyone can recover so easily.

As part of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, the National Institute of Mental Health hosted a panel discussion that focused on what happens when mental health disorders—like depression or anxiety—or drug abuse interfere with the development of the teen brain.

What’s Happening in Your Head?

No one feels good all the time. Teens are particularly vulnerable to a roller coaster of emotions because of major brain changes taking place between the ages of 12 and 25. These emotional ups and downs are all part of normal teen development.

But for teens suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD, the stresses—from peers, family, or problems in school—may be more than they can handle. Some may start using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope, or to escape from anger, hurt, or disappointment. However, over time, these behaviors can lead to a bigger problem…addiction.

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

Every brain is different, and just because you feel down or stressed doesn’t mean you’re going to develop a problem. But, whatever you’re going through, it’s important to be aware of your feelings.

Take note if you’re overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or unfocused. You may just be experiencing the normal emotional reactions to events in your life. However, if these feelings don’t let up, or if you feel like you can’t bounce back on your own, talk to a friend, family member, or someone you trust to help you.

Watch a videocast of the whole discussion about mental health and the teen brain, then share your thoughts with us. What are some things you do to stay grounded when things seem out of control?

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