Pandemic stress causing behavioral problems for some teens

Pandemic stress producing behavioral issues for some teens
Posted at 6:42 PM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 19:42:46-04

TOWSON, Md. — The pandemic has added a lot of stress to our lives and young people. It's been especially hard to adapt to the new normal.

That's led to some behavioral issues and in these times -- we're committed to share information to help you rebound.

Here are changes in your child's behavior to look for and when to be concerned.

Most kids have gone back to school but this school year is far from normal.

The stress and anxiety brought on by the many changes happening during pandemic have some young people feeling more distressed than usual.

Going back to school in 2020 for many kids means most schools are closed -- and many after school activities are canceled.

“With teens, especially with the disruptions that are happening around us during the pandemic, is causing more anxiety, more isolation,” said Sheppard Pratt Outpatient Services medical director Dr. Deepak Prabhakar said. “And one thing that we know is that isolation is never a good thing for teenagers during a pandemic.”

Prabhakar calls recent data from the Centers for Disease Control about young people a pandemic within the pandemic.

“One in four individuals between 18 and 24 are reporting serious thoughts of suicide,” Prabhakar said. “About one in four is also reporting either worsening or initiating new substance use. Three out of four are currently reporting signs of mental health related issues, and two out of three are reporting serious anxiety and depression.”

The teenage years can be tough enough. But during COVID-19, they become even more complicated.

“When you take these three things together, disruption in school schedule, disruption in their social activities, isolation from others, their peer support network, all of these things are leading to higher anxiety, and being relatively unsure about what's next,” he said.

Parents with moody teens may wonder how much is relatively normal and when should it be a cause for concern.

“When we start seeing enduring depression, enduring anxiety, aggression, not just for several hours a day but several days a week and then several weeks a month,” he said. “At that point, we probably need to pause and ask ourselves maybe this is something else that we are observing in front of us.”

A change in attitude and behavior also may be cries for help.

“Total isolation, staying in bed way too long, straight out coming out and saying that they are having thoughts of harming themselves, sometimes in person, sometimes broadcasting these thoughts on social media.”

Still – seeing any or all of these signs in their teen could leave some parents confused, overwhelmed – and wondering owhat to do or how to help.

“As parents we should take each and every thing fairly seriously when a teenager comes to us,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage for a teenager to actually ask for help. And then, we should seek professional help.”

Or call 911 if your teen seems as though they could hurt themselves or someone else.

“There is no downside in seeking professional help,” he said. “When a parent feels that this is above and beyond their normal behavior, or the teen is manifesting right now, and if that's the case, seeking professional help immediately is really key here.”